Trauma is defined in Webster’s as “a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from mental or emotional stress or physical injury”. This threatening shock imposed from external sources upon the human framework has proven repeatedly in this ministry to be the chief suspect which lays the groundwork for addictive behavior in the individual traumatized.
If one were to brainstorm examples of trauma, it would likely be found that it encompasses a thousand human events with as many variations. Experiences one individual might consider traumatic, another might not consider traumatic at all. Some life-threatening experiences such as surviving an airplane crash, war, or the sudden demise of a loved one, are universally considered traumatic. However, there are many more experiences in which the effect on the individual may create a wider range of responses.
The issue here, however, is not simply about trauma, but rather how that trauma is processed, and how, owing to the subsequent response, that traumatic event can become a catalyst for addictive behavior.
An incident which captured my emotional attention at age six and has held me in a subtle yet pervasive stronghold well into later years, was having been tackled, pinned, and beaten by a neighbor boy my age. Many young children experience this common provocation. But its effect on me was, to my childish persona, like a tearing down or stripping of my personal dignity, and it deeply affected my identity at this time.
I became known throughout the neighborhood as a boy who couldn’t fight. That incident made me wary of even the potential for such encounters as I interacted with other boys.
Another like incident occurred about seven years later in my early teens. I was walking home alone from school on a wintry day. Ahead were two high school boys of the black-leather-jacket and ducktail-hair type. One must have discussed with the other his desire to prove his manhood, so he turned around, grabbed me, pulled me down into the snow and rubbed the snow on my face. Totally unprovoked, this incident resulted in my feeling once again stripped of dignity. I felt helpless. I didn’t want to fight back. But this experience was different in that I also began to sense that, since I had no desire to strike back in my defense, then there must not be much to protect or salvage in myself.
The issue here is not what happened to me, but rather how I processed what happened to me. And the result was an ungodly response to the emotional pain the fight created. My response was a desire for revenge – getting back at the boys who had beaten me down seven years apart. A revenge not, however, by “tooth for tooth”, but rather through a method whereby I had control, on my chosen “turf”. It had to be mental, and subtle, because it couldn’t be physical. I’d never win that way.
Here was the strategy. I began to think about their faces more than their blows. I needed to change their facial expressions, so I tried to “fix” that threatening gaze by getting them to change their countenances from those of personal victory (at my expense), to acquiescence or even better, admiration and even love for me. I didn’t want them to beat me up ever again. I wanted them to love me. Instead of blows to my body, my desires were for their affectionate approach to me. Blows were threatening, affection wasn’t. Even though these desires took some time to develop emotionally, they spawned an entire syndrome of twisted, ungodly emotional feelings toward those of the same sex.
At this point, a brief background needs to be given in order to answer the reader’s presumed question: why the faces? As the firstborn of a family that eventually grew to seven siblings, I was strongly bonded to my mother. However, my relationship with her dramatically altered when demands upon her energy and time escalated after the birth of the third child. My mother became given to explosive fits of temper without much warning. She became the dominant individual in a growing family revolved around how mother looked and felt. My own emotional well being was often gauged by her facial expressions. As she became more and more unable to control her temper, I became progressively insecure emotionally. Therefore, for the purpose of my own survival, I attempted to formulate a means by which to “fix the problem”.
Since the facial expression had such power over me, if I could manipulate it to insure my safety, then, I believed, I had a plausible solution for maintaining my own security. I certainly couldn’t control my mother – she had authority over me as a parent and could hit me if provoked. But my nemeses, the neighborhood boys, didn’t have authority over me. And it was upon them that, if provoked, I tried to manipulate to my benefit any hostile expressions and the subsequent physical threats.
The outgrowth of this syndrome developed into a secret yet hyper charged fantasy which motivated me to repeat in my idleness and passivity, that sensation of the body-to-body and face-to-face incident which was at first frightening and traumatic. The fantasy: I would choose male “candidates” to fight each other – not me. And the winners of those fight scenes would finish off their opponents with deathblows, and then, “make love” to me.
By processing my loss of personal dignity through my emotions, I went on to degrading the other person in my fantasy, not to overwhelm him with bodily prowess, but to engage in sensual activity to the extent where I had, if not the upper hand, at least an equal footing in relating to the person. This established a homosexual syndrome in me that was eventually realized through illicit sex.
What surprises many is the fact that a traumatized individual will actually desire a return to the scene of, or to the individual responsible for, the trauma. (Emotionally, of course, the third and subsequent “take-downs” became more manageable. The initial surprise later became no surprise at all.) But for the traumatized person, that return is made with the intent that it can be made right or even “redeemed”. The hidden agenda of ungodly emotions, however, is not redeeming at all in the positive sense. It is rather a motivation to get even. We know this by the fruit it produces, the negative effect on another person’s life, and the resulting difficulty of the traumatized person to build normal relationships with either gender. It is quite a trap, but it is in this process and in a thousand varieties of like experiences that such fixations are established and an addictive lifestyle is manifested.
It is obvious that the root problem was the initial trauma of having an overburdened mother who was given to control because of feeling out of control. This particular situation can cause a young child to be hyper-vigilant about the mother’s countenance or the state of her emotions to try to read when the next explosion will occur. Thus, the child tries to “control” the mother by always making sure she will be happy and pleased to avoid the dreaded hysteria and angry outbursts. If the mother seems to be unhappy or in any way upset, the child will sink into helpless depression and go inward, feeling he or she has failed completely.
To counteract these lies, the person must first recognize the syndrome in him or herself, write it down in the journal, and begin to see the control issue as an old lie – the mother or anyone related to the person has a right and in fact must be allowed to express their upset without the person feeling responsible.
It is so important that every incident of despair be examined and carefully rejected as a cause of failure or lack of control. This is a hopeless pursuit to try to control everyone’s emotions, so that all are happy at all times. There must be confession of this and rejection of the control of other’s emotions. Prayers to cast out the spirit of control and release the spirit of freedom should be prayed.
Gradually, the person can see that the reaction of sulking into interior withdrawal and “plotting” a “passive” aggression on the mother was done in the child’s emotions. But because it was so unthinkable to be so violent against one’s own mother, many times the mind turns off to that possibility and the rage later is used against the abusive peers in the twisted and perverted ways described here. Again, seeing the rage, acknowledging it is there, and finally praying to reject it and remove it by the power of God is vital. Then, as the person encounters occasions of similar character, he or she must continue to reject old “knee-jerk” reactions of trying to control the countenance or to gain revenge through “passive” fantasy/masturbation. This is very possible and great freedom results from the catching and reversing of ungodly responses.
The following prayer is useful:
Dear Lord, I choose to break the power of trauma in my life. Others do have the right to be angry or upset, and that does not put me in danger or threat. I am not a failure because of their upset. I separate myself from, and reject, the responsibility to maintain a cheerful countenance on the people who may blow up or be upset. Lord, help me to see these old emotional lies and counter them before they take me to the next level of ungodly response which would be “passive” revenge through fantasy/masturbation or sexual activity. I will go toward You and not toward the idol to answer my emotional pressure. Thank You Lord. I know You’re setting me free through the TRUTH. Amen.
A Scenario of Trauma and Addiction
by Dick DiFiore