What if there is no “normal” to return to after long-term PTSD? Be unfaithful to your sorrows.

I tagged a customer review of a book on Amazon because it moved me and I wanted to track comments on the review. It spoke to me.

(The book is In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness by Peter A. Levine, author of Waking the Tiger, a book that changed my life.)

Fred wrote:

I agree with the comments about this book. I have the book and a couple of his other ones and I learned from them, they were my first knowledge of what trauma could do. I want to make a specific trauma comment and since the author has helped me alot what better place to do it!

At age 60 I am finally and only recently past the terror of early, continuous and prolonged childhood abuse because of the healing work I have done on my own. I recommend books and techniques from Alice Miller, Peter Levine (of course!), David Berceli, Babette Rothschild, EMDR, EFT, PARTS/EGO STATES work, NLP. I am a little leery about unsupervised guided imagery and meditation because they can be so close to dissociation, I sure did.

My comment is that with early abuse in whatever form the child has to create coping and defensive mechanisms to be able to survive mentally. These PARTs then prevent the child from growing naturally like all children should. As an adult these PARTS drew me to abusers and perpetuated actions which continued to retraumatize me. I didn’t know any better.

People who experience trauma as adults can use the techniques the author describes and those listed above to get back to normal. I have come to the awful realization that I have no NORMAL to go back to! My former desires and reasons for living no longer exist. They were based on avoiding reality, lessening the pain and terror, and plowing through dissociation to be able to function. While I don’t have the terror anymore I am still trauma parallyzed (Freeze, surrender) as I have been for most of these 6 decades and I don’t have the NORMAL interests and motivations which would help me get past that. “I” do not exist.

My hope from this review is that this Catch 22 can be added to trauma discussions. I don’t know what can be done to create a resource or if there are even more people like me out there.

I guess a correlary is to emphasize the need to help children who do experience trauma, as early as possible. (Another of the author’s books.)

Fred says there’s no normal to return to because of childhood abuse.

I ask Fred and others who have experienced long-term PTSD who don’t believe they have anything like a “normal” self to return to:

What if “normal” is an illusion? What if there is no normal?

Really, if your trauma began at age 1 or 11 or 21, the “returning to normal” is returning to how you were before the trauma began. What would it look like for a 60-year-old healing trauma victim to return to being a normal one year old? It doesn’t seem to work like that.

Perhaps “normal” is a concept that the mind desires that doesn’t really exist. Even for so-called “normal” people!

If that’s the case, then I say you get to determine what normal means for you.

Maybe normal means being a more present, heart-centered, resourceful person.

Maybe normal means finding what you believe you missed out on: a sense of worthiness, love, inner peace, trust, self-respect, and so on.

Maybe it’s having a strong connection to an enlightened witness. Maybe that enlightened witness is an inner part, Divine Essence, or another person.

Maybe normal is being a valued member of a community and building close relationships.

Maybe normal is being playful and having fun. Maybe it’s setting the boundaries you need to thrive.

Maybe normal is feeling centered in your body and having your energy flow freely, and learning how to return to that state when you become uncentered or blocked.

Maybe it’s wanting to experience the most joy, connection, sanity, and love — both giving and receiving — as you can and having a damn good reason for doing so. Living really well is the best revenge and the best healing you can possibly do.

Imagine that you fully and completely have the experience of being normal. What would that do for you ? Let’s hear it! “Then I’d be…”

And what would that do for you?

Take it as far as you can and enjoy experiencing that staate.

There’s a Zen phrase “unfaithful to my sorrows” that I use on my About me page. To me, it means that no matter what your sorrows are, or how many or deep they are, or how long you’ve had them, there are at least moments when you’re unfaithful to them — times when you forget them and notice something else. A rainbow. Some music. A dream image. A dust bunny. A release of tension.

We tend to believe we’re defined by our sorrows and traumas, but we’re not. We can let these non-sorrow moments become large.

Krishnamurti put it like this:

What can be described is the known, and the freedom from the known can come into being only when there is a dying every day to the known, to the hurts, the flatteries, to all the images you have made, to all your experiences— dying every day so that the brain cells themselves become fresh, young, innocent.

My dear friend Keith Fail says it more simply,

We’re always bigger than we think we are.

2 thoughts on “What if there is no “normal” to return to after long-term PTSD? Be unfaithful to your sorrows.

  1. Been wanting to order “Waking The Tiger” and was told it was hard to read. This makes me want to read it, and the other. I just ordered “The Body Bears The Burden” and I have to admit to being somewhat terrified at discovering what I’m experiencing is quite normal. Happy I found your blog!
    The Cockroach

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