A sense of the good, true and beautiful can be eclipse or erased by trauma. It is something that occurred to me this morning in moments of contemplation when I thought of trauma survivor Gill Hicks saying about Ahn Doh’s painting of her, “I hope he sees the beauty in the trauma” as well as something said to me while I was struggling on that retreat in Glastonbury following my head injury and I recently discovered is a quote from Anne Frank : ‘At such moments I do not think of all of the misery, but about the beauty that remains.”
This is even true for trying to find a shift of perspective concerning some members of my family lately as I have been grappling with painful feelings, I had the insight given to me that everyone one was once a small child and subject to many forces at one time and may have had their innocence or vulnerability slaughtered in some way. Who knows? I am sure some of us are born more sensitive than others, more highly attuned.. If you subscribe to the idea of indigo children earth angels or starseeds then there is the sense that some of us who have suffered a great deal due to the type of society we were born into also had an inner knowing of some better and more beautiful way to live that we were not seeing in our family of origins, schools, religious institutions and other man made things as we grew up.. We were always questioning the way things were and we often felt like misfits, somehow out of step with or at odds with the dominant mindsets.
This struck me while reading Glennon Doyle’s book yesterday and then a post written by someone in early sobriety who was sharing how she questioned her father intently about the crucifixion as youngster. She was both drawn to and mystified by this event and at a young age did not know how the unkindness that led to the murder of Christ could ever have occurred.. When she questioned her father about it, he had to fob her curiosity off and eventually told her to stop reading the bible. The empathy of that struck me deeply and it made sense of the journey she had to go on in struggling to understand an, at times, deeply cruel society.
I remember in my body harmony sessions to deal with trauma how when I fixated upon an intense inward symptom or there was a rising up to awareness of emotional pain my therapist would try to get my focus into present time, she would hold the hurting part of my body and not stop the energy from moving and trying to discharge but she would encourage me to bring my focus to something beautiful in the room or into her eyes. She did this because as we know the intense pain of trauma can completely capture us at times, it can fixate us, pin us down, ravage us, it can remove a sense of trust, it can block a reaching out, it can trap us in patterns of self protection that sometimes only serve to keep us limited and in pain.
My morning walks in a beautiful place are very important to me lately so is allowing my body to move DESPITE the intense sensations of pain that occur on waking and while trying to digest my morning meal, Today I forced myself to walk but not in a disconnected way but a slow, present, rhythmic way. In fact while I was walking I also noticed walkers and cyclists who seemed not outwardly connected at all. I was listening to a writer last week sharing about the benefits of both silence and walking, he was saying that walking can slow us down, it can make us more present, it can help us to notice what surrounds us, it can also awaken and foster creative thinking and even problem solving. And it can get us moving forward.. While walking we can tap into the beauty, especially if we can get ourselves around greenery and do some forest bathing. We can notice wildlife and birds, we can interact with other humans, we can leave our solitude or isolation for a period…
Putting the focus on the good, true and beautiful can also uplift our spirits.. Allowing ourselves to let go of running over and over and over the painful things that hurt can provide us with relief, as long as we do not avoid facing them entirely. For often our healing may require we embrace harsh truths, such as we were not truly loved, protected, treated with empathy or cared for by parents or siblings who abused us. Some of us may even have been abused while being told it was an act of love.. I was listening to a very interesting program on Dissociative Identity Disorder on the weekend and in it a woman who had been abused sexually for over 20 years in her family shared how her perpetrator while swearing her to silence under treat of death also told her it was an act of love.. This really fucks with a person’s head and makes the trauma more likely to be buried…in the woman’s case the unbearable feelings of anguish made her consciousness split into many different personalities or parts which she had to work over time to integrated back into a cohesive whole.
Perhaps for many of us who work to find the beauty of who we are which lays hidden or obscured beneath the many lies we may have been told about who we were and what we were REALLY EXPERIENCING that were not true, that is the most important experience of beauty we can hope to have : That we can find another part of ourselves willing to help us bear with it and even go get the help we need to uncover, heal and unify our torn or buried fragments of Self. The beauty in this case surely lies in the drive of our spirit to remain true to the inner sense of goodness and truth inside THAT IS CAPABLE OF EMBRACING RATHER THAN REJECTING OUR HURT, ANGER, FEAR, RAGE, GRIEF OR PAIN, and foster a growing sense of wholeness.
Finding self love may be the most beautiful and important task of all when recovering from neglect, abandonment or trauma. The path there may be lost when the killing voices of the inner critic or persecutor work to cut us off from the sense of goodness inside of us but we can also even work with these voices (both inside ourselves and as projected by others) to understand why they exist in the first place. And once we know we are worthy of beauty we will seek it out, we will even find it in what a mundane society may judge to be ‘ugly’, ‘worthless’ or of little value… in the parts rejected that really have so much to offer and teach us about life.