On Healing from Trauma: Dissolving the Robot Self
Guest Blogger: Tamryn Spruill
Sometimes I feel like a thing instead of a person, an “it” instead of a “her”, more akin to a robot that mechanically does everything – its emotional valve shut off for repair. And it’s no wonder. I was objectified from an early age. My body was used and abused by predators.
A separation from the self can occur during trauma. Instead of entering a normal “fight or flight” pattern, some people, like me, freeze. We get stuck in the moment and our minds separate from our bodies. In the process, our emotions shut down. On one hand, this is good because the shut-down effect helps us to survive the trauma. On the other, well… being shut down makes it hard to be human.
The feeling was very distinct and unforgettable. His rough hands touched my skin and I disappeared into the fluorescent lights of the exam room and watched the rest of the attack from on high. It was like a light switch clicking OFF. One moment I was lively and outgoing; the next I was sullen and introverted. My life before, my life after: night vs. day or a dream about unicorns and cotton candy vs. a nightmare about the scariest of monsters.
I may have disappeared into the overhead light that night, but the light inside of me clicked OFF. And it was just easier to keep it off than to switch it back on and deal with emotions, which had become messy, scary things. For the longest time, I would find comfort in emotional disengagement. The isolation that came with it seemed a better option than engagement because engagement came with a big risk for hurt. But isn’t being human all about taking such a risk? Love, for example, doesn’t come at the exclusion of hurt. If anything, love is a pact: a coexistence of joy and pain. Pain because, to love, one must become vulnerable, and vulnerability lends itself to potential wounding.
In recent years, I’ve made great strides toward integrating my long-neglected soft interior. I can love today; I can engage. And I accept any hurt that comes with loving and engaging as a part of the human being process. But I’m not perfect. I still relapse into robot mode sometimes. And I usually don’t even know I’m there until something happens that makes me ache in that exhilarating, yet sad human way.
Take today, for example. Seeing this and reading this reminded me that my innards are all bloody and irregular – not perfectly formed and programmed like the computer chips that live inside the chests of robots.
Tamryn Spruill is a nerdling, wordsmith, truth-chaser, reformed good girl, and emerging blabbermouth blogging from the Land of the Unshrinking Violet at: http://www.tamrynspruill.com/uv-blog.html. She invites you to join her on Facebook and Twitter.