The Becoming: Integrating Trauma

The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
~Rumi.

I’m a burn survivor. It will be 39 years this summer. I survived, when others did not. I survived, when the other survivor did not. Trauma is what happens to a body & mind that survives. Trauma changes us, literally changes our brains: a brain that went through a traumatic incident works differently than a brain that has not. And trauma changes our body in many ways. Whether there are visible scars or not, there are places on our body that hold memories/images/flashbacks/pieces/feelings of the event(s) that changed us.

We do not have choice about the trauma. And sometimes we don’t have choice about how to integrate the trauma.  Too often people think that “healing” from trauma is “getting over it”, “getting back to normal”. Neither of those things are actually possible. There is no “back to normal”, there is only “the new normal”; which may either differ drastically from the old, or may resemble the old in a lot of ways.

Trauma affects everything about the way we connect to others, the way we connect to ourselves. So it’s no surprise that trauma affects our sexual, sensual, & erotic development.  Even trauma that was not sexual in nature affects our sexuality, affects our connection to Spirit; affects our view of ourselves as whole or broken. When we struggle to become the person we were before the trauma, or our idea of a person who never experienced this trauma, we are doomed to fail. There is only learning to integrate the trauma.

In burn care, skin debridement is an important part of healing. In debridement, the dead tissue is removed to help the new healthy tissue form. There are many methods of debridement. The one used for me as a child was hydrotherapy in basically this giant metal bathtub. The idea is that the swirling water will take away the dead tissue, and that since dead tissue doesn’t have nerve endings, it shouldn’t hurt. And I think folx think that water is soothing & gentle.

Whirling, swirling, “raging” water is quite strong, and can tear away & yank away all sorts of things. So I had to sit in water that was literally & painfully tearing my flesh off; the borders between the dead skin without nerve endings & the new fragile skin with exposed nerve endings are not so clear cut. This was hell for me, perhaps more painful than anything else (except when they unscrewed the pins from my legs without pain meds). Back in the day, hospitals were stingy with pain meds, especially with children—don’t want them to become addicted, right? So I cried & screamed & basically resisted this treatment. But it was necessary to the healing process.

Integrating Trauma is rarely a painless process. You may get off kilter, you may experience pain so severe you want to shriek to the high heavens. Often it is a form of emotional debridement. The process of removing old dead energies so that you can heal. Scouring out the wounds so the light can get in better.

Integrating Trauma is the process of becoming. Becoming the new you.

Kintsukorri is a Japanese art form. It is the practice of repairing broken ceramics with a resin laced with gold or silver. The repaired piece is considered to be more beautiful because it has been broken & made whole again, and the repairing is visible. Now there are definitely some folx who’ve been through trauma & manifest it in really ugly, hurtful ways. But for some of us, we are more now than we were then. Our resilience makes us beautiful.

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