If you have experienced trauma, and I hope you never have, you will know that you feel it in your body.
You will feel it, sharply, in your lungs, or your heart, your spine, your skin, in various internal organs. Trauma is experienced viscerally. If you have the misfortune to know trauma, you know that it is awful, disorienting, terrifying shit that feels like drowning or being electrocuted.
To convey the experience of trauma, I think it’s necessary to make the reader feel some measure of how extreme and unbearable the feeling is.
The description of trauma needs to be a bit visceral too. To say that it is blindly terrifying fucking shit is a little more accurate than describing it as extremely discomfiting and acutely painful.
I wrote a post recently that was intended to convey the traumatic feeling of being of being betrayed and vilified by people you love, people who claim to love you, people you trust, who insist they love you while brutally blaming you for their own incapacities. If you have experienced this particular trauma you will know how truly fucking soul destroying the experience is.
So while I can say it hurt terribly when these people unfairly judged me, shouted me down, threatened me, vilified me and did their best to destroy my reputation among our mutual friends, I can convey the experience more accurately by describing it as my lifelong friends exerting all their powers to convince people who are fond of me that I am Adolf Hitler incarnate.
That is the best way I know to conjure the to-the-death zero sum game one is up against with people who will pay any price not to feel they have ever been wrong. There is always a certain percentage of these merciless people in the population, sad to say, and their particular genius is manipulating you to make you question things that are actually beyond question. A sudden transition into Hitler underscores the absurdity of a childish insistence on being right, no matter how ridiculous you must make your claim to righteousness.
It feels essential to me, in describing a complex emotion so terrible, to include an element of discomfort to convey the specific deadly truth of that inescapable trap. If the description is not somehow a bit unsettling, I don’t think the reader can fully understand the particular pain that I’m trying to convey.
The pain of blaming yourself, somehow, for failing to fix a problem you didn’t create and that nobody alive can fix, except maybe the person blaming you.
It is two different things to say my friends betrayed and vilified me or my friends insist that if I deny I am Hitler that proves I am Hitler.
The second description captures much more closely the mindfucking experience I am trying to convey to the young woman I was addressing in the post about our respective traumatic mistreatment at the hands of the same couple. For her this couple was her mother and father, for me this couple was my two closest friends for 50 years, or so I believed.
Let me put it this way, if you find yourself in a disagreement or conflict with people who love you there is always a way to resolve things peacefully, unless one of the parties is incapable of admitting fault for anything, because to admit wrongdoing is humiliating to some. If you absolutely cannot admit fault you must deny the hurt of the other person, and since it is impossible that you caused it, the pain must therefor actually be the fault of the person who is suffering and making you feel bad about yourself.
So it is not that the hurt person who is seeking to resolve things with you is simply wrong, a jerk, or some kind of generic doody head. The other person must be irredeemably evil, a compulsive liar, adamantly stubborn, viciously determined to win at any cost, capable of any insane atrocity, for example recruiting an army of fanatics to build huge industrial camps to murder as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. In short we are talking about Hitler here.
It’s some sick shit, I understand, but it also is what a zero sum worldview is, sad and horrible as it is to say or write. So referring to myself as Uncle Hitler, even while giving what seems to be compassionate counsel to someone I know to be suffering from something I myself experienced from the same couple, aside from the dark, Jewish irony of it, compresses all that in the best way I know, distasteful as it also, undoubtedly, is.
If someone is not a monster like that, there is always hope of resolving whatever the problem is. If someone is Hitler, you are absolutely right to declare them dead to you and nobody will ever fault you for it. Lest you think that I am projecting, and casually doing the very thing that I hate, I have always proved myself willing to endure a great deal of frustration to try to make peace, until it is clear to me that I am being treated as an implacable enemy. Once you see that, in my experience, the only road is away from that person, no matter how much you may have shared and loved.