The Long Trauma Of Neglect
I was talking with a friend recently and we stumbled across this phrase,
“The long trauma of neglect.”
What do you imagine your body — with ageless patience — has endured over the years?
For the sake of this piece you might imagine your conscious self as sovereign ruler over the domain of the body. Your rule depends on the cooperation — or at least the obedience — of the denizens of this kingdom. At any moment an uprising could dethrone you. A spasm of the back or a grip of anxiety could bring down the castle, and no mere will could hold it together.
What kind of leader have you been?
To which parts of the kingdom have you tended? Which parts have had their requests and prayers fall on deaf ears? Which have threatened uprising only to be squashed beneath an iron fist? If the kingdom were under siege, which parts would come to your aid and which would gladly welcome the prospect of a new ruler sitting atop the throne?
Imagine sending your awareness through yourself, mounting your horse and riding through the lands…what stories would you hear as you stopped in with the locals? What stories have been lost?
The body speaks plainly when it comes to active punishment. It cries out when pushed to the limit and lays low the ruler who taxes the kingdom unfairly. However, passive negligence is a slow-spreading pestilence. It makes itself known over a much longer span of time.
Weeks pile into months into years into decades before the long trauma makes itself known.
We may finally leave the castle and venture forth through the kingdom only to find that the sons and daughters of the land have been laid low before their time, helpless and hapless victims of a plague they couldn’t survive.
What then do we make of their losses?
Do we whip the survivors into a frenzy of compensation? Do we dare punish them for our own careless negligence?
Do we take time to humble ourselves and mourn with those who remain? Do we commemorate the grief our kingdoms have endured?
How do we honor the capabilities that we’ve lost, the parts of ourselves we may never regain?
How do we make peace with our own capacity for monstrous dereliction? How do we reconcile our faults without violently overthrowing the old ruler?
Growth begs for reconciliation.
If we wish it for ourselves, we must take time to listen to those parts of ourselves that have suffered. We must hear the stories and air the grievances of those parts of ourselves that have borne the greatest burden of our rule.
How else to bring peace to the kingdom?
As I’ve worked in recent months to restore my vision I find quite often that I’m overcome with grief. I think of everything that has passed by unseen. I think of the myriad joys I’ve missed through the smallness of my vision. I think of how much my experience of life has shrunk and mourn those years of clear sight I can’t get back.
Simultaneously I find gratitude for what’s still available to me, likewise the progress that I’ve been able to make in reconciling my vision through patient care. It’s as if I’m regaining the trust of a wounded animal…it happens in fits and starts, at a pace that I cannot control. But week over week, month over month there is progress.
I heard recently a line from Francis Weller, saying that “the work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by them.”
Isn’t that the work of the body? Isn’t our work to take stock of the store and loss of our lives and not be defined by either alone? Isn’t it through that difficult work that we come to appreciate the fullness of ourselves, bounded neither by the “cans” nor by the “can’ts” of our lives?
Mourn what you’ve done to yourself. Mourn what you’ve done to the world. Mourn, yes, but do not let the grief of it consume you because even now you are given a chance to come into right relationship with the flesh and substance of your self. Even now there’s opportunity for grace.
Originally Published on The Ecosomatics Institute Blog