I have clients in my practice who have suffered through traumatizing situations, people who struggle with PTSD, the real deal. Sometimes they have seen so much that it can be hard to hold any idea of the world other than the one that is framed by that experience.
If you have been a helper in this world, one who sees the suffering enacted on humans by other humans, one who tries without success to bring order into chaos, one who wants desperately to reach out a hand to help but knows that a hand isn’t enough, the world can look like a terrible place, where people do unconscionable things to each other, where behaviour lies outside of our capacity to understand, and where compassion seems to have dried up and blown away.
I know, though, that we have an inherent capacity to tolerate trauma. Our nervous systems are wired up to experience it, work through it, and work it out. PTSD happens when that natural system is disrupted. Instead of feeling our feelings, watching our memories, noticing our body sensations, we are trained to avoid all of that, pretend we are okay when we are not, and smile….at all costs, to smile. When we are good at avoidance, we can sometimes pretend that we didn’t have those experiences. At least we can pretend to others, but it is harder to pretend to ourselves, especially at night.
But because I know we are self-healing, I know that people can and do recover from trauma and from PTSD. What can be hard though is when the darkness from the worldview starts to invade your heart and mind. You can get to a place where you wonder if the world is really all dark, if people really cannot be trusted, and if there is no self-righting tendency in anything. That can be the edge of despair: not a place we especially like to visit. And if you haven’t been there before, it can feel like there is no way out.
Despair. Despair: if you’ve been there, you know it. Despair is the last protest of hopelessness, the energy that powers our movement back toward the light. It is the NO that shifts gears from ever increasing darkness. When the dark forces gather, we resist and try to push the feelings away. But letting go into the experience of the body allows for the cry of despair….and that is our protest. The cry is both the indicator of the depth of feeling and the movement out of that feeling.
Our literature and beliefs are rife with examples and expressions of despair. It is a very human experience, and we try like crazy to avoid it. But it is what comes when things are overwhelming, sorrows abound, fear and sadness and loss are activated to a high level. We see the world and ourselves as without redemption. But making the protest, crying out despair, especially with your therapist, your lover, or your friend, can open a door to recovery.
A platform for therapists, lovers and friends…..holding space for another person (a bit of direction)
When you cry out that there is nothing, no one, that you are unutterably alone, I can hear that. When you cry out and I witness your despair, you experience something different. You are not alone. You are not carrying this burden by yourself. You are not unsupported, unloved, unseen. I will not give you up to a world that is all darkness. Even when you cannot imagine that there is anything else, I can hold the space so you can feel into your despair. When you feel like you have to give up, because you just cannot go on any more, I have strength and room for you. When you cannot believe in a future, I can believe in it, and I can believe in you. Even if you cannot see the light, I will hold it for you until you have sunk into your despair and made that cry that moves you away from it.