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March 16, 2006

Unresolved Trauma

Do you know someone with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, or ADHD? I read in the Sunday Times about the Dore Centres (www.dorecentres.co.uk) which have a 93% success rate in treating these conditions. The work that they do seems miraculous. It is changing the lives of children and adults with these conditions.

Carl Jung said, "Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering." I would take that a step further and say that dysfunction is always a substitute for experience. If life is not fully experienced in each moment then it leaves a residue in the mind. This residue leads to dysfunctional thinking which in turn leads to dysfunctional behavior. When we think and act from a position other than right here and now, a place of pure choice, we are in the grip of dysfunction. Suffering itself is dysfunctional; suffering does not need to exist in our lives; it is the habitual choice to forfeit any option other than that defined by our past.

Emotional absence, all forms of neurosis, low self-esteem, worrying, and character disorders are all forms of dysfunctional thinking which lead to dysfunctional actions: addiction, violence, blaming, raging, complaining, attacking, hiding, defensiveness, playing-the-victim and self-sabotage.

Life is meant to be fun! Life is meant to be exciting! Life is meant to be filled with joy! If it's not, then there's something that needs to be looked at. If life isn't these things, it doesn't mean that we're not doing it right; we're always doing it right, no matter what we're doing. If life is not these things, it means that we're not being as skillful as we could be. For example, when joy is lacking it's because we're not noticing the joy that's right under our noses.

Most of the time when life is not exciting, joyful, and fun, it's because there is unresolved trauma. It could be acute trauma such as being beaten, or chronic trauma such as having a depressed parent. When a challenging situation arises in our lives, it tends to awaken old trauma; when we loose a job, or a spouse, or a leg, for example; or perhaps we experience a drug downer or our partner deserts us. When any of these things happen, we often find old trauma awakened. We experience pain beyond what could be caused by the immediate situation and we react uncontrollably and inappropriately.

But when something bad happens it's natural to feel down for a short time. How can we tell if we're experiencing the current situation or being sucked into past trauma? We can know by observing ourselves. Is there free choice in the resulting actions that we take? If there is a feeling of compulsion or if the action that is being taken is dysfunctional, if it's not in the overall best interest, then we can know that there is unresolved past trauma that is acting in our lives.

At our deepest level we want fun, excitement, and joy; we want to be who we really are. This experience is to found in the present. But we can't be in the present while the past is still trying to live in us. So the seeking of the very nature of ourselves, the seeking of the joy, is what causes us to draw to ourselves the situations which will awaken, and enable us to revisit, the unresolved trauma of the past.

Everything that happens in our lives, good or bad, we draw to ourselves. We draw the situations to ourselves and we make them happen. And they all happen for our greater good. My wife is divorcing me right now and I can see how I drew that to myself. I can also see how much unresolved past trauma has been reawakened by that and subsequently healed. If I don't deal with it now I'll go through it again and again until it gets resolved.

Let's say that I suspect that I've got some unresolved trauma. What can I do to heal it? What can I do to stop the suffering, the dysfunctional thinking, and the dysfunctional behavior? I can write on a piece of paper, "How can I heal this trauma of the past that is affecting my life today?" and then put it under my mattress. All I have to do is ask the question. The answer will come to me.

Oh and by the way, most trauma, perhaps all trauma, is caused by dysfunctional actions which, as I've explained, come from unresolved past trauma. So why not break the chain? Let it stop with me. Don't pass it on; heal it. This is the most powerful thing that I can do in the world. It's one thing that I have total control over. There's at least one six-year-old kid's life which depends on my actions. I sense that this is true for most people.

Carl Jung also said, "Everyting that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves."


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