Childhood Trauma, Spirituality and the Human Condition
I just want to quickly preface this post by noting that I am not a medical or mental health professional, this is purely an explorative opinion piece discussing my thoughts on spirituality and mental illness.
As a deeply spiritual individual who is living with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), I have come across a few hurdles – or cognitive dissonances – with my spirituality in the last few years. I deeply value practices to deepen my awareness of the self and the structures and patterns around me and within me, but I struggle with trauma responses that I’m still working through and will likely need a lot more time to unpack.
Does this undermine my spirituality? How are trauma and spirituality linked? Does the development of mental illness have any karmic value? Is mental illness linked to the ego, and if so, how does that relate to childhood trauma and what responsibility do I have to rewrite that? Did I manifest a traumatic event? Or, if I’m aware of the human condition, are these adverse experiences with mental health just unavoidable in this body?
I wanted to explore a few of these ideas a bit more deeply. Keep reading for more of my rambling.
Can I Have Spiritual Beliefs and Have a Mental Illness?
I know that this is a somewhat egoic question, which is where the cognitive dissonance lies in my mind. ‘Should’ I be able to overcome mental illness, with true spiritual awareness? The answer is, I don’t know. I know that I am a spiritual being, and I know that I struggle with the human condition to an extreme level sometimes.
BPD (and how it has shaped my core beliefs and thought patterns) leaves me feeling like an exposed nerve in the world. I feel everything so deeply, so impulsively, and so chaotically. I have proactive daily practices to help me regulate this, and reactive plans for when these extreme emotions are triggered, but the feelings are still there. My awareness of it doesn’t fix it.
It sort of feels like to be truly ‘spiritual’, I need to have this key moment of elevation or enlightenment when my suffering will stop. But is this suffering just ingrained into my body as a human being? A standard reaction triggered by a certain set of circumstances? Does that mean being human is about feeling these things? The answer is, I don’t know.
Related Reading: Living With Borderline Personality Disorder
Childhood Trauma & Spirituality
Another issue that has arisen when mulling over the concept of spirituality is childhood trauma. I find the law of attraction deeply useful and meaningful in my life, but my beliefs here would lead me to question whether I have created this reality for myself? Which, as I’m sure many trauma survivors would agree, might not be the most healthy or useful of thoughts when tackling incidents that were solely in the control of another person or people. In this way, one’s relationship with spirituality and trauma can play an important part in healing, having both positive and negative consequences depending on how we understand the two.
How is a young child responsible for creating that reality, and if – as I would suggest – they’re not, at what point do we start creating our own realities? If that childhood trauma came from parenting decisions or measures, are we experiencing the residual karmic consequences of someone else’s reality and manifestation? Again, I don’t have the answers here. But I have endless questions.
Are Mental Health Issues Just Part of the Human Condition?
The human condition brings with it a set of rules and laws of nature that we simply cannot control. Does the awareness of the spiritual self and a connection to something bigger change our current being? It doesn’t. We can accept how we feel, but we still feel it. If a certain set of circumstances happen, with the right genetic makeup, we will react a certain way.
We’re still human, and our bodies still work to the laws of nature. Though I’m completely convinced we can change, reframe and help ourselves with recovery by deepening our connection to spirituality, I struggle with the idea that these core, painful responses to trauma are ‘unspiritual’. They’re just human.
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Can I Shift My Consciousness Out of a Pattern of Psychological Stress and Mental Illness?
So with an awareness of the mind and body, can’t I just meditate my way out of my mental illness? Shouldn’t it work like that? Maybe that’s why people devote their entire lives to meditation. Maybe I should just become a monk if I want to explore this properly. (Maybe not…)
I feel like connecting to and accepting my mental illness helps me connect with myself, which is in essence a spiritual practice. I can see how this skill may develop over time, but sometimes it feels like I’m just waiting for things to align – for my mind to somehow elevate above it all. Which I don’t think is how it works. But who knows?
I know that my connection to the self and a bigger source of energy helps me endlessly, and is a great aid to psychological stress, so all I can do is continue on my journey, deepen my spiritual practices, implement my learnings and continue to grow. Learning to come to terms with and accept uncertainty has been (and still is) a tough one for me. But I am unlearning and relearning constantly, and hope to continue doing so.
How Can Spiritual Practices Help Me Cope With Childhood Trauma?
I think this depends on your spiritual beliefs and how you define spirituality. For me, my spirituality is connecting to the self. It is quieting the mind from the distractions of being human, consistently and regularly. It is feeling the breath and the core life energy we possess and knowing that peace exists within us when we look for it – or when we allow it to. One’s spirituality allows for an understanding of how the mind works and gives us the tools to understand our traumatic stress responses, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
For me, I have a range of different daily spiritual practices. These include a regular yoga practice, regular guided and unguided meditations, breathing exercises, a LOT of journaling, and plenty of vision/manifestation work and boundary setting. These practices help me find a sense of meaning every day, as well as cope with anger, grief, and whatever else I have on my plate.
But maybe you define spirituality differently? Maybe spirituality is different for everyone, so mental illness can’t be ‘unenlightened’, as everyone has this capacity within them? Maybe I’m really thinking too deeply about it now.
What Do You Think?
I’d love to know what other people’s opinions on this are, as I am just sending this out into the void as a philosophical outlet off the back of some useless rumination. Let me know in the comments or my DMs are always open over on my Instagram for interesting talks like this and peer support for anyone in or out of the mental health community. Peace and love.
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