I have for those last couple posts rambled a bit about the fact that in this life, right here and now, sometimes, in a moment, we experience an eternity. And that eternity is something like heaven.
There is an underside to this. If a magnifcent moment can stretch upward and outward, so too can a terrible moment.
I teach kids with behavioral challenges. Nearly all of them have experienced trauma. This is an area that I have some training and experience in. I think I have decided that trauma needs a new definition. That definition is this:
Trauma is when something is experienced as so negative that the experience-er can not escape it.
We all know that sometimes, when things are miserable, time stretches out. This is part way to trauma, when the experience of a thing feels so much longer than it was. This is when we begin to know in our bones that Einstien was right: time is relative. Because those few moments when we knew the car crash was coming… they lasted an hour. That first night when we slept alone… it was longer than a hundred nights. That time we heard that terrible CRACK! and knew we had broken something, even though the clock claims that the ambulance only took a few minutes to arrive, in our heart, we know that we lay there, suffering for hours.
This stretching out sucks. But it is not trauma. Because we can move past it.
Sometimes, our experience doesn’t just slow. Sometimes, it stops.
When we are traumatized, there is a part of us that never leaves the traumatic event. Some part of us is still there. Even if a part of us is here and now, it is not all of us. We are robbed of the ability to be fully present. We are robbed of the ability to be fully joyful. The work of healing is the work of getting this part of our ownselves back, so that it is not perpetually undergoing that terrible event.
The kids I work with, they try to re-enact their traumas. Sexually violated kids will act out sexually. Physically violated kids will enact violence. Kids inflicted with chaos will want to bring about chaos. I wonder if a part of this dynamic is rooted in the idea of trying to bring the self to a perverted kind of wholeness. We want to be entirely in one place, we want to be entirely in one time. If it is not an option for the whole of us to be in a healthy and safe present, perhaps there is some kind of drive to inflict the rest of ourselves with the same situation that the piece of us has been abondoned to.
And furthermore, these kids have lots of trouble growing past the age they were traumatized at. Maturity and wisdom ends up being this stunted thing. They can not progress socially, emotionally, academically when the whole of themselves is not present to grow. They are held back by that piece of themselves, stuck in eternity.
Stuck in hell.
Trauma is a living hell. An eternity of suffering. Not for the whole of a person, but for some part, stuck in the moment, eternally violated, broken, hurt.
Just as heaven in this world does not preclude the possibility of a different sort-of heaven in the next, living in an eternal Hellish moment in this life does not imply that there is not some actual Hell after this life, where the whole soul is subjected to this. This little glimpse, though, does help me to wrap my brain around what Hell means, and why it is there. But that is a topic for another day.