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How Trauma Is Like a Jack-in-the-Box

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For someone living with trauma, life can be very different. In fact, it can be likened to that of a child’s jack-in-the-box. The trauma sits contained in a box, out of sight and out of mind. As the crank turns and life goes on, the trauma still remains tucked away in its box, until one day, it suddenly jumps out.

Once the trauma is out of its box, you cannot keep moving the crank. Life as you know it stops. What has been hidden in that box for so long, likely collecting dust on the lid while sitting on a shelf, is out and impossible to ignore.

Just like a jack-in-the-box, trauma can be pushed down and a lid placed back on top, but then starts the crank again. Next time, the trauma might come out sooner, maybe it will take longer, but it will pop up in an unexpected moment. You must adapt to living with this trauma.

Maybe you put in earplugs to block out the startling pop noise, to keep your senses calm from hypervigilance. Maybe you learn to focus your gaze elsewhere, so when the trauma pops out, you are not consumed by its impact. Maybe you learn to slow down, turn the crank slower, so the trauma pops less frequently.

Eventually, like with many toys, the jack-in-the-box will become less exciting, the anxiety and the shock of the trauma will decrease. Hopefully, one day, the trauma will pop out, and you will acknowledge it with a grin, reflecting on how much this impacted you all that time ago, yet this time you barely flinched. You won’t even need a moment to collect yourself before you put it back in the box, put the lid back on and continue to sing your beautiful song.

A version of this story was originally published on The Life of Hannah Lamb.

Getty image by allanswart

Originally published: May 14, 2021
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