In the 1994 Oscar award winning movie, Forrest Gump, a powerful scene depicted Jenny, a long-time friend and romantic interest of Forrest. They were walking together and came upon an old dilapidated small house. Jenny stopped in her tracks, stared, creating a long silent moment in the movie, then began to throw her shoes, then rocks at the old house. She falls to the ground in tears and in emotional exhaustion. It was apparent that something very wrong happened in that house. Forrest sits next to her. The voice of Forrest, which narrates the movie says, “sometimes, I guess there just aren’t enough rocks.”
Traumatic memories can have long-term affects to the body, mind and soul. Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk, a psychiatrist specializing in trauma often says that past psychological traumas are kept in our bodies, leaving an imprint of both past memory and present vulnerabilities. The demons of our past can change the way we approach people and situations. When we experience a motor vehicle accident, for example, we may avoid that intersection for a while, since we become emotional with painful memories when we pass by, even though there is no threat in the current moment.
Mindfulness is an effective way to soothe the mind when it becomes agitated by previous traumatic events in our lives. Buddhism has as one of its precepts the universality of suffering and dedicating oneself in the reduction of suffering in our lives. When we suffer from the lingering of dreadful memories, we cling to the meanings constructed about the trauma. Meditation can help you shift from fixed ideas about the traumatic memory to remaining aware of the current moment, while re-processing the story from the past, which is not happening in the here-and-now.
This is not an easy task. We have been violated in the past to some degree. These thought intrusions on the path towards inner peace are part of the human experience. We need to notice them, but ease the disturbances caused by the clinging subscriptions to the story.
If you are experiencing the effects from trauma in your life, please consider seeking help from a professional. Cultivate a mindfulness practice with a teacher, who is aware of psychological trauma.