When I first learned about complex trauma I was instantly curious about the philosophical repercussions. As the grandchild of a holocaust survivor, I have always been well aware of the trauma my own mother inherited from her father, who was a child in the camps.
Complex trauma is reoccurring trauma experienced during the biological development of a child. It has wide ranging long term impact and can impair the development of the formation of the self, the ability to form attachments and the physical and mental development with repercussions on the child’s physiology, emotions, ability to think, learn, concentrate, impulse control, self-image, and relationships with others. Complex trauma is linked to problems including: addiction, chronic physical conditions, depression, anxiety, self-harm and other psychiatric disorders. Often leading to an adult with a strong fight or flight reaction to everyday triggers. This is literally trauma that physically changes your brain and DNA.
All my life I have been aware of what I call “the darkness”. Buddhism became part of my story when my mom converted in 1996, and when I learned about complex trauma I couldn’t help but draw the connection between complex trauma and inherited karma. Buddhists believe it takes 7 generations to overcome inherited karma, similar concepts are repeated through many cultures. While I do believe a large part of the darkness that surrounds us is the physical cell memory in our bodies of past traumas, it is the culturally conditioned shame that accompanies the trauma of our past that debilitates our growth.
As a Buddhist I am constantly working towards my own personal evolution and I do believe working through our own darkness is an exercise in awakening to truly living and feeling alive. A big part of this is self-acceptance and understanding that the darkness is part of who we are. It doesn’t define us, we are all both light and dark. The path to happiness and self acceptance is releasing the cultural shame and conditioning. Although there are times when I feel the lessons keep on rolling and I am desperate for being without growth for a short while, I know in my heart that all the work I have done to overcome despair and adversity has led to my present and self-awareness.
I feel the repercussions of the complex trauma my grandfather experienced, but I have the freedom of perspective. Through meditation and mindfulness we can make change in our lives, to our physical bodies, minds and souls.
“Hidden within the patterns of your personal history is a code that once deciphered reveals the meaning, purpose, and direction of this life.”
Jung was onto something here. It is possible the answer to overcoming our own trauma and karma is going straight through it. We may inevitably struggle, react and act out, but eventually if we are vigilant we can find happiness. The darkness will still be part of us, but it will be strength that we gain in mastering it. There is no magic answer here, but approaching things head on in life is the best way to find your path. Overcoming challenges grow us and make us stronger and multidimensional. Life is a battle and none of us make it out alive. Happiness is choosing to live fully in a state of awareness and love fully with all your heart.