As a therapist, I hear the term trauma thrown around frequently and ambiguously. Often the perception of qualifying trauma is limited to the most extreme events. The fact is that trauma stems from the internalization of an event, rather than the event itself. Trauma simply is something that causes us to re-evaluate who we are, and or what the world is around us. Sometimes we have the resources to mend these holes in the fabric of our reality, and sometimes the tear is large enough that we do not have the emotional resources to integrate our experience into a coherent whole. We all have experienced varying levels of trauma and there is no set criteria of what we are able to reconcile and what we are not. Everyone has a different envelope, and the edge is the edge no matter the size or shape.
With the boys in my group, I like sharing the poem There are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves by James Kavanaugh. It’s attractive to me as it evokes both questions and introspection for them. Most of them have worked really hard on convincing everyone how “tough” they are. Along the way they successfully taught people to walk on egg shells around them and a parent’s smallest attempt to hold a boundary can cause an explosive reaction, with punching holes in the wall, threats of self-harm, risky behavior such as speeding through the neighborhood, or taking drugs to ensue.
A year after I graduated from high school I found myself flying home from a 7-week backpacking trip in Thailand. On the way, our plane hit heavy turbulences while over the Himalayans. At one point, the aircraft fell into an extreme descent and, I was certain that we were going down. I thought to myself, “this is it”—luckily it wasn’t. If it had, I wouldn’t be here writing this. We continued in the unstable air for hours. That experience has made an indelible impression, rising to the surface whenever I am once more at 36,000 feet. I have anxiety. Fear creeps into my bones, I can hardly breathe whenever it gets bumpy.