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The Circle of Life Within a Trauma Survivor

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Remember in “The Lion King,” how they talk about the Circle of Life? I’m exploring that Circle of Life within me, within myself. It’s going to be a bit of a different perspective, and that’s certainly OK!

We’re all searching, looking for something… and there’s been times when I was searching too, but I had no idea what I was searching for! So as someone healing from trauma/abuse, I’m searching through my mind and my life, trying to find… something… but what? Well, a couple years ago, I kept sensing an emptiness deep inside, but I didn’t know what it was from. My therapist at the time didn’t know either. What I have learned since then is that there’s actually a name for this inability to feel/name emotions – alexithymia — and that may have been caused from early childhood trauma. You can find more about it here.

Through a lot of work over the last four years, both with therapists and on my own, I have discovered at least part of it! When I experienced my trauma/abuse as a child, my mind disconnected in the only way it could at that young age – I dissociated. However, the other thing that often happens with abuse survivors, is that in addition to dissociation, emotions are shut down, simply because they are too painful! And when emotions are shut down — all emotions are shut down — the “good” ones, as well as the “bad” ones!

So I have been learning how to sense, feel and name my emotions! This is not an easy task! As you can see, at the beginning of my poem, I talk about learning, knowledge, understanding, and emotions. That emotional component was the piece that was missing! I am now discovering my emotions, and although sometimes it feels like it’s “too much,” I’m still exploring them!

We’re born, we live, we grow old, we die — isn’t there more to life than this? Come with me as I explore these questions of purpose, of meaning, of living, of Life! Everyone’s story will be different, and that truly makes it unique and beautiful!

The Circle of Life Within

The Circle of Life…
Learning, knowledge, understanding, emotions…
How do they relate to each other, how are they connected?
As I’m working through my mind and my heart
I’m also trying to learn and understand how to experience Emotions
I’m seeing how they are so intertwined with each other
So what does this truly mean to me?

Now I’m seeing this much more clearly
It is the Circle of Life which has been in existence forever
Yet now I’m seeing it in a different way – within myself
Within my Internal Family System, the Self I call Me
It is so clear now, that Circle of Life
How it starts, then progresses very naturally, step by step
How one part nourishes and supports the next, then circles around

My Intellectual part craves the learning, the knowledge
The knowing of new thoughts, concepts, ideas
My mind pulls that knowledge in every day
As thirsty as a tree in my yard
Education, Learning and Understanding provide nourishment
Knowledge is Power, Concepts are enlightening
Realizations strengthen my consciousness

Yet I was so focused on these aspects that I missed something
But I didn’t know what I was missing!
I would research, I would think, I would reason
I knew that if I gained more Comprehension
That it would provide the Wisdom I was aching for, longing for
But the Emptiness was still there, the Yearning for something more
But I didn’t know what ‘more’ meant, or exactly what was missing

As I search, again and again, I stumble, I fail, I fall
Not even showing Self-Compassion to my inner Soul
Ignoring this or that concept because I didn’t realize its importance
Emotions don’t matter, do they? All they ever did was cause me pain
And I certainly didn’t want to feel that pain!
So once again I squelched that pain, those emotions
Not acknowledging them or allowing them to be felt

My Intellectual part resists Emotions taking over
My mind is fearful of this happening
Because it would make Life too painful to tolerate
Like an injury to my Heart, to my Soul
They would overpower the whole System, they would overpower Me!
No, no, no! This can’t happen!
My entire system would break down, it would collapse!

My Body has already shut down because of so many injuries and surgeries
It hurts so much all day… every day
I don’t see the importance of sensing anything in my body
So I push down those body sensations
I turn off my Body, and everything it feels
I cover up the Body sensations with pain medication
Because those sensations are intolerable, and I can’t endure it any more

When Emotions overwhelm, the Body hurts – it is just plain painful
So the Body itself resists feeling any Emotions either
Why should I put my Body through any more unnecessary pain?
There have been so many injuries that have caused physical pain
The Body says ‘Please don’t add emotional pain on top of that!
Emotional pain on top of physical pain would be devastating!’
The Body would be completely crushed!

But now… I mourn, because I can’t sense or feel Emotions
Like, I know in my mind that I love my husband… yet I can’t feel it
I don’t know how to feel Happiness, Joy, or Peace either
Because Emotions have been shut down for so long – for decades
The only Emotion that I have felt for years is Anger
Which comes out so easily – much too easily!
But I did not realize that not feeling emotions covers up so much more!

