Do Trauma Survivors Really Hold Onto the Past?

It is said that we trauma survivors most often hold onto the past, ruminating over it in our minds and manifesting it in our behaviors and dysfunctions.

Our past is a map of who we are. It is our personal history book. For many of us it is a manifesto of survival and the treacherous terrain we have travelled over.

But I say this…

I do not believe we hold onto the past. If we could wave illuminated wands or erase our minds back into a clear palette of beautiful memories and loving childhoods, we would maybe then, believe in miracles. I would most likely take that option without question.

No, dears, we trauma survivors do not hold on. Instead, the past holds onto us, and we spend a lifetime prying it’s fingers from our skin, rebuking its haunting voice in our heads and clambering over the piles of images and dreams it randomly throws into our path.

Reversing language, instead of asking trauma survivors, “What part of your past are you holding onto?”, which implies that the survivor is almost enjoying the trauma of their past, a better question would be, “What part of your past is holding on to you?”

There is too much victim blaming language being thrown at trauma survivors. So, I ask myself, what part of my past holds onto me the strongest?

I’d have to say the sexual abuse and the mental fear fragmentation. It makes my stomach revolt when I’m around certain types of men. I cannot stand to look at them or even have them touch me or act intimately towards me. My mouth will water with the urge to vomit.

I am hyper vigilant in all aspects of my life, no different than a military trained soldier or police officer. I am hyper aware of possible dangers around me at all times, hence the urge to stay at my home where it does feel safest.

I speak to my past often. I tell it, “Don’t hold me so tight. You are squeezing my breath.” And it complies, easing just enough for me to move. Our pasts don’t want to release us. The automated aftermath of trauma has been extensively trained by our abusers to keep its spindly fingers gripped into us like puppets.

And we spend time cutting the strings as the spiders continue to weave. We race against time to stay ahead of them; to clear the webs. Sometimes we get tired. It takes work to stay ahead of a spider. They are dutiful and focused. So we must do the same.

“We do not hold onto our past. Our past holds onto us.” Vennie Kocsis

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5 comments

  1. “Reversing language, instead of asking trauma survivors, ‘What part of your past are you holding onto?’, which implies that the survivor is almost enjoying the trauma of their past, a better question would be, ‘What part of your past is holding on to you?'” WOW. This is a pretty revolutionary way of turning victim blaming on its head.

    Liked by 1 person

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