A Past Long Forgotten, The Dangers of Compartmentalization
I’m sure most people have had at least one trauma in their life that sticks with them, if not more than one. If you’re like me, the Devil just loves to stick around and try to make life a tad harder than it needs to be. One thing I’ve noticed is the minute changes that come about after every trauma takes place. When you’ve become so consumed with the trauma that you are forced to find anyway you can handle it, a common way for kids to handle, or at least myself was compartmentalization. When it comes to trauma big and small this is a safe way to handle it in the moment. However, if not revisited this method of handling can be very dangerous. Websters defines compartmentalized as “to separate into isolated compartments or categories” In many cases this is the event, and the emotion surrounding the event and are stored inside the brain as separate memory engrames. Once the memory is separated it’s difficult to reconnect the two, and it’s more so when the laps of time is greater. So what happens when you do this throughout a lifetime, say, 30 years? Lets think of memories as boxes, now think about each box as a memory, but the painful ones divide into two boxes and sit them on the shelf in the closet. Over time that closet is going to start to get full. When the closet reaches a certain point, all it takes is one massive event, and everything in that closet can come bursting down on top of you burying you in all the negative feelings you tried so hard to subdue or hide. So now you are lying on the floor, you have boxes everywhere, the emotions are like a zoo full of escaped wild animals, how do you plan on wrangling them up, and putting them back? The truth is, you don’t. The time at this point has past and now a new way of storing them is needed.
Often times when the emotions from traumas are released in such an uncontrolled manner the outcome is less than desirable. The effects can be quite frankly catastrophic. Often we see this as the beginning to self-destruction. An individual can go through several possible outcomes to include, self harm, harming others, drugs or substance abuse, addictions of other kinds such as work, gambling, adrenalin seekers, or other forms of risky behaviors. This is the common way for someone who’s accidently had Pandora’s box opened who didn’t have the right guidance to handle it. People don’t usually ask for the box to be pried open, sadly, it’s just one of life’s unfortunate circumstances. The key, once it’s opened is to know what to expect, and hopefully have someone around who can help guide you through the path of recovery. There are 4 basic paths to dealing with trauma. They can be found and studied here.
The example that best correlates with compartmentalization is the Tsunamis. During the time you have lived on by not feeling, as it’s described in the Psychology Today article your nervous system is a circuit bored and in the event of a catastrophic traumatic event your system shuts down. There’s a dangerous time frame here between the event, and the waters receding. It’s in that short period of time that some will fall into the self-harm stage. It happens so fast that spectators rarely realize there’s a problem until it’s too late.
The truth is, as a Christian nation it needs to be better about standing with our brothers and sisters in times of great struggle. It’s sometimes hard to do especially when we don’t always know or understand the nature of what’s going on underneath the water. Some people, myself included often look like a duck on a pond. Floating around, no cares in the world, however if you look under the water, those little flipper feet are going a mile a minute. The iceburg is much larger underneath than what we see on the surface. Since we never know someone’s breaking point we must assume that during events that are hard to handle we look at them objectively and try to remain unbiased. A few life changing events that some would seem as bad things but not traumas are what we will look at for a moment. Loosing your job, loosing a spouse to either death or an unwanted divorce, loosing a loved one, car accidents, and sometimes slightly worse events. These things to some people may seem horrible, but to others, they can be the straw to break the camels back. As that may often be the case it’s better to error on the side of caution and overly loving in the hopes there are no residual feelings that could move this into a catastrophic event.
The dangers of being wrong: What if your friend or spouse goes through one of these events and notices you aren’t there for them, or you downplay how they are feeling. If we don’t show them that we care, and if we pass a negative judgment on their situation we may actually be contributing to the further decline of their mental stability. It’s important to always try and be supportive. We all handle situations and stress differently based on the culmination of our backgrounds and what we’ve learned in the past. If you are a young man and you get harassed every day by the police, eventually you will grow to fear them, hate them, avoid them, even though they are only there to help, the behavior is a learned trait. If you are bullied your whole life and you grow up and have self-esteem issues, self loathing, fear of rejection, or abandonment, those fears, those traits are learned traits. They come from a lifetime of experiences that tells us how the world is, even if it’s only our version of the truth. Getting back to the point, when bad things happen, we don’t honestly know how someone will react. That’s why it’s so important to follow Galatians 6:2 “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” We shouldn’t hesitate to help even with the small stuff. Show compassion and be there if someone needs you. Ephesians 4:32 “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” We’ve been given such grace and love and forgiveness by God we are asked to pass that along to our fellow brothers and sisters of humanity. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”
If you’re struggling through tough times, if you have old trauma’s that are weighing you down, or if you just feel you need to talk, seek out Godly and or professional advice. Don’t try to get through this life on your own. There’s no shame in asking for help. Not asking for help is prideful, arrogant, and perhaps even a hair selfish. By not dealing with the issue when it’s small, it can grow inside you like a cancer, spreading throughout your thoughts and feelings, until one day it’s beyond repair. Seek help, trust in the Lord that you will be watched over no matter how light, or heavy the storm is.