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Day 58 - Birthing, Initiation and Pain

When I was pregnant with Jacob I took a birthing class and I remember the nurse saying that child birth is the only time when pain doesn’t mean something is wrong. I was in a conversation yesterday about trauma with a group of women and tI started to wonder something. What if some of what we experience as trauma is because pain happens and we assume that something is wrong?

Stay with me for a minute. The definition that I use for trauma is when there is an overload of the system. It doesn’t matter what the system is, but when there is an overload often a trauma occurs. So what if we could sometimes prevent there from being an overload to the system by not thinking that something was wrong when pain occurs? What if knowing that certain kinds of pain, when they happened, didn't mean something was wrong could prevent some of what we experience as traumatic? And instead just be experienced as pain, just like some experiences of childbirth?

What if the trauma of losing a loved one for instance was really held as a natural part of life and we weren’t in resistance, no matter how they died? I’m not says that there wouldn’t be pain, this isn’t about giving up our humanity but maybe it’s about expanding it. We if we really expected the pain and after instead of feeling traumatized moved straight to the expansion, straight to the growth of the experience.

In the conversation last night I said that we, as a human species collectively have decided to learn and grow through pain. We have built all kinds of language around it, no pain, no gain, life is hard, anything worth having is worth fighting for, but what if we could collectively learn to grow more through ways that carried less trauma? Malidoma Patrice Somé said that in place of intentional initiatory processes the west has chosen to do initiation through trauma. What if we instead chose a different way? What if we saw these places are just other places of birthing?

Just the beginnings of my thinking on this…


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Hmm. When I was a school psychologist, one of the things I used to say to parents, but also children, is that this will be painful for awhile. It was important to me in the role I held to let the ones in my care know that pain was "normal" for what they had/were experiencing. I was interested in helping them recognize the pain as part of their process, not something to push away or deny or hide. I reflect on this now and understand that as a grown-up, I have myself pushed away and denied and hidden the pain of my life experiences because they were a) reminders of a past, unhealed traumatic event, and b) not "big" enough…

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