Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Defining Trauma

I want to get back to normal.

A phrase often used when returning from a vacation or joyfully saying goodbye to the relatives that stayed a little too long.

There was a disruption of your normal that will now disappear, allowing normal to return.

If normal is a small pond, disruptions may be a rocks skipping across the water’s surface causing ripples and slight variances in the otherwise glass-like surface. Eventually, the ripples calm down and the water returns to its prior state.

One state experiences a disruption that only temporarily changes its state, meaning a return to that prior state is inevitable.

I want to get back to normal.

What happens when this phrase is foreign and no longer applicable?

What happens when that rock skipping across the small pond doesn’t just cause ripples that will eventually calm down, but changes the entire chemistry of the water?

What happens when your normal is changed for good and there is no way to return to anything you are familiar with?

How does one change the mindset from returning to a particular state to identifying themselves in a total new reality?

The most difficult part about trauma is the lack of any familiarity. The most difficult part of trauma is the removal of anything comfortable or known, an introduction to a new state that you’ve never experienced before.

I cannot even say you have to rebuild your identity. A simple morphological exercise would show that the use of rebuild would be incorrect. The prefix “re” means back or again. Merriam-Webster defines again as returning to a previous position. To rebuild something would be to return to a particular state. You cannot even rebuild after trauma.

Trauma is like growing up in Kansas your entire life, knowing everyone, and everything, then being hit over the head and waking up on Bear Island in Norway with no explanation (Bear Island is recognized as one of the top 10 most remote islands in the world).

You are forced to learn everything from scratch. You need to learn a new language, how to relate to people, how to live in a new climate, what clothes to wear, learn the local trade to make money, but then you have to learn how this currency operates, etc.


Unlike any compelling movie where the main character does all this work to get themselves up off the floor and learn all these new things so that they can return home, trauma burns home down, trauma changes the chemistry of the pond, trauma changes you forever and rids the reality of any return to normal and requires you define a new reality. 

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