I was given another of H Norman Wright's books, this one called Surviving the Storms of Life: Finding Hope and Healing when Life Goes Wrong co-written with Matt Woodley and Julie Woodley by someone who cares. This book is not only written from their combined "head' knowledge about trauma, grief, etc. but also from their "heart" knowledge, their individual experiences with trauma. A good combination and one which makes it easier for the reader to comprehend the reality of trauma and its effects on the victim.
This second book goes into trauma in much more depth than my "Bible" Helping Those Who Hurt: Compassionate and Practical Ways to Offer Comfort. Helping Those Who Hurt which focuses on practical ways to walk with and encourage people who are hurting, who are going through hard times, who are finding it hard going. Therefore, the glimpses into trauma this first, much older book gives are side trails so that the reader can understand more what their friend is going through and endeavour to walk with and encourage them in practical ways.
In the second, more recent book Surviving the Storms of Life, we get more into the meat of the issue. We go deeper than the surface. Way deeper. It's a bit like standing on top of the Niagara Escarpment looking around at the panorama in front of you like I've done in the picture below taken from the Devil's Punchbowl overlooking Hamilton, Ontario. I thought that building or whatever on the top of the ridge was actually a silo in farm land.
And then I zoomed in as close as I could get. The reality of what was on top of the ridge was a far cry from what I had thought. It was no silo. There was no farmland. It was another piece of developed landscape. A high rise in the process of construction with a crane on top of it.
Notice too how the first picture, the far away one is much bluer while the second one is very grey. Why? Smog. Another reality of life in the valley of Hamilton as opposed to being on top of the escarpment.
Again same view, different perspective.
I've noticed in my journey specifically through my passion of taking pictures, that things look different from different angels, from different distances. Same objects, different perspectives. As made evident by the pictures above.
Different perspectives can include things such as time. The distance of time changes your perspective on the events that happened.
And also your relationship with the person who has experienced trauma.
Trauma up close and personal looks different to the one who is experiencing it then it does to the bystander, to the onlooker.
Another factor in your perspective on trauma is whether you're the one stuck in it or you're the onlooker, the bystander.
People who were in my office, who witnessed what was going on, most of whom eventually aligned themselves with the abusers, are not going to experience the events in the same way the target did.
It's not their experience. It's not their trauma. They're not the one experiencing isolation, exclusion and rejection every day of their working lives. They see things from a totally different perspective.
According to Julie Woodley, "Trauma is the response to any event that shatters your world. ... Trauma leave you feeling unsafe because your place of refuge has been invaded." (page 26)
She then goes on to cite different ways and places in which trauma can touch us including this sentence: "Trauma touches those subjected to pressure or harassment in the workplace." (page 27)
Interesting, eh? Let's keep going in this vein:
When you experience trauma, .... Your world turns wild, out of control, crazy. For some victims the trauma will last for years. For others it will last as long as they live.
The wound of trauma can create a condition called PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder. It is not just an emotional response to troubling events; it's the expression of a persistent deregulation of body and brain chemistry. And brain chemistry can be altered for decades. Trauma creates chaos in our brain and causes an emotional as well as a cognitive concussion. Entering the world of trauma is like looking into a fractured looking glass. The familiar appears disjointed and disturbing; a strange new world unfolds. (page 27)
The above quotes describe accurately a piece of my journey.
I'm leaving us here for today as I just want to start slowly and carefully with the reality of trauma. Trauma is real. I'm not making it up.
In future posts, we will go farther into this theme of the reality of trauma, what it is, how it affects people in general and how it affects me specifically.
I have found that learning what has happened to me and is still happening within me and why is invaluable in my journey towards recovery. It allows me the freedom to discover how I want to proceed given my set of circumstances - and limitations.
One last thought before I leave you today:
I wonder if that staff member from my church had come into my home, my safe place, with even the most basic understanding about the reality of trauma as quote above from a reliable source, would she have done anything differently? Would she have listened more? Spoken less? Judged less?
We'll never know.