Everyone experiences some kind of trauma in their life—it’s inevitable—though not everyone will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We all react to trauma differently and, depending on how it is dealt with, determines how we think, feel, and perceive ourselves and the world around us. Whether you believe you suffer from PTSD or not, this can help anyone who has experienced trauma in any form.
They say, “Time heals all wounds.” I agree—with those that believe this is a crock of shit. Time only allows you to get used to trying to suppress or dissociate from the painful event. There’s no healing happening.
You’ve probably also heard that “time is an illusion” because, well, …it is. We see time as a linear measurement of our lives because we’ve been conditioned to think this way ever since someone read or told us the first story we’d ever heard. If we take time away, we get “____ heals all wounds.”
I have experienced my fair share of trauma, and although I understand it is nowhere near the amount some people experience, I do know what goes in that blank.
Traumatized brains look very different from non-traumatized or ‘healed’ brains, primarily in three ways: the thinking center is under-activated, as is the emotion regulation center, with the fear center being over-activated. In other words, if you are traumatized, you may experience chronic stress, vigilance, fear, irritation, and have a hard time feeling safe, calming down, thinking clearly, concentrating, being aware, and sleeping. All are symptoms of a hyperactive amygdala.
Even in the worst of times, the best of humanity is revealed. Through letters and eyewitness accounts, displays of kindness, compassion, and generosity were seen and talked about among those who had experienced the horrors of the Holocaust. Such human characteristics can very well be seen through acts of cruelty. Although there are many known and unknown reasons for the attacks on September 11, 2001, one could argue the primary reason was to cause fear and panic throughout the country. But amidst the chaos, we saw a nation band together in support of one another. Leave it to politicians and the media to take that support and turn it into angered patriotism aimed at foreign countries.
In dealing with such traumatic events and post-traumatic stress, therapists, counselors, psychologists, and the like, constantly urge one to talk about it, which seldom works. Verbalizing past events only reinforces the trauma in your mind, which can further traumatize an individual. Talking has become such an automated response that it takes less activity in the brain. Writing, however, shifts the emotionally incomprehensible over to the logic and reasoning side of the brain (prefrontal lobe), making it understandable. There, the reality of the past can be dealt with logically.
If only doctors and psychiatrists prescribed a notebook and a pen rather than a multitude of colored pills to temporarily mask the painful symptoms, and thus never healing the actual source of our pain. I can only assume that many in the field of psychology either haven’t figured this out or live by the motto “wealth over health,” keeping you talking about your past, in order to keep you coming back. Not to mention, many psychiatrists couldn’t help fix the problem mainly because most of them are in need of help from their own profession.
It doesn’t take much brainpower to talk, and we can see this with people in our lives and especially on TV—the Kardashians or Kelly from ‘The Office.’ But it takes the logic portion of the brain to move a pen. Thus, when you write out memory, it shifts the emotionally incomprehensible over to logic, making it understandable. Then once it is comprehensible, the reality of the past can be dealt with logically.
Thinking and talking about a past trauma is like viewing the past in a dissociative manner or bird’s-eye view. Writing, however, allows you to view your mind’s screen through the eyes of the part of you that endured it.
The simplest way to gain self-knowledge is to get a small book, one that will fit into a pocket or handbag so that you can carry it about all the time. Start with your earliest memories; begin to recall your likes and dislikes. You can have a separate page for each and enter foods, music, situations, relationships— as many categories of items as you can. As it is a secret, no one will give you crap if you write how you dislike hippies or have read every Twilight book.
Once you begin to see how you were as a child, in what way you developed, and what sort of a person you have become, you will be able to judge how subsequent changes have affected you. If you have been frightened and made uncertain by what seems to be happening around you, this basic understanding of yourself may give you a solid basis on which to build. You will learn to become calm; to cope with situations that once seemed beyond you; to flex and bend rather than stiffly resisting until you are forced into a different pattern. You will learn to control the changes, decide upon them and carry them out to suit your own purposes, but you will need to understand both yourself and the causes of change.
If you ask ‘Where am I going?’ the answer can depend a lot on where you want to go. If you have no clear plan for yourself, you can easily be carried along by every passing current. If there is a new religion, political party, or any other mass movement, and you have no definite plans, then you may be swept along with it, perhaps against your choice.
You will need to list in your secret book the directions in which you would most like to travel on the road of life. In the fields of home, job, partnerships, friendships, and achievement, you may already realize where you would like to go. In each category, it is best to look closely at the next step (preferably a small one) you need to take towards your personal goal.
The surprises this practice can bring into your life are unimaginable until you step onto the hidden path that now lies at your feet. In a year, if you can look back at this moment recorded in your journal, you will know what this can be like.
The more this is practiced, the more control over memory and the mind is ultimately gained. A sense of true self-actualization develops and continues to grow once a whole new perspective of yourself and the world is achieved.
Why is this practice not being used within psychiatry?
Psychiatry is a suppressed science of the mind, with a one-sided mindset centered around behaviorism, with no consideration of consciousness or the soul. It possesses a built-in capacity for abuse greater than any other area of medicine. A simple diagnosis of mental illness permits the state to detain an individual against their will, where they insist on treatment based on “his” or “society’s” best interest. However, this is no longer needed anymore with the vast amount of versions of basically the same chemicals that merely mask unwanted symptoms instead of discovering and dealing with the source of the matter.
Yet, we are invariably told to see these people whenever an inner crisis occurs.
We do it because we are held within either a conscious or unconscious state of submission, where we will do whatever others want us to do in order to fit in and not to cause conflict. If someone deems something politically incorrect, the traumatized mind knows never to do or say whatever it was not to cause trouble. We need conflict, though. We need to speak our minds. The more we suppress our thoughts and feelings, the more we feed our shadow selves.
By no means am I saying that it’s as simple as it sounds. It’s not; at least, for me, it wasn’t. However, it did get more manageable with the more I wrote about each event. I am glad I started with what I had thought would be the toughest one—later finding out through writing I had been fooling myself the whole time and discovering hidden trauma from childhood.
Sitting within a moment that had caused such trauma, long enough to smell the smells and record every detail I could, ended up being the greatest therapy I’d ever experienced.
Now, I still experience emotions, such as anger and sadness, but they disappear as quickly as they came. Forgiveness comes without effort, and grudges are never held. It becomes easy just to let go and finally live.
The pen truly is mightier than the sword. This will give you control over your memory and, ultimately, your mind. Writing is the greatest gift you can give yourself.