Healing Everyday Trauma
by Dr. Kixx Goldman
I once met a woman called Cindy who earned her living by pole dancing in a nightclub. Wanting to understand more about Cindy’s background and the performance art, I searched YouTube and found videos of champion pole dancers. As I watched, I was struck by a disconnect. In our culture, these women are often stereotyped as sleazy or seductive. I see them instead as artistic and graceful, consummate athletes.
Cindy was 6 when her mother died. She became close to her father but he, being the main provider, worked long hours and hired a young woman to look after the her and her brother. Cindy witnessed this woman brutally beating her little brother and feared she’d remain haunted by the pain of his death, forever.
My heart went out to Cindy. Her childhood losses were traumatic. But she found solace in two important ways. In a family friend she found a supportive and loyal mentor. Her mentor encouraged Cindy to study, and she became a beautiful and graceful dancer. She and the other pole dancers worked at a club together and shared their interior lives. Over time, Cindy found comfort in the bonds of sisterhood and healed her grief, though she would never lose the memories of her childhood wounds.
Jim, the man Cindy fell in love with, remained haunted. At too early an age, he had felt helpless and guilt-ridden after he was unable to save his childhood sweetheart from a tragic accident. Additionally, his emotionally distant father had abandoned the family, and Jim became a caregiver, a “parent” to his mother.
Individuals respond to trauma in various, deep, and far-reaching ways. Have you ever wondered how some people are able to survive wounds and overcome their grief to become hopeful and productive, while others feel hopeless, stuck, or depressed?
We don’t always know how early traumatic experiences will be processed or how deeply these experiences will affect our lives. We can only reflect upon what it is in a person’s make-up or background that enables one to survive and thrive, while another still struggles.
When we look at people’s early lives, we can see the different circumstances that played a part in developing the way they respond to traumatic events. Trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk notes that people who live in deeply caring and accepting environments handle potentially traumatic events much better than those living in harsher environments.
One day, I came across a tiny snapshot of a man I’d been given as a prompt in a writing workshop. The soulful and searching look in his eyes reminded me of Jim. I decided to write a story, inspired by events in Cindy’s and Jim’s lives. I decided to call the main character “Ned.” When Ned found his way onto the blank page in front of me and became the narrator, I was surprised and uncertain. Could I write a story in the first person, as a man? Be that guy? As it turned out, Ned became my muse. Dancer Misty joined him a few pages later, and my admiration for the characters began to grow.
As the tale unfolds, we see Misty healed. She is fortunate. She experienced loving support from her parents and a wise family friend. Ned is not as fortunate. He must learn from Misty.
Misty and Ned, and their real-life models, Cindy and Jim, are examples of Van der Kolk’s wisdom. They are characters of different temperament and background who deal with trauma in different ways. As my fictional version closes, we can only hope Ned will follow in Misty’s footsteps, to heal and grow.
Dr. Kixx Goldman, psychologist and author, migrated to Phoenix from Vancouver to retire her hip waders and pursue her passion for prose. Her research on relationships has been published. Kixx’s collection of short fiction is inspired by experiences in her life and the lives of her clients. Kixx loves helping people follow their intuition and claim their power. Speak from Your Heart and Be Heard: Stories of Courage and Healing, will be released in spring 2019. The short story, “Deception,” was recently published in the anthology, Heat of the Moment. Follow Kixx on Facebook and learn more about her at DrKixxGoldman.com.