Truth, Trauma, and Imagined Responses

In the tradition of the esprit d’escalier – the French term for thinking of one’s ideal response to a question only once one has left the party and is already down the stairs. Although in this case, the staircase is more like a hamster wheel, as I am asked the same question repeatedly.

What do you think it is? What is it that made you be able to come out, while some other guys stay closeted, get married, start families, and need to keep their sexuality secret?

Trauma, I think. I was emotionally and physically abused for a number of years, when I was very young. That experience taught me two things: firstly, to look for and hold onto honesty and truth in all matters – the truth of a situation that was unfairly blamed on me, the truth that I did not deserve what was happening, the truth that I wasn’t a bad child, the truth that I wasn’t worthless. Clinging onto such truths, in such circumstances, may often be the only power or self-affirmation available.

And secondly, it taught me to keep that truth close to my chest. So that, when I went off to university and gained a measure of emancipation (if not autonomy), my coming out became an extension and an expression of that truth, combined with a relaxing of the grip with which I’d held onto my secret for close to half of my young life.

If, as a child, you have not been beaten into a persistent state of defensive self-preservation, then it’s possible that, instead of withdrawing into yourself, you’re more open to the world around you, along with its attendant pressures and expectations, which are often what lead people away from being true to themselves. That actually sounds like a tacit endorsement of child abuse as some sort of perverse, character-building tonic. That’s not my intention, of course; to me, there’s little else in the world that is simultaneously so tragic and so abhorrent. But that’s my story, and how I’ve tried to rationalize it.

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2 comments on “Truth, Trauma, and Imagined Responses

  1. I think you’re right. This is more than a rationalisation. Trauma, in all its different colours, creates a sort of urgency in the spirit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kaian says:

      Definitely an urgency, and perhaps particularly, an urgency of self-preservation. This is all speculative, but I get the impression the mind creates some selective short-circuits, so as to bury unpleasant experiences and allow the person to continue to function somewhat normally. The problem is that, with repression, the repressed experiences have a habit of bubbling up in different ways later in life, to the eternal gratitude of the psychotherapeutic profession. Even though it doesn’t feel like it at the time, I believe that experiencing trauma lays the groundwork for a certain mental strength. Confronting one’s demons, eyes wide open, only reinforces that courage.

      As always, thanks for reading. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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