What is this strange, ephemeral sadness that rises up from time to time?
Is it all the grief of everything that has ever been lost? What is this hollow sense of loss and emptiness?
One day, you may find yourself where the weight of anguish and despair feels absolutely unbearable, but you cannot die, you refuse to end your life even though you wish to, your mind is fully conscious, and you are lying there surrounded by that immense bog of feelings.
Perhaps there is a numbness that starts to come over you, as though you have been lying on the floor of a forest for a long time, and the weeds begin to grow around you, enveloping your entire body. Your breath begins to slow down and deepen, your heartbeat is barely perceptible, your body begins to feel a little distant… Numbness is an integral, yet temporary sensation, part of trauma and the healing process.
One of it’s useful functions is to create space from the intensity. The nerves and sensory perceptions are muted to a degree. However, many psychological blocks often develop due to trying to make what are meant to be temporary coping mechanisms into permanent modes of operating. Over the years, we amass a wonderful collection of these mechanisms & strategies, designed ultimately, to avoid pain.
With simple observation it is clear to see that all of life and all that occurs in life, is transient. If you sit with any sort of pain or discomfort long enough and follow the threads far enough, you will see this for yourself. Even the heaviest depressions have a limit. Feelings come and go. One of the main purposes of my work is to inspire a questioning of one’s basic emotional and mental nature; self inquiry into the heart of feeling, to ask, who is the I that sees, feels and thinks?
Trauma is an integral part of life. When properly understood and utilised, the process of going through painful and arduous experiences can foster deep strength and resilience in very specific and profound ways. This is the understanding upon which many indigenous cultures integrated certain initiatic rites of passages into their rituals, traditions and ways of living. What often appears harsh to the western mind and culture of modernity was deemed an essential part of the healthy psychological development of a human being. Although some trauma can be very damaging, causing deep emotional scars, it is never in vain, if one changes the approach that one handles and deals with their experiences. It is necessary to have strong support and to apply kindness, awareness and generous lashings of self – compassion.
Peter A Levine speaks extensively about trauma in his book “In an unspoken voice”. He succinctly illustrates the point I am making in this paragraph:
“Recently, a young Iraq veteran took issue with calling his combat anguish PTSD and, instead, poignantly referred to his pain and suffering as PTSI— the “I” designating “injury.” What he wisely discerned is that trauma is an injury, not a disorder like diabetes, which can be managed but not healed. In contrast, post-traumatic stress injury is an emotional wound, amenable to healing attention and transformation”.
Over the years I have explored a multitude of approaches, while sitting with the emotional repercussions from the experiences i’ve had in my life. What works for me now, when navigating and sitting with sadness and depressions is approaching the mood with an attitude of curiosity. I invite the sadness or depression, I do not deny it’s existence, nor do I try hide it or make it go away. I feel it deeply, wholly and as much as I can, until it moves. Friends often say that I never hide my feelings. In fact, I don’t really know how to.
In a universe of duality and all shades in between, I find that creating an open opportunity for myself with the spirit of curiosity has been monumental in finding peace within personal chaos, challenges and confusion. It helps me discover hidden facets to complex situations and to deeply accept whatever is going on, fostering patience and calm, eliminating anxiety. In this sense I suggest a radical approach to healing, or simply put“re-balancing”, where we are not victims of circumstance, but actively living in relationship to and communion with life; a constant invitation for curiosity, flexibility and improvisation in every moment, in other words, to dance with life.
The voice I speak with comes from my own direct experiences of trauma through abuse, deaths, depression, despair, isolation and loneliness, as well as all the myriad branches of challenges that have sprouted from a dysfunctional start to life. My voice is also shaped by the profound blessings, joys and bliss I have enjoyed, as well as endless teachings from masters and teachers both living and passed. All that I share comes from a (short) lifetime of observation, experimentation and application.
My firm belief is that as spirits/souls, we do not come into this world with more than we can handle, that we have a choice to allow pain to turn into wounds or wisdom & that we can also choose to take adversity by the horns, using it to evolve and grow into authentic human beings.
2 thoughts on “On Sadness, Numbness, and the Beauty of Trauma”
So beautiful and poignant Darinka. Thanks sharing your wisdom!
My pleasure Mark, thanks for reading, glad it inspires x