I keep feeling this ‘nudge’… a persistent, annoying nudge
It’s only today I realize what that nudge actually is!
It is the part deep within my Self that is Emotion!
The longing to feel – in my Body, in my Mind, in my Heart, in my Soul
Emotions that have grown, strengthened and overpowered deep within
In hopes of coming out to be seen, to be felt, to be acknowledged!
To be experienced!

So where does that leave me? This is beyond comprehension!
My Intellect thinks that emotions are a waste of time and energy
My Body says they would cause more unnecessary pain
My Heart is empty, and it doesn’t understand why
My Soul is craving something, but it doesn’t know what
Are Emotions what is missing?
Really? Is it so simple?

I’ve been working with my therapist, learning about Emotions
To have awareness of them, to feel them in my Body
To interpret what the Emotions are, how they feel, then be able to name them
This has felt like a monumental task that goes beyond my capacity – or is it?
Can I really take that Head Knowledge…
Understand within my Heart…
Then can I truly Experience Emotions in my Soul?

Over the last few weeks, I have been exploring deep within my mind
To find answers, to find out Who I am
To find, acknowledge and appreciate the person I have become
Truly, I didn’t even know how to start this exploration!
For so long – actually most of my life – I have felt worthless
Like I was a waste of space, of no value, having no purpose for even existing
But now I’m asking – what if I’m wrong?

My Faith tells me that God created me
We are all created with a purpose to our lives
Each person has to find their own purpose
Whether it be to serve God and Jesus, to help others
Connect to friends and family, or reaching out to the world
We all have a purpose to be here on this Earth
But why is this so important right now?

We connect with others through relationships
So how do I connect?
With my Heart, from my Soul, using my Mind for communication
And what is that connection? Emotions
So as I explore how to feel Emotions by experiencing Emotions
Then by experiencing Emotions, whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’
I can now feel what it is to be Human!!

This is a scary path for me… but even so…
Yes, as always, I dive in with earnest curiosity
Cautious, but passionate about what I will find, what I will learn
I’m a little apprehensive, a little scared, but I push through anyways
Hoping the reward will be worth the effort, and the discomfort I must endure
My Heart is open, my Soul yearns for this, my mind says ‘let’s go!’
As I look inside, I see Emotions within my mind

I ask what they want from me, what they want for me
They tell me they’ve been trapped deep inside me for many years
Wanting, longing, yearning to be seen, heard, felt as the energy that they are
Poking me, prodding me, hoping I would see them and recognize them
Telling me that they need to be felt
So I can experience that sense of aliveness – to be Human
I can now see that Life is so much more than just existing

As I communicate with Emotions, they soften
Showing me the beauty of Love, Joy, and Companionship
The beauty of Life itself, of Living, of Nature itself
Something that I’ve been missing for decades
As they show me everything they encompass
The Emptiness in my Heart is starting to be filled
Filled with Emotions, the piece of me that was missing

They show me Hurt, Pain and Heartache
They show me Loss, Grief, Sadness and Mourning
There are many Emotions that I can experience in a day
The negative, angry, ugly emotions that I want to reject
Yet also the positive, hopeful, worthwhile emotions that I want to embrace
But all of them are included in being human, the good, the bad, and the ugly
I can’t really appreciate the rainbow without the storm

As I watch these parts, these Emotions, within me
They portray a beautiful picture of the Circle of Life
Within my Body, my Mind, my Heart, my Soul
How these aspects of my Self are intertwined together
To create the person who is Me
The connection within my Self, and who I am
Then how I connect with the World around me

My Intellect is the roots, drawing in Learning, Knowledge, Wisdom
The true nutrients of Life that feed Self
My Body is the trunk, the Strength to stand tall
To withstand the trials of Life, of Existence, the winds of Change
My Emotions are the leaves, flowers and fruit
Blooming in their beauty, showing how I’m feeling on the inside
A beautiful image of the complexity of Living

Yet when those leaves, flowers and fruit wither and die
They fall to the ground from this wonderful tree
To then nourish the roots so they have the energy to draw in more knowledge
Which then goes on to strengthen the trunk, so it can withstand the winds
Then that brings on more leaves, flowers and fruit
That glow on the outside, which shows the beauty on the inside
Another illustration of the true Circle of Life within Me

Originally published: April 26, 2022
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