Healing from Trauma in Early Life
Some form of trauma in early life is a very common human experience. The imprint of such experiences can powerfully influence the subsequent trajectory of a lifetime. Much of my work as a psychiatrist involves helping people to heal such wounds. Doing so enables an individual to escape from the gravitational field of the traumatic event. I will use an incident from my own life as a basis for discussing wounding and healing.
I was a blue baby. I was born with the umbilical cord tightly wrapped around my neck. I required resuscitation with supplemental oxygen, immediately upon delivery. I recovered completely, without any apparent deficits.
This event, as it was narrated for me repeatedly by my mother, had three principal effects on me:
1. I believed that I had been meant to die.
2. I believed that I needed to be rescued.
3. My capacity for communication was inhibited (perhaps due to the image of the constriction around my throat).
My healing, correspondingly, has had three major components:
1. Embracing life.
2. Developing self reliance.
3. Finding my voice, through speaking and writing.
I offer my experience to you for your own reflection:
What events have constricted your life? In what ways? What steps can you take to liberate yourself from this constricting influence?
In the I Ching, an ancient Chinese book of wisdom, it is written:
“A man is oppressed by bonds that can easily be broken. The distress is drawing to an end. But he is still irresolute; he is still influenced by the previous condition and fears that he may have cause for regret if he makes a move. But as soon as he grasps the situation, changes this mental attitude, and makes a firm decision, he masters the oppression.”
The I Ching, Wilhelm/Baynes edition, pp. 184-185.
From this passage, we can distill four steps to healing from trauma:
1. Grasping the situation
This step involves both identifying the key traumatic events in your life, and clarifying their effects on you. I found psychotherapy to be of immense value to me towards this end.
2. Changing your mental attitude
I had to change my mental attitude from one of a dependent victim to a belief in my own innate capacity to thrive. What mental attitudes to you need to change?
3. Making a firm decision
I made a firm decision to say “yes” to life, at every opportunity. What decisions do you need to make?
4. Taking positive action
I have taken a vow to do my best to relieve suffering and to inspire others to achieve their highest potential. I am taking all actions within my reach that are in alignment with this aspiration.
Aligning yourself and your every action with your highest purpose is the most potent force for healing.