- Mark Sutton
Trauma and The Belief System
Take a Piece of paper, tear it and tape it back together. This simple description highlights the effect of trauma, even when put back together nothing is quite the same. Trauma is an overwhelming experience which falls outside of what we would experience in our normal lives. It tears the fabric of our world and affects not only how we view our place but also on our belief systems. It is unlikely that the trauma can be incorporated into the current belief system without one of two things happening: either anger, resentment and an unbending following of the rules of the belief system or a complete rejection of all belief systems and this is something see this frequently in my clients who present at my clinic. However there is a third way which trauma recovery can support: Following a traumatic event, our neo-cortex becomes stimulated to enable us to restructure our belief system and our way of thinking to make sense and incorporate the event and to allow us to shape and change our belief system to incorporate the traumatic event.
Within this new view Trauma recovery has the potential to deepen empathy, re-evaluate life in a more meaningful way and provide a deeper appreciation of humanity. This is a result of our evolutionary development: As a species we go through repeated cycles of trauma and trauma recovery as a natural part of life which allows us to adapt and change to life threatening situations and gain both knowledge and become more adaptive to different situations. When we view trauma in this context then recovery from each trauma allows a deeper letting go and acceptance which conversely allows us to experience life in its fullest and unbinds us from the past and move forward to the future. A traumatic event may be overwhelming and unbearable and we often wonder whether we will ever recover. It is this devastating event which fractures of our past life that, as recovery progresses results in new ways of thinking, deeper feeling and more compassion. As we recover from trauma, we look at the places we would otherwise not have and this creates the potential for deeper connectedness to others. It is because of this fracturing of our past life and thinking that we are able to look at a new way of life for ourselves and potentially to move into a wiser, more mature and compassionate way of being.
In my case a few years ago, I worked for an organisation which bullied its staff for the most part and I found myself at the receiving end of institutionalised trauma. The continued stress of working there caused a contraction and I exhibited all the symptoms of being traumatised: I believed this was normal and adapted to the situation. Then a single catastrophic event, the death of a loved one suddenly, tore apart the facade. I collapsed completely, but slowly made changes that resulted me leaving the organisation and moving into a more compassionate, wiser and mature phase. Now more than 8 years on, and looking back, I see the marked differences and the changes in values which have led me to this point. It was hard and difficult to do, I was afflicted with all the doubts, anxieties and worries that people in Trauma experience: the hopelessness, the anxiety, the physical and mental pain, the mental confusion, intrusive thoughts and a variety of physical symptoms which mainly manifested around the stomach and IBS. I not only coped, but slowly changed. The events are now just that, something that happened, for sure they altered my existence, but are seen now in context as part of life experience. One I chose to learn from them when I made space for it to happen, my symptoms have gone both physically and mentally.
I took several years, but here, now I am someone I would not have known 8 years ago and in truth would not have recognised myself 8 years ago, but I have compassion for him: He did his best with the tools he had available, and he evolved, he grew. He learned new ways of coping and thinking, by far though the most effective were the somatic therapies and especially the use of breathwork which enabled him to come into contact with those dark places.
But expanding this: Could we see this on a macro or world level? Could the trauma and uncertainty in the world herald a new understanding, if we use trauma as an evolutionary tool and recovery techniques to enable this, then could we as a species be able to bring in a new era of consciousness, compassion and caring? It’s a tempting thought.