Trauma Destroys Time

The traumatized person lives in an alien reality.

Posted Oct 21, 2015

“I am no longer one of them, however. They are up there, on the face of the earth; I am down here, in the bottom of a well. They possess the light, while I am in the process of losing it. Sometimes I feel that I may never find my way back to that world, that I may never again be able to feel the peace of being enveloped in the light…. Down here there are no seasons. Not even time exists.”—Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Murakami captures in compelling imagery how trauma devastatingly disrupts the ordinary, average-everyday linearity and unity of temporality, the sense of stretching-along from the past to an open future ( Experiences of emotional trauma become freeze-framed into an eternal present in which one remains forever trapped, or to which one is condemned to be perpetually returned by life’s slings and arrows. In the region of trauma all duration or stretching along collapses, the traumatic past becomes present, and future loses all meaning other than endless repetition. Because trauma so profoundly modifies the universal or shared structure of temporality, the traumatized person quite literally lives in another kind of reality, an experiential world felt to be incommensurable with those of others. This felt incommensurability, in turn, contributes to the sense of alienation and estrangement from other human beings that typically haunts the traumatized person. Torn from the communal fabric of being-in-time, trauma remains insulated from human dialogue.