Rewriting Trauma

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This year, many friends report a curious reaction-feeling dirty all over after watching the presidential debates or listening to news reports. Just mentioning this reaction of feeling dirty may make some listeners shake or scratch themselves involuntarily. The daily verbal assaults on women, African-Americans, Latinos, immigrants, Muslims and LGBT folks remind us that that we are never quite safe and our very right to exist is under continuous attack. We may recall previous physical violations and/or threats of assailment and danger that created trauma that sunk deep into our bodies. Despite our desire to move on and let go, the mind and body keep their own memories of these events.

I define trauma as the unfinished story of pain that reaches deep into every part of our physical being. We all know the unrelenting power of lingering stories, stories without conclusions, stories that have a visceral urgency to be finished. That is trauma. Unexamined, feelings of hopelessness, anger, sadness, and fear arise, retriggered by current events.

As a writer and storyteller, I have learned the power of rewriting the trauma in my body. Oddly enough, it is the power of grief that can bring us back to life. By diving into these emotions, we are transformed. Whether it be writing, painting, dancing, or any other creative process, we gain the power to create a new world and transform trauma.

In doing so, we honor the hurts, the fears and the horrors that lie within us. We acknowledge them, feel their power and let them wash over us. With each wave, we feel the ebbing of pain and fear and the distancing of the horror of the event. We don't forget, we don't hide and we don't ignore. We eventually come out on the other side, living with our knowledge of pain and suffering, knowing that we will live and love. We live, knowing that our bodies and our mind will reintegrate this new way of being to create our next story, the story of how we survived, how we overcame and how we regained our power and were born anew.

With a Perspective, I'm Alan Lessik.


Alan Lessik is a novelist, Zen practitioner, figure skater and non-profit leader. He lives in San Francisco.