It Breaks You
Trauma doesn’t make you stronger.
That’s a Christian concept predicated upon the myth that god requires suffering before he’ll reward us. So, we suffer in order to receive the blessing and acceptance by the god who supposedly created us.
Life according to the devout is a long, arduous, painful journey toward redemption.
If we can manage to face the challenges without complaining, however, the long-awaited prize will be amazing. In fact, the tradition assumes that god won’t give us more than we can bear. Just enough. Just enough to force us to prove ourselves as worthy in his eyes. He’ll have his eye on us nonstop until we pass the test. If we slip up, beware.
Not only are we to endure suffering or trauma without complaining, but we’re also expected to sing god’s praises as often as possible.
We must tell everyone else that god is a loving father who has our best interests in mind. If we fail the test, it’s nobody’s fault but ours. Well, maybe the devil has a little to do with it.
After all, he’s lurking behind every corner hoping to trick us.
You see, god and the devil have been sparring for eons and as near as I can tell every time the devil tricks us to break the rules we score a point for him. Of course, every time we remain steadfast for god, he scores.
I can’t tell who’s winning. Can you?
It appears that after centuries of this outdated explanation for why humans must experience trauma, it’s become so deeply engrained in our minds that we resort to this explanation on a cultural level without really thinking about where the notion came from or how foolish it sounds.
Trauma is real, however.
There’s so much trauma and suffering in the world that it creates a subconscious level of anxiety and depression as a result in many if not most of us. We are either engulfed in a traumatic experience, recovering from one, or worrying about the next one down the road.
We see our friends suffer and we wipe our sweating brow in relief. Thank god it isn’t us — this time. But for the grace of god, right? For some reason god spared us this time around. But it’s like Russian roulette. Eventually, we’ll pull the loaded trigger, and we know it.
Thus, we fall back on the old cultural explanation. What doesn’t break us makes us stronger.
Except that’s not true either. That’s a severely distorted interpretation of the psychological effects of trauma. So much so that it appears ruthless and cruel. We even promote the idea that if we have it too easy it’ll spoil us, make us soft and wussy.
Trauma breaks us, however. And when broken we are less likely to solve problems or make good decisions.
There are so many broken people in the world. They were broken before they even had a chance to understand what was going on. Consequently, they have proceeded with life while viewing the world through a distorted lens.
Our brains aren’t fully developed until the age of twenty-five or so.
However, our experiences start as soon as we push ourselves through the birth canal to enter this life in a room full of strangers, amongst loud noises, and bright lights.
Americans also have a cultural preference for the tough love approach to raising children.
As though too much love, support, and empathy are damaging to a child. Yet, many adults spend a large part of their adult lives seeking love and approval, sabotaging their own relationships, choosing to befriend people who hurt them, and never fully able to successfully set proper boundaries.
Some of us can develop a little self-awareness as we age, but many never do.
Once again, I think our cultural roots are founded upon the message that we’re born a fallen creature that needs saving. That means even the youngest among us is a creature of sin and must be saved from their own godless nature.
We are obligated to crush the will of a child and teach them their place in the hierarchy to save their souls from eternal damnation.
After centuries of viewing children in this light, we no longer need to read the Bible, go to church, even profess to be a practicing Christian in order to promote these harmful attitudes. We do it without even questioning why we view the world in this manner. Cultural expectations are far greater at getting people to conform than laws will ever be.
Meanwhile, we suffer, sometimes needlessly.
We are filled with self-loathing but have no idea why. We conform even when it hurts us to do so. We create unneeded trauma and are told to stop feeling sorry for ourselves. We look at our friends and neighbors and cross our fingers in hopes that the suffering they are experiencing will bypass us and our families.
Nowhere in this convoluted mess do we learn skills for managing stress or providing support to those who are experiencing hard times. Instead, we tell ourselves whenever we survive a difficult personal episode that suffering makes us stronger.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t withhold support, love, empathy, and understanding from one another?
Wouldn’t be great if we didn’t view our children as little creatures who are bound to fail unless we withhold a measure of love? Wouldn’t it be better if we understood that suffering may be part of life but it’s not because we deserve to suffer? That there’s no god out there punishing us when we’re born nor is tough love the best way to bring up a child. That when we get the support and understanding we need to thrive, we grow up to be better equipped to be a good parent, spouse, and friend.
Trauma doesn’t make you stronger. It breaks you. Broken individuals are hurting and hurt others in return. That’s the truth.
Teresa is an author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. You can find her books on Amazon.