CoDA E-Meditation February 25, 2015
Our Legacy as Children of Trauma*
What follows is an excerpt from an interview with author David J. Morris about his book "The Evil Hours," an account of his struggle to understand and cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after being an embedded journalist in the Iraq war. Although he did not talk about codependency per se, I felt the topic was relevant because so many of us are former children of trauma, and so wanted to share it.
*Please do not read further if you are triggered by this topic.
The interview was broadcast on the NPR program "Fresh Air" January 20, 2015.
"We are born in debt, owing the world a death. This is the shadow that darkens every cradle. Trauma is what happens when you catch a surprise glimpse of that darkness, the coming annihilation not only of the body and the mind, but also, seemingly, of the world. Trauma is the savagery of the universe made manifest within us, and it destroys not only the integrity of consciousness, the myth of self-mastery and the experience of time, but also our ability to live peacefully with others, almost as if it were a virus, a pathogen content to do nothing besides replicate itself in the world over and over until only it remains.
Trauma is the glimpse of truth that tells us a lie; the lie that love is impossible, that peace is an illusion. Therapy and medication can ease the pain, but neither can suck the venom from the blood, make the survivor unsee the darkness and unknown the secret that lies beneath the surface of life.
Despite the quixotic claims of modern neuroscience, there is no cure for trauma. Once it enters the body, it stays there forever, initiating a complex chemical chain of events that not only changes the physiology of the victims, but also the physiology of their offspring. One cannot, as war correspondent Michael Herr testifies in "Dispatches," simply "run the film backwards out of consciousness."
Trauma is our special legacy as sentient beings, creatures burdened with the knowledge of their own impermanence and our symbolic experience with it is one of the things that separates us from the animal kingdom. As long as we exist, the universe will be scheming to wipe us out. The best we can do is work to contain the pain, draw a line around it, name it, domesticate it and try to transform what lies on the other side of that line into a kind of knowledge. A knowledge of the mechanics of loss that can be put to use for future generations."
--Journalist David J. Morris, "The Evil Hours"
From the interview with David J. Morris:
DJM: One of the reasons I wrote this book is to come to grips with and leave my war service, my military service behind. Writing this book has been a way of saying goodbye to that part of my life and saying goodbye to a certain version, mythology of myself, as this indestructible adventurer, this indestructible war correspondent person. But for a long time, I thought if I survived a war, I would be a certain kind of person, I would be this mystic almost, who could see through the normal day, the normal scrim of daily events to some deeper reality. I've moved beyond that and I don't really believe that anymore and have moved on to other new things in my life.
Interviewer: Do you have healthier relationships now? Do you feel like you're where you want to be there?
DJM: In some ways I think it's made me better as a person because it's made me more interested in people than I was before. When you get addicted to going to war like I did for a number of years, you sort of look at normal life as being somehow less interesting and less meaningful and less powerful, so you sort of focus on the extremity of life.
I want more from my basic human relationships now because I realize that going to war and accepting some of the realities that Post Traumatic Stress have taught me, that... we're only on earth for a short period of time and I wanna have as much experience and connect with people as much as I can with this small period of time that I have. Living in the shadow of near-death can give you that insight, and I felt like that was one of the insights I got after being in Iraq." Peace and love, The CoDA Board http://www.codaomaha.org