I grew up in a culture that sought meaning in just about everything.
Why didn’t the rain come when I prayed?
Why did that person look at me? Are they “the one”?
What does this feeling mean? Is this a message from God?
Why did this tragedy happen to me?
Why did my mother die?
Meaning. It was mental cocaine to me. I believed if I could figure out or solve the mystery of the meaning, I would finally get to have and keep what I desperately needed.
You see, I was taught that things happened “for a reason”. Not just the reason of causality or chaos or even just energy. But for a meaningful purpose.
And that purpose was vital to understand or the “lesson” would happen again. And that is exactly what I did NOT want (especially when it came to my mother’s death. Don’t want to repeat that with my father!)
In actuality, I was wrestling with massive cognitive dissonance. I was given one “truth” about reality, and reality was displaying something else entirely. This created a mental conflict that I thought I could resolve by “finding the meaning” in my traumas (and any other kind of failure in life).
This led me to believe that painful, difficult, and negative things happened to “teach me a lesson” and that positive, loving, and fulfilling things were “rewards” for my adherence to the unseen order and expectation of some external force (aka God at the time).
What a fracking mental nightmare.
Life became about tests and decoding the lessons from those tests. I could never anticipate what would happen and never felt safe or prepared to deal with life. I was scared, confused, and beginning to believe I deserved the traumas that came into my life.
By some mechanism, I had brought this into my existence. And if I didn’t learn that lesson, it would happen again. And again. And again.
This. was. hell. incarnate.
Does this sound familiar?
It isn’t uncommon for survivors of abuse to seek meaning and try to figure out why. There are valid reasons to understand why it happened.
Understanding why can help us see patterns we didn’t before. We can improve our awareness and skills so we don’t inadvertantly repeat a cycle that hurts us again.
It can help us see that it wasn’t personal. That, in a lot of ways, the traumas and pain that happens to us is a result of physics and disorder in systems. We ultimately didn’t earn it.
We are actually innocent.
And this is what seeking meaning steals from us, my friends. It covers up the reality that we are innocent when it comes to trauma, abuse, and neglect.
We didn’t earn or choose this. It isn’t a lesson we deemed necessary to understand. It wasn’t the will of a cosmic energy or destiny that we suffer.
It is the result of something much simpler: the action of disordered person or the chaos of life.
So, what do we do now?
For a long time, I found connection and identity and value in seeking out meaning in my traumas. It was a means to feel important, special, and valid. And yet, that also sat “wrong” with me. Why would I need to be traumatized to be loved?
In every trauma there is an unmet need to be seen, believed, and sheltered.
This is what we do now.
We see each other. We build understanding of each other. We honor the pain each other has carried. We grieve and celebrate and ache together. Instead of seeking meaning, we receive connection.
So, today, I ask you this question: what need are you trying to feed by seeking meaning in your traumas?