Why I Am So Caught Up On the Truth
Investigating my past despite what others say
“You are pathetic for wanting to know your past,” says many people in my life.
Most people think that it is futile for me to piece together my past because it no longer matters. I am in the present where I should be working to build a better future. What if I told you that the past absolutely shapes your future if you don’t deal with it? Don’t believe me?
Let me introduce you to Intergenerational Trauma.
Trauma is an experience that is so deeply distressing and/or disturbing that it shocks and damages you. The damages aren’t always physical and visible. Meanwhile, trauma can be intergenerational as in the trauma is handed down to the future generations. This happens when the trauma is unresolved. How do you resolve a trauma? By undoing the damages that such trauma did to you so that you don’t pass on the same trauma-shaped beliefs, experiences, and perspectives to the next generation.
Let’s give an example from my life.
In my article Noonlight: Immediate 911, I talk about an experience where I didn’t realize I was about to get raped until it was way too late. Blinded by the belief that I was in an area that couldn’t possibly have criminals, I ignored all the red flags a taxi driver was showing me. It was when the driver drove me to the fourth floor of a parking lot even though the first, second, and third floors were empty, that I realized something was wrong. As the driver left the driver seat to get to the back seat where I was, I knew what was going to happen.
That experience distressed me so much, I do not ride a cab unless it is absolutely necessary (e.g. medical appointments with mom). it is still a trauma that affects me today. The anxiety I get when I need to ride in a taxi makes the entire trip horrible. “Will the driver be a man or a woman?” “Will the driver kill me?” “Will the driver drive me to wherever they want?” Those questions don’t cease even after the car ride.
Evidently, the trauma has shaped my beliefs and perspectives. A few are:
- Taxi rides are equivalent to sending myself to death
- People can’t be trusted
- I cannot be in situations where I am not in control!
These beliefs will inform all of my interactions with other people including my own family and my future kids. They will similarly believe the same things. My trauma, unresolved, is affecting generations to come.
How could I resolve it? I could acknowledge that the risk of danger is inherent everywhere: on the subway, on the streets, not just in a taxi. A car could just speed past a red light and kill me, but I don’t panic about that, right? There are other ways to resolve the trauma, but I must resolve in order to protect future generations from the trauma.
Seeing just this simple example says a lot on why discovering the past is so important to me. I must understand what my issues are to even alter them. Sadly, going to therapy doesn’t always mean I discover new things about myself. Instead, this past year, I have been discovering major issues that affect me daily through random conversations like talking with my tutor about an essay. Read how I discovered my PTSD 20 years too late here.
To heal, I must understand what makes up who I am. I could keep discovering things slowly like finding out PTSD randomly, or I could give it my all and invest myself into understanding everything about me. At the end of all of it, it’s not just recovery I’ll get but recovery for others too.