Pain we all feel

I had a disturbing dream two nights ago…

My wife and I were safe and secure in our 3rd floor apartment. It was our private little world – a bubble that protected us from the world that surrounded us. I heard a loud speaker outside instructing us to vacate our apartment. I looked out of the window and saw an army of white soldiers. It was dark outside. They were well organised and looked tough, but were not the government’s army. They wanted to occupy our apartment building as a fort against the black enemy. They wanted to protect us, but in order to do  this, they wanted us to get out of our apartment (which was our place of safety). They did not tell me what they wanted to protect me from – I remember feeling that this was a trap. We were actually safe and they weren’t. There was no way that I would leave the apartment. I started barricading myself in the room, when suddenly the window broke and a couple of soldiers entered the room. They told us to get out. My wife and I then escaped through the window, finding ourselves outside. I felt vulnerable. I looked at the apartment and saw the army inside organising its weaponry. I remember thinking: ‘How could they protect us when they were inside and I was outside’. It didn’t make sense. They were lucky to be in our safe place. Now that we were outside – where were we going to go to? I needed to escape and protect my wife. As I looked into the distance I saw thousands of angry black people converging on the apartment. They were armed with iron pipes, hammers and spears. We were caught between them and the apartment. We were white and this seemed to be a war between whites and blacks. While we were lucky not to be in our apartment, we needed to hide. A group of armed men on horse back headed towards us. We had no safe place to run to. One of the men saw us and aimed his gun at me and shot me. I heard the gun shot sound in the distance. At that moment the horse knocked me over as it passed me. I knew I was shot, but there was no pain and no blood. The horses passed and I remember telling my wife to crawl away and then to keep quiet. I looked back at the apartment and saw it in flames. We were so lucky to have been thrown out of our apartment. Our forced eviction was a blessing in disguise. The flames illuminated the surroundings, much as search lights do. I couldn’t see any people around, white or black. I felt relieved even though I had been through a major ordeal.

Over the past month, I have watched television coverage of the devastation that was caused by the earth quake in Haiti. Three days ago, Chile was another casualty of  severe devastation of an earth quake.

Over the past month, I have watched news clips showing the American and British offensive in Afghanistan. I have watched young soldiers, no older than 18 or 19 in the midst of a bloody war that appears to have no end. In Iraq, suicide bombers continue to wreak havoc in their own communities, fighting for a cause that may not make sense to the every day civilian, hoping for peace.

Over the past month, I have been consulting with a number of clients who have been suffering from post traumatic stress due to the trauma of either a car hi-jacking, a robbery or an act of violence.

When suffering trauma caused by natural disasters, war or personal atrocities the following seems to unfold:

  • The power of the trauma overwhelms you – the experience does not make logical sense
  • This results in a disorientation and disconnection from your life philosophy
  • You feel separated, vulnerable and disempowered
  • There is no anchor (philosophy) to hold onto to offer you any security and/or meaning

On an obvious level, in my dream I had to deal with destructive processes that were far greater than me. I could not use my intellect to solve what I was encountering. As in most dreams, not much was making logical sense. I could not escape the forces of evil, I was caught in the middle of a major conflict, there was no place that was secure.

I am having a weekend away in the Drakensberg mountains. While out on a run yesterday, I found myself thinking about the value of having a life philosophy in times of crisis and whether this philosophy can keep one feeling secure in a hostile, chaotic world. More importantly, was the life philosophy able to offer insight and meaning in times of trauma?

As my run unfolded, I became acutely aware of all the pain that surrounds me. As I connected to the rhythm of my feet making contact with the ground, I found the pain moving; it was moving from outside to inside. I could not separate myself from the pain that I had witnessed in others over the past month or so. I felt the pain of white and black, of terrorist and army, of perpetrator and victim.

Every story that is told or heard, every image that is seen, every thought that enters the mind, that reflects (or causes) hurt and pain for any individual will add to the collective pain that we all feel. I became sensitive to the power of thought (which is the source of our actions). Aggressive and destructive thoughts can hurt, even though they may not be spoken or actioned.

As I ended my run, I realised how futile words were in times of trauma.

Sometimes a picture, a piece of music or a poem helps to re-connect one to a deeper understanding  of the life process since they transport a person beyond any attempt to logically understand and interpret the trauma. This morning, I witnessed a beautiful moment as the sun streamed through the thick cloud cover. I felt re-connected to the love and hope that also surrounds me.

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