I am continuously surprised by our ability to adapt as humans. We can go through the most traumatic of events and find a way to continue on after. We are never the same. I am not saying that you have the same quality of life, but we seem to have the ability to get through most anything. This may not come as a shock to a lot of people who just take things in stride. They just believe it is part of life, the pattern in the universe, or the will of god (if you believe in religion). For others, like me, it is not quite as easy.
I know that I have been through a lot more than most people, but I still don’t think that I am at the extreme end of traumatic events. I just seem to have a lot of smaller ones. I don’t really know what would be worse. One gigantic event or the continuous occurrence of smaller ones. Then again, my events may seem major to others, but after surviving them, it is easier to take them lightly. Take for example my childhood, some people think what I had to go through would be considered a major event. Having to live through abuse, neglect, and the absence of love, but to me was just part of growing up. Sure, according to many people (wife, therapist, friends,…), my childhood is wreaking havoc on my life today but I have a hard time seeing it. I don’t know that is because I am in denial or just don’t have the ability emotionally to connect those dots.
I knew growing up that other families lived much differently than I did. Hell, my siblings led much different lives than I did. However, I still lived through it, I survived. I learned a lot of negative attributes and vowed not to bestow them upon my kids. Is this as traumatic as being raped? For me, I would think that my childhood is no where near as traumatic as that. Maybe that is a bad example now I think about some of the things that went on in my childhood. A better example might be losing everything in a natural disaster, maybe even a loved one. The event happens in a blink of an eye and then is gone, leaving you to figure out how to deal with it. It would seem overwhelming and make it seem hard to see anything but your own pain. I wonder though if somewhere deep in the back of the minds of people who go through events like this, they know that while it was tragic, the likelihood of a recurrence is near impossible. That in itself might be a little comforting, but having never gone through one I would not like to say it is.
In the example of my childhood, I was not afforded that luxury. Whatever abuse went on, as long as I was at home, I knew there was a chance that it could come back. Not only could it come back, but it could always get worse. There is trauma from the actual event and then an ancillary version from the anticipation of the next time. The ability to heal is often put on hold because all energy is diverted into surviving and preparing for the next event. In situations like this, I don’t see how healing can begin until the threat is removed.
As I write this, I can see how major traumatic events can be seen as initially worse, but I cannot see how the damage could be worse than the years of continuous smaller traumatic events. Every time I would go back into that environment after I left, I was immediately on guard. I know that is one reason I have cut my family completely out of my current life. It is safer for me. Even though I know that it would not happen again. I still don’t want the reminders of that part of my life. I would think that anyone who goes through any traumatic events would feel the same. Survive a plane crash, you probably would be a little worried about ever flying again. Even so, it still amazes me that my family still tries to get into contact with me. They want to be part of my life, but why would I want that? What would I get out of it? Constant reminders of what happened… Small insults and opening up my children to that environment. I would get nothing positive from re-connection. I also cannot fathom what they would get out of it but more opportunities to go at me again. Or maybe the chance to try and settle their conscience. Neither of these things interest me in the slightest.
It baffles some people how I can just cut out my family from my life and not feel bad or not have some part of me wish I didn’t have to do it. I know it baffles my wife. She spent the first years of our marriage trying to keep them somewhat in our lives. Now she doesn’t, but she doesn’t fully understand it because she thinks I am missing something great. I think it would take the ability to have feelings for my family in order to care whether or not they are part of my life. It would take some sort of love between me and my family – some sort of bond. I had/have none of that. In your life, would you think twice about cutting someone out, with whom you have no connection with, if they constantly berate and belittle you? It could be a bar tender. You probably would just make the decision to not go back. We do it all the time with bad service. Do you really think twice about it? Probably not. Isn’t this fundamentally the same thing? I know I am oversimplifying the situation, but you should understand my point.
Now that I have cut them out and the threat has disappeared, then shouldn’t I just naturally heal? Isn’t that how our complex bodies and minds work? We find ways to survive, adapt, and heal. So why would I need to discuss all this with a counselor? I keep running into the same thoughts when I am highly recommended to go see a therapist. Why do I need to drudge up the past in order to get…What? A way to survive and live. I have that. I learned that long, long ago.
I know some part of me is terrified to open that back up. To let that part of my life into my consciousness. I hardly remember anything about my childhood and 99% of is not good. If there is a reason that I blocked most of my past, then I don’t think I want to know what it was. They say ignorance is bliss and in this case I would have a hard time disagreeing and I think I would like to be the most ignorant person possible.