Creating sanctuaries. Defragmenting the self. Loving the fullness of experience. Turning sadness into resistance, turning anger into rage, turning deadends into solutions.
The world is experienced traumatically by many people. This sanctuary is your ability to feel safe with yourself, to rely on your own ability to self-protect against any destructive impulses coming from within oneself or deriving from other people and to keep oneself out of harm’s way.
Children learn how to protect themselves on the basis of the way their caretakers took care of them. When their caretakers have respected their body, wishes and feelings, children learn these as normal behaviors and learn adequate self-care skills and attitudes. But when their caretakers are neglectful or abusive, children learn that this is the way they are supposed to treat themselves. The ability to self-protect is one of the the most shattering losses that occurs as a result of traumatic experience.
All self-destructive behavior need to be consciously, actively, and relentlessly challenged. So too do other post-traumatic psychological adaptations–the “helplessness,” “worthlessness,” and “badness” of the self. Every person has unique fixations. People who have been traumatized have injuries or deficits in their sense of self-efficacy, their basic sense of ability and power in the world. They enter their own world as if bearing the mark of Cain. It has labeled them as evil and has set them apart from the rest, outside the realm of everyday discourse.
Turning inward for guidance. Regain, or gain for the first time, a sense of empowerment, an experienced recognition that they can be truly themselves, that they can express anger without being abused. Relax and enjoy yourself without punishment. Know that actions can make a positive difference in your life and in the lives of others. Begin the long process of reframing the traumatic experience as your own personal tragedy. Transform it into personal victory.
Trauma robs the self of power and control. It also steals off with speech and memory and feeling. We are used to experiencing ourselves as sensing, thinking, biological creatures. We define who we are with labels and titles, with what we have done and where we have gone, by what we have felt, how deeply and widely our emotions stretch to encompass our experience. Trauma robs us of whole chunks of our experience and in doing so, appropriates all or part of our identity. It extorts from us any sense of normal emotion and leaves us instead with wildly swinging and in-congruent emotional expressions alternating with a numbing coldness. To find sanctuary, it is essential to regain the power of speech, a story built from your memory, and the entire range of feelings that creates your human fullness.
The overall person achieves conscious integration. Traumatic experience is fragmenting. A healing experience must be defragmenting or integrating. Different aspects of the self must learn to live together in harmony.
Memory must be recaptured and put into words so it can reenter the stream of time. Speech reconnects us to others but also reconnects us to ourselves. Memory, speech, cognition, and feeling must all be integrated into the story’s whole. A personal meta-narrative learned and experienced and lived.
Out of integration comes wholeness and out of wholeness can come meaning. The traumas can create existential dilemmas that are overwhelming and incomprehensible. The stories are so much a part of this process. We must make sense of what has happened to us in our reality.
Creating a place — a physical and tangible place — where we can create our myths. Creating these places everywhere.