Trauma. The world’s rife with it. And so am I. In fact, none of us escapes it. Not if we’re human.
Pia Mellody defines trauma as anything experienced by a child as less than nurturing.
For the rest of us, I’d say that trauma is anything that runs counter to or inhibits the flourishing of our lives.
That means we’re all traumatized to one degree or another. And as a pastor, dealing with the vastness of human experience for the last quarter century, I can’t imagine a truer statement.
Trauma wounds us, shapes (and mis-shapes) us, and unless we deal with it, trauma becomes for us a debilitating disease affecting everything we do.
But it doesn’t need to haunt us even though the wounds linger long after they are exposed. Spiritual practice, meditation, various forms of inner work (like psychotherapy), body-work (like yoga), music, art, and writing poetry are all ways of walking courageously into the traumas of our past and recovering a sense of the preciousness of our souls, a preciousness and innocence that was lost through neglect or abuse.
In this TED talk, British poet Lemn Sissay, bears witness to the way we can courageously face our own past and finding in our stories—even those stories of indescribable pain—the material from which we can create a life of beauty and meaning.
It’s in putting together the pieces of our broken past—that is, by knowing and telling our stories, no matter how painful—that we ground ourselves, find ourselves, and come home to ourselves. Stories, and the telling of them, are integrating forces against the disintegrating power of unhealed, unacknowledged, and untold suffering.
Says Sissay: “I have to tell my story because there is no one else who can put two and two together. Because I lived in the British foster care system, there was no one who knew me for more than a year. For years, I was not even touched by another human being. I don't believe I've made it. I believe that I'm making it. I believe I've found my past so that I could live in the present.”