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  • Writer's pictureMarc-Henri Sandoz

Trauma as revelation (reconceiving trauma, part 7)

le trauma comme révélation
Le trauma peut provoquer une sorte de vision aux rayons x à travers la surface des choses

Trauma may bring with it a kind of x-ray vision through the surface of things.

Trauma is a tragic reality, without nothing glamorous, romantic or constructive. It hurts, it destroys, it kills, it can make one weak, bitter, handicapped, tormented for the rest of his life.

And yet, when trauma happens, it can bring with it as well an opportunity to grow. For trauma brings with it a kind of revelation, like a moment of x-ray vision through the surface of things. But this revelation is not easy to receive, nor is it automatic. When faced to trauma and to the revelation that comes with it, we are spontaneously tempted to ignore it, even to repress it or to fly away from it. But when we open to it, when we embrace it, this revelation is susceptible to unfold and to bring us clarity and teachings for the rest of our lives.

What is this revelation?

First it's a revelation of the mind. By making us face the reality of our frailty and mortality, trauma makes us aware of how our mind has built a complex weaving of illusions, made of thoughts about our security, our control over our lives, the solidity of our environment, even our personality and our character. Trauma reveals us that most of what we thought solid and permanent is not, and even that we are not who we thought we were. Most of our inner peace and sense of self and of security was built on illusions produced by our mind to help us to live as quietly as possible. This revelation is a tough one, no wonder that we are tempted to shut it down as quick as possible. But there is something unescapable about trauma, that at least compels us to face it for a brief moment of clarity.

Then it's a revelation that blows the mind. Trauma introduces us in a strange space where we discover how much reality is bigger than us, strange, unescapable. We are not the center of anything. Instead we are nothing but atoms into an infinite maelstrom, a chaos of change with no consideration for our needs or wishes. Because of trauma we face our own mortality and insignificance, and the fundamental impermanence of everything. There is a terror into this revelation, a sense of falling into an abyss with no bottom. Our mind is blown away and its attempts to put some order into that chaos are exposed as pathetic. We may try to obliterate this realization and to try to regain some sense of security in building again some system of thoughts. But the fact remains that our mind has been exposed as unable to grant us any true lasting assurance. We may face it or try to ignore it, but we have seen it for a brief moment. It has been the second revelation coming with trauma.

Third it's a revelation that goes beyond the mind. For some of us it's longer to discover, longer to unfold, easier to miss, but yet it's powerful and coming in close relationship with the first two. I say for some of us, because there are many stories of people having suffered major trauma, and having experienced a spontaneous happening of this third aspect of the revelation coming with trauma. I've heard stories of war veterans, people having passed through torture, having faced threat of violent death or terrible illness. Many tell in a way or another how came to them, in a kind of mystical experience, the revelation of the perfection of the present moment, the feeling of being totally part of the universe, loved and secure, the infusing of a peace that goes beyond and has nothing to do with the dramatic circumstances they were facing. That's something of this kind that I lived before my amputation when I felt that peace comforting me while breathing consciously and repeating the name of Jesus as my mantra. Some don't experience it in such intense or evident way, but still that "revelation of the third kind" may be discovered and can unfold, when one knows how to look for it.

This "revelation of the third kind" is the discovering of what lies beyond and in the core of what has firsthand appeared as chaos, maelstrom, terrifying abyss, this new glimpse of reality. At the core of reality is silence and spaciousness. Some call it void or emptiness. And this silence, this spaciousness, this emptiness can be experienced. And when experienced, one discovers that it is a place of love and peace, full of potentiality and light, from where everything arises. A place that is at the core of reality, as well as at the core of every human being. This place is every human's true essence, most authentic expression of being. Some traditions call it the true self and locate it into the heart center. Others call it the Kingdom of God, or the Great Mystery. It lies under all the images, conceptions and illusions that have been swept away for a moment by the experience of the trauma and the revelation that comes with it. When one meditates, it's to try to connect with this place. Having a glimpse of it, even if that glimpse has come with trauma, is a precious gift, a portal that opens to an infinite field of exploration, joy and transformation.

Having experienced trauma and survived it, I want to make it become an opportunity for me to grow and mature. I want to cherish this revelation in its threefold aspect, and I want to explore it and discover more and more of its depth, beauty and transformative power. I feel an intense joy and curiosity at this perspective.

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