Trauma is an interesting concept. Trauma may happen all at once more than once, or little pieces may stack upon themselves until an entire leaning tower is constructed. The root of the word is Greek and it literally means wounded. Everybody has gone through some phase of it. Some of us go through it on a daily basis. Trauma looks different on everyone and it always leaves a scar.
When it hurts we run, or at least we want too. If we can’t run we bury it. It hurts too much to face the skeletons hanging in the closet so we grab a shovel and dig a grave that’s never quite deep enough for all the bones to stay below the surface (the exact concept behind Lincoln Durham’s album The Shovel vs. The Howling Bones.) Still, it’s better than admitting to the many haunting things lurking in the shadows. Sometimes we just drown, we build walls around ourselves thinking it’s for protection not realizing the walls we built are now keeping everything good out. We consume ourselves with a distraction like work or a pointless hobby, we choose to love someone we’ll never have feelings for because laying next to the wrong one late at night is better than being kept from sleep by ghosts of the past. Then of course there’s addiction, defined as being enslaved by a habit or practice, a shape-shifter that can appear as watching too much TV or overspending or hoarding that began as collecting. Sometimes whiskey, rum, and tequila are the only three we want in our company when it hurts too much. For just about everyone, this is the how-to, the past, present, or future Survival Guide 101 (author of this article not excluded.) Is it right to choose a multitude of these survival methods? How else will we make it when it hurts this badly? Running and/or burying although cowardly acts as a numbing agent like putting and ice pack on a sprain.
Is that all there is when it comes to pain? The best bet is survival? Leaving people no more than a shell of their former self? Wandering around like the marred, grotesque, decaying figures from The Walking Dead, could there be more than just surviving? Could we maybe, get better? When trauma occurs can we recover? How does that happen?
There’s a disorder, a rare one that seems like it would be a great thing to have it involves pain and not feeing it. “People with congenital insensitivity to pain have a severe loss of sensory perception. They can feel pressure, but not pain, so they are likely to injure or mutilate themselves without meaning to. They might not know they slammed their hand in a door because it just doesn’t hurt. This inability to feel physical pain does not extend to emotional pain – people with CIPA feel emotional pain just like anyone else” (Lambert, Katie, How CIPA Works.) At first thought having a condition that causes immunity to physical pain sounds amazing. Think about it, no cringing over a stubbed toe, no delays because of a headache, punched in the face during a bar brawl? No worries, it might as well have been a pillow fight. Those who have this extremely rare condition may go about their day blissfully unaware of cuts and bruises, but the body knows. People with CIPA are still people, they’re human and their human bodies react accordingly, whether or not the broken bone is felt, it’s still broken. Pain is the indicator for us to seek medical attention. It’s interesting that people with this disorder are not spared from emotional injuries. They too have their share of trauma. Each person reading this has survived the various storms of life. Not a Single person scrolling through the words of Mindless Peace has been defeated, congratulations. Humans are resilient; we’re built to make it through.
To survive means to inhale, exhale, and repeat. To thrive means a world more than continuing to exist. It means to go right on living, not shackled by the scars of past trauma, but adorned in wounds of war that prove God heals. Whoever said it was time that heals should have their ass kicked so hard, even if they’re someone with CIPA and won’t feel a thing. Time helps with perspective but it is not a healer, time is like Ibuprofen or Advil, it’s a treatment not a cure.
We often fail to see that pain can be a sign of healing. Take knee surgery for example, the operation is extensive and the recovery is long-suffering. It’s been said that the recovery period is far more painful than the initial injury. A busted knee is a malicious impairment so for the recovery to hurt even more…well that’s really something. As awful as it might be, post-knee surgery is an example of a healing pain. As is working out, being in the gym, lifting and running, it’s not an easy commitment, if it was we’d all look like gladiators. Muscles tear down before they build up. Progress is slow and taxing but the benefits are certain. Beating yourself up in the right ways when it comes to exercise is mind-blowingly satisfying and when it happens on the regular- results are unavoidable. When it comes to fitness, the pain is proof that it’s working.
God Himself says pain does not come without a purpose. “I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born.”-Isaiah 66:9
How we find the purpose depends on how we process, and to do so properly we need to feel. I cannot stand the ugly cry and I’m not trying to be sappy, I’m trying to be truthful. Feeling feelings is the first step in How To Thrive 101. So start, even if the act of allowing emotions is detestable. Feel all the feels of whatever it is you feel, no matter how messy it is it’s okay because it’s only part of the process not the end, emotions are not the answer. There are 5 stages and we go through them even when we’re not at a funeral. So go through them, embrace the unpredictable waves of painful change knowing you won’t be stuck in an undertow forever. A calm sea never made a skilled sailor. My first novel entitled My Famous Friend, opens with a Hemingway quote that in part reads; “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.” Pain is there for a reason. Pain is an indicator that we need help. We are human, not superheroes nor vampires, we cannot shut it off pain is meant to be felt. Even those with CIPA, immune to the physical feeling are not the exempt from the effect. Certain pain means healing. Certain pain means victory. Don’t just survive-thrive. Stop existing just to scrape by. Stop avoiding, stop burying, and stop running. Surviving becomes thriving when we start seeing purpose and we know that conquering is possible. We thrive when we treat life like the brutality that is post-op knee surgery and realize; “the degree to which you embrace the pain is the degree to which you will recover.”-Christine Caine