Trauma is a touchy subject. It’s like genitalia: we all have some, but we do our best to hide it.
Everything we experience has an impact on us: the people and things in our lives; our thoughts and feelings; our past, our present, and even our perceived future. Because that’s what existence is: motion, collision, and impact.
But some experiences have a bigger impact on us than others. It’s the difference between getting lightly rear-ended and getting hit by a speeding train — some things are just too intense for a human body to handle. In between these two extremes there’s a place where the experience doesn’t rip you apart, but it never leaves you either. It has an impact large enough that you are irrevocably changed, whether you realize it or not.
This is what we generally call ‘trauma’.
Trauma, by definition, is divided into ‘physical’ and ‘mental’ spaces:
1. a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.
2. physical injury.
We can see how these two definitions are separate. Trauma of the physical kind doesn’t necessarily lead to distress; athletes are known to continue playing on a broken leg from all the endorphins rushing through their blood (this effect is so powerful that some researchers have claimed that addiction to physical activity should be a clinically defined syndrome.) Similarly, disturbing experiences don’t require a bodily injury to occur; watching someone else become gravely injured can certainly be traumatic.
But, as I’ve written before, our mental and physical spaces are inseparable. Impact causes trauma and life is nothing but a series of impacts.
Not only are physical and mental traumas completely indistinguishable, but literally everything we experience can be categorized as traumatic.
Life and existence are nothing more than a series of interactions.
And this word is so much more contradictory than I’ve ever realized before.
reciprocal action or influence.
This isn’t a logically or emotionally tenable idea. According to Wikipedia: “The idea of a two-way effect is essential in the concept of interaction, as opposed to a one-way causal effect.” The problem here is that causality is so clearly an illusion — how can one thing cause an event without an interplay of subject, object, and environmental influences? How can we even say “one thing” as if it’s separate from the universe? But even beyond that, causality in no way indicates that the effect of one thing on another does not flow in both directions. We see time as a straight arrow, but an arrow requires a line that connects two points. Does it matter which direction the arrow faces?
There are an infinite number of ways to show this, so try it yourself — pump your intuition to produce a scenario whereby the cause of an event is separate from the effect. Can you do it?
In this way trauma as an experience that “never leaves you” is simply life. Every single step we take is traumatic and life-changing. Your impact on the ground means that the ground has impacted you back. The valence, magnitude, and extent of this action/reaction event is purely determined by perspective (good vs bad; good vs really good; good for me vs good for everyone). This is the way that orientation shapes our realities, as happiness implies sadness, life implies death, and up implies down.
Is the opposite of impact, ‘isolation’? Can’t that be traumatic too?
Do you think every action and interaction is traumatic? I’d love to hear your thoughts.