What is trauma?

What happens to the brain of a boy when his parents get a divorce? 

Or when one of his parents abuses the other? 

Or if the child doesn't receive enough emotional nurturement while growing up?

Medical and mental health professionals are discovering that when a child experiences pain (or an "Adverse Childhood Experience" or ACE, according to this study), a child’s brain will naturally attempt to protect him or her from physical and emotional pain by instinctively shutting down or “turning off.”

This shutting down is a natural defense mechanism, as the brain is hardwired to help us survive.  In such circumstances, the brain is seeking to momentarily protect us.  However, when it shuts down, it does so in the regions of the brain that handle impulse control, emotions, and dopamine levels... and if the brain is forced to shut down done frequently enough over an extended period of time, it holds long-term health repercussions for the brain as it develops into an adult. 

This damage to the brain is referred to as trauma. And trauma often leads to problems with emotions, compulsive behavior, and issues with dopamine levels because the more pain a person experiences, the more brain damage one may have.

Thus, trauma isn't something that happens to you, it's something that happens inside of you. 

[do note: as we saw in the last post, trauma is normal, it's never anyone's fault, it's a natural human response to pain, and therefore, nothing to be ashamed of, and most importantly: trauma can be healed.]

The beauty in breaking

Out of grapes comes wine.

From the dirt grows a forest.

Out of the darkness shines the stars.

All throughout nature, there is beauty in what’s broken, dirty, and dark. Everywhere you look, something dies and something new rises. Something breaks and something new takes form.

The human soul is no exception.

Even though much of our society is focused on avoiding the possibility of pain and protecting ourselves from darkness- guarded and hiding is not how we were made to live.

In a non-sadistic sense, there is something that we need in brokenness.

Because breaking is a part of being human, and breaking is a part of how we heal.

So should brokenness be pursued?...
And should brokenness be avoided?...


Brokenness is something that we must learn to accept, find compassion for, and face as it comes.

For pain is a part of life for man, just as darkness is a necessary part of the night sky for the shining stars.

In order for the stars to be seen, there must be darkness.

In order for man to be saved, he must first be lost.

If there is no wound in our spirit, what does God have to heal and comfort?

Thus, no one is exempt from brokenness because no one is without the need of being saved and healed, but equally, no one was meant to live and stay lost and broken.

For brokenness is not an identity nor is it a destiny, but it is an inescapable part of living and healing.

When pain is all you feel, pain is your world.

I had surgery this week on my gums.

For the procedure, they removed a strip of gum tissue off the roof of my mouth and stitched it over my receding gum line.

So... it’s been a long, slow, painful week.

And while I was laying in bed today, I was reminded that when pain is all you feel, pain is your world.  

There is no escaping it.  You can’t see or think past it. And every minute, you’re battling your impulse to numb the pain and the impulse that begs you to do anything to make it go away.

Sometimes I crave my pain pills, other times it’s Netflix.

Anything to get my mind away.

I constantly have to stop and think through my reactions to the pain, as these cravings aren't my norm.

Throughout the week, I've realized that physical pain is no different than emotional pain.  Pain is pain, and you either learn to cope, numb, and live with it, or you decide that you want to heal.

Get better.

Take the clean way.

That’s what I tell my clients, at least.

So... I get it.  Pain is hell and so is healing.  I get America’s problem with treating pain with pills.  I get why men numb-out on pornography.

It’s easier.

But unfortunately, numbing is different than healing.  

As I sit here in pain, waiting for my body to heal, icing my mouth, doing what my doctors instructed me to do- I'm reminded of the Johnnyswim line:

“The best way over’s through.”


* song link:
*PS this was written last week, so the surgery was actually last week. Just an FYI. I'm just now getting aroun to posting it. 

Why the pain?

In life, hardship is never intentionally given, but it is never an accident. Fear is never forced on to us, but it is never present without purpose. Pain is never deliberately inflicted, but it is never by mistake.

Thus, what if pain is actually Love knocking on the doors of our heart, seeking to come in? What if pain is Love desiring to comfort and heal us?  What if pain is Love saying, "Look here! I have yet to touch this!"

Because Love loves us too much to leave behind a single tear left unwept, or an ounce of anger left unreleased, or a wound left uncomforted and unhealed.

But Love cannot repair what pain we do not reopen or acknowledge.

Love cannot comfort what we hide.

And Love cannot heal what we claim is not broken.

Wounds that linger like ghosts

Emotional wounds don't always originate from something negative that happens.

Sometimes wounds are the result of something good that should have happened but didn't.

For example, if a Father consistently degrades his child, it holds the same potential to bring harm as repeatedly failing to tell his child that he loves him.

In the latter scenario, it is not what he did that creates a wound, but what he didn’t do.

Therefore a question we all must ask is: was there anything that I needed emotionally when I was young that I did not receive?

For the absence of love creates wounds and pains that follow us like ghosts into adulthood.

When this form of pain exists, in order to heal, we must have the bravery to reawaken our wounds and reconnect with our pain that formed in childhood, discover specifically what we emotionally needed at the time of their formation, and allow God’s love in to fill the cracks that formed as a result of the love we never received.

Yes, it's egregious, intimidating, and dreadfully painful work.

But a moment of suffering is always worth a lifetime of freedom.