Trauma means Wound
The word “trauma” means “wound”.
Trauma is not the thing that happened but the effect left within us by our experiences of what happened.
It can, though leave us experiencing life as if the thing that did happen is happening right now.
Thorns in the Spirit
The term “psychological traumata” was first used in this way by William James in 1894 in making sense of ideas emerging from Charcot and others: “the shock”and reminiscences of that shock he likened to “thorns in the spirit”.
If you’ve had a thorn in you then you will know how painful that can be. You also know that if you can pull it out then the pain can go away. You might also know how if you don’t it will burrow deep, you might not feel it much of the time but every now and then you will. Amazing how a tiny thing can cause so much pain, even prevent us using that finger, foot, leg.
Sometimes we think we’ve pulled it out only for a tiny fragment to remind us.
Trauma is like that- but the thorn is not just in our flesh [and it is stored in the body more than the brain] but also in our spirit- our soul, our psyche, our sense of self.
Trauma affects every aspect of who we are and how we might experience the world.
And it manifests in many ways, including all those ways that get called “symptoms” not only of “mental disorders” but also pretty much every chronic illness that is current and rife in society today. There are the many and various ways that trauma sits lurking within us, subdued then, when we least, expect pierces through the surface to remind us “I’m still here”.
Trauma forges survivors out of flesh. It can also harden us so we become so defensive, unyielding we lash out on the world or coach, coerce and control others til they become as numbed or hardened as we.
It can also forge us in compassion and that is the only route to the healing we can find.
It can exhaust us – wear us down so much we break down and reveal our pain to the world.
Some will tell you that you have an illness, a faulty brain, faulty genes, a “chemical imbalance” and call you any number of dehumanizing names – and it is absolutely your right to choose to believe their story.
Or you can choose any other, so choose yours…
I got thorns in my spirit...
James, W. Psychological Review, Volume 1. 1894, p199