By Kathleen Hoy Foley
There is nothing funny about unresolved trauma. But occasionally humor slides in by way of the gallows and pierces its grim heart with a clarity reserved only for such perverse jest. Husband Phil and I were discussing how victims of unresolved trauma either implode or explode. Sometimes both. But never neither. It’s the inevitable road that unresolved trauma pushes its captives down. A road of no choice and no escape. Our conversation was becoming very dark and creepy. But trauma is dark and creepy. But so is the unavoidable fate of imploding and exploding.
Yeah, one way or another, you’re gonna ‘plode! That was Phil. And it was funny. Bizarrely funny. Yet shockingly on target. Like hitting the bull’s-eye using a warped bow and a crooked arrow. And it was also true. Unresolved trauma chases its captives in one direction only: into a ‘plode.
We’re not talking about having a bad day where you’re exhausted from lack of sleep and have had enough nonsense and lip from those near and dear, and there you go exploding into a hissy fit which involves stomping on a couple of cream donuts that just happen to be on the floor where you threw them a few seconds ago in lieu of inflicting physical harm on a certain, defiant bane of your existence. Or a nagging sense of depression and hopelessness when you step on the scale and see that you did not get away with eating half that box of donuts and now payday is here. These are garden variety incidents. It’s fatigue talking. Disappointment shading your mood. The ups and downs of daily life that can be remedied with attention and consideration. An apology. An extra hour or two of exercise to burn off the unwanted pounds. A desire and commitment to go forward making healthy decisions; choices that will create and build a life that nourishes and rewards. It takes work, you know that. But it’s doable.
It doesn’t work that way with unresolved trauma. It’s in charge and stays in charge. And its power expands, growing fatter as it gorges on the calories of time. Unlike the excess calories from donuts, there’s no exercising away the ballooning weight of trauma.
It is devastating to me that I had no notion--nada, none, zero—that unresolved trauma exerted such powerful control over my life. How can you live over fifty years and not have one iota, not one single, brief whiff of this truth? Or even a vague perception of its realness? Or the slightest concept of what being traumatized is, let alone its profound, lingering effects? And that I--that I—was suffering from it?
The answer is that the truth was not available to me. And without that one, specific, imperative truth—that deeply hidden trauma was the cause of my consistent emotional torment—there was no possibility--nada, none, zero—for me to achieve wholeness, no matter what I did.
You don’t know what you don’t know. I needed sensible, comprehensive knowledge. I needed to be taught truth and guided with accuracy and clarity. Without that, there was no possibility for me to recognize that the dark void in the center of my chest was living, breathing trauma. That it was unresolved trauma criticizing every decision I made. Listening to and judging every word I uttered. Watching and condemning every action I took, even while baking chocolate chip cookies.
It was not, as I was indoctrinated to believe, a revered deity taunting me for my own good, simply urging me toward superior perfection. All along the darkness at the center of my life was unresolved trauma. Emotional implosions? They were just a part of my daily life. I didn’t know there was any other way to live. But of course, there is.
Trauma is energy that defies visible shape and conventional reason. The traditional, constricted perception of logic does not apply to trauma. But unseeable energy is quite logical. Energy connects all things. It follows consistent pathways. It ebbs and flows. It becomes blocked. Trauma is emotional pain. Its counterpart is physical pain. Trauma pain is as logical as physical pain. All pain—both physical and emotional—can be logically managed, understood and remedied in one way or another.
Unresolved trauma is blocked energy. A clogged artery blocks the flow of blood to the heart. Unresolved trauma blocks the flow of love to the heart. Unlike an artery clogged with the energetic particles of plaque that can be seen and measured and therefore, remedied, trauma energy is ghostly. It manifests as symptoms easily dismissed or immediately assigned to another cause. That forty-something woman guzzling down a tumbler of wine at a festival last weekend didn’t just like the taste of Chardonnay. It wasn’t physical thirst she was desperate to eliminate.
Lack of knowledge about trauma and its daily, continuous effects locks its victim into a life narrowed down to emotional survival. Enormous amounts of frantic energy are required to preserve just a semblance of emotional order. Unfortunately, sooner or later desperate measures fail.
There is nothing funny about unresolved trauma, but yeah, one way or another, you’re gonna ‘plode! Sometimes it takes twisted humor to illuminate a straight truth.
We are so focused on our search for truth,
we fail to consider how few actually want to find it.
But it is always there.
Whether we see it or not…
Quoted from Chernobyl, the mini-series.