An Analogy I Use to Help Me Understand My Trauma

Feb 07, 2024

Understanding our own trauma is really difficult to grasp. So much of it is beyond words, isn't it? And yet, as humans we are wired to try to use words to understand. 

I've read a lot about trauma over the years and there is one specific analogy that I have found really helpful. 

This analogy helps explain why some of us find it so supportive to talk, write, and share about our traumas over + over again.

If you've ever judged yourself or others for this, than this blog post is for you.

Alright, so here is the analogy 

If we think of each of our memories as being written down on a piece of paper in our mind, heart, + soul - the memories that are part of our trauma get written down too, but then the paper is immediately bunched up into a tight, tight ball.

One after the other after the other, like dominoes.

This is what trauma is - too much too fast - without any space for us to process and integrate it as it’s happening.

These balls of paper can’t organize themselves and are scattered everywhere, causing overwhelm, stress, and dysregulation.

But as we go over them, sharing them, allowing others to bear witness in safe spaces - slowly the balls of paper get smoothed out - until they are flat enough to be filed away inside or minds.

When they’re filed away, they’re so much less overwhelming, similar to how an organized office is easier to work in. The memories are still there, but they don’t hold the same charge that they once did.

As I look back on the last five years - specifically the seven weeks in-between my husband’s cancer diagnosis and death - I can see so clearly how many traumatic moments and seconds and mili-seconds there were bunched up one after the other after the other.

I think of the moment when we found out and how shocking that was, just that, on its own.

But then I needed to bring him to the ER 48 hours later, before he’d even seen his doctor, + he could already barely walk.

And then we found out he had seven tumours in his brain.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Everyone is different + this is a simplified analogy that of course will not resonate for everyone.

Another very important piece is that our bodies and nervous systems need to feel safe in order to process our memories - which is why somatic work is so integral.

But if you’ve ever judged yourself or others for wanting to share the memories that feel too heavy to carry alone - maybe this will help explain why it is such a natural instinct to story-tell with others who understand.

Please share this blog post with anyone who you think it might help, to let them know that it’s not wallowing or attention-seeking to share - it’s actually an intuitive, brilliant response. ♥️

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