After a traumatic event, one of the most common responses is to question. “Why? Why did this happen? Why did this happen to me?” This reminds me of the Buddhist parable in which a man is struck by a poisoned arrow that the doctors want to immediately remove. But he won’t let them remove it until he finds out who shot the arrow, where the shooter came from, why he shot it, and what the arrow was made of. The poison acted, killing the man before the arrow could be removed. All of these questions were more or less important, but some may not even have had answers. And ultimately, what use was that information in the end?
Trauma is like a poisoned arrow. Asking question after question doesn’t help with the business of healing. We can know all the answers, but there is still an arrow sticking in our sides. We’re more enlightened, but unlikely to be transformed. Questioning allows us to stay in our minds, holding the trauma at a distance. It keeps us from accepting the reality of what happened. Yet we can only remove the arrow once we have accepted it. The healing process from an arrow wound is no different, regardless of why it was shot or where the shooter came from. Once the arrow has been identified, taking concrete steps to remove it is what will heal us. When we are sufficiently down the path to health again, asking “Why?” may be useful to avoid another attack. But that is prevention–not healing.
This is one of the beautiful things about somatic trauma therapies like TRE®. They don’t demand an intellectual understanding as a prerequisite to healing. The body simply needs to complete the defensive stress response. We tightened our muscles and turned inward to armor ourselves against whatever was coming at us. Now that the coast is clear, our bodies relax by activating a natural shaking, discharging the tension and contraction. When our bodies relax, our minds relax more deeply, accepting the facts of our trauma and simultaneously leaving the experience in our past, where it belongs. Without the activation of all that stored tension, we can more calmly ask those “Why?” questions. Instead of winding us in tight balls, this inquiry will help prevent another arrow attack.