Pain and Trauma Make Repeat Performances
At one time or another, we all suffer some kind of pain or trauma. It might be a broken friendship or relationship, the death of a beloved family member. For many, it’s far worse, and to many of us unimaginable. Yet regardless of what caused our suffering, most of us have one thing in common; we try to wall away the pain and get on with our lives.
We might or might know the best thing to do is work through the painful event, but life and society, and a host of other excuses make it easier to shove our feelings into a box, and get on with our lives—or so we’d like to believe.
The trouble with pain is it has a nasty habit of re-introducing itself into our lives at inconvenient moments, and it does it with insidious regularity. It isn’t really coming back at us to punish us though. We are meant to both deal with our painful moments and learn from them. When we wall them away, we guarantee we’ll be revisited; our own personal version of the Ghosts of Traumas Past.
The Masks We Wear
There are so many people we meet who seem to continuously wear a smile on their faces. Some of them even make us smile just to see them. But what’s really behind those smiles? The positive exterior? What does it cost them to maintain the mask and the ruse that everything in their life is perfect?
I’ve learned so much about that in recent years. We all have our secrets and things we choose to hold in rather than inflict on others. We all smile when we’re hurting inside at one time or another, telling anyone who asks we’re “fine”. The general public accepts our words and looks no further, but what about the people closest to us? Do they listen to the words and ignore what lies closer to the surface than we’d like? Do they look into our eyes, see the pain lurking in their depths and offer comfort though we don’t, and would never ask?
Letting People Down When We Hide From Our Pain
I think about my dad and all the times he ignored my mom’s pain while at the same time, walling away his own. Some, I know was years of habit. I think at one time, he was conscious of her inner turmoil, her need to be loved and accepted without qualification. But when her need wasn’t met by her family, she sank deeper into herself and only in those moments when they were alone together and her defenses dropped, albeit deeply, might he have seen the quagmire of her soul beneath the carefully constructed facade.
Coming from a family where emotions were rarely displayed and where stoicism was highly valued, I don’t think he knew how to deal with raw emotion in himself or anyone else. I suspect it was even terrifying for him when mom’s masks slipped and he saw the raw and bleeding soul beneath. I’m not surprised he developed defense mechanisms and responded with anger or disgust. So much of the way he responded was self-directed too.
The tendency to hide from our emotions and pain is perpetuated into adulthood. I remember a female manager taking me under her wing when I was working in aerospace. One of her most oft-repeated lessons had to do with hiding your emotions. Women had to work harder to be taken seriously in that environment, and showing emotion was the quickest way to kill any upward momentum you might have achieved. I took her message to heart, embracing the lesson with the zealousness of a religious fanatic.
Hiding and Re-living: An Endless Cycle Until We Learn and Accept
Through a divorce, the death of my mother, and the challenges of juggling career, self-care, and two young children, I kept my struggles to myself. The result was what appeared to be a rock-hard exterior and few I could call “friend”. The false front prevented anyone from getting close. No one ever figured out that a slight tap on that exterior would have cracked it into a million pieces. I even convinced myself I preferred the solitude and the isolation.
As the years have passed, the painful moments were triggered over and over. Often they led to periods of even more isolation as I tried vainly to shore up the eroding walls. Ultimately I learned to face the reminders head on and find the lesson in the pain. And I learned to be more understanding and compassionate of others.
We Are Never Truly Alone
Part of learning to manage and accept our own painful past is the realization we’re not alone. Everyone suffered a setback, a loss, or a trauma at some point in their lives. Yet comparing ours to theirs isn’t the answer either. It’s easy to say “I shouldn’t feel so bad. This other person has suffered far more than I.” But we all suffer within our own contract; our own capabilities. We all have challenges which help us learn to become the person we were meant to be.
It’s not a matter of comparing. It’s a matter of empathizing and connecting. Sometimes we connect through our propensity to wall away the pain. Other times, we connect because of similarities in our experiences. The best connections, in my opinion, are those made when we understand it’s not the level of pain or how we’ve worked through it, but that we all have. It’s an unspoken understanding that at one time or another, we all need to straighten our spine and go on, even when we’d rather crawl into a hole.
Yet, it’s also that moment when we truly accept we weren’t meant to soldier through alone. Sometimes, it takes some life-shattering moments, much like the ones I experienced before we accept that we deserve to ask for and receive help. Even there, we find connection with others who believed themselves unworthy. We connect with the isolated, the hermits, the ones who for years believed themselves to be oddballs. We find our community where we least expected it—with the ones who are connected through being different.
Finding Our Community in Our Differences
Perhaps it’s easier to find comfort in a community where everyone thinks like we do, and shares all the same values, beliefs, and visions. It’s harder when your world-view is a unique combination of pieces and parts gleaned from what you’ve read, seen, and experienced as an isolated soul on its own journey. But the very fact we hide our feelings and thoughts away to blend in is what ultimately brings us together. When we have the epiphany and realize we were never meant to blend in and doing so is stifling the unique and beautiful butterfly of our soul, we find ourselves in a garden with thousands of other unique and beautiful souls.
The hardest thing in the world is to come out from behind the walls we spent a lifetime building—the walls which make us appear to belong. Yet there comes a point when we can no longer maintain a construction which was never structurally sound. For some, it comes with the force of an earthquake, stone, mortar, blood, and tears flying everywhere with no hope for containment. Others may voluntarily take down their walls as they allow themselves to see past the smokescreens and preconceived notions.
However it happens, finding the garden beyond where uniqueness is valued instead of squashed is worth the effort and even the pain of the journey.
Do we ever completely release our painful and traumatic moments? Probably not. There will always be some which come back to haunt us in one way or another. But there will also be those which fade into distant memory as we deal with the pain, embrace the lesson, and move onto other things. Some of those become our ability to relate and help others through their own which I believe was the purpose of the experience in the first place. I know my own life is richer for the opportunities I’ve been given to be there for someone with whom an experience we in some way share is still fresh, or returning in full force to bring them to their knees as it once brought me to mine.
Knowing We Always Have Something to Be Grateful For
My gratitudes today are:
- I’m grateful for the experiences which have made me stronger, but even more for the ones which taught me compassion.
- I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back now that I’ve learned my walls only kept me from experiencing joy and connection.
- I’m grateful for my friends and family who teach me every day to be a kinder, more compassionate Divine Being having a Human experience.
- I’m grateful for love. Without it, we’re incomplete.
- I’m grateful for abundance; love, life, lessons, compassion, kindness, beauty, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.
Love and Light
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats, suicide survivors, mental health, and depression. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She specializes in creating content that helps entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author