The Boy in the Concrete Room: Men and Trauma
“Here sits a boy in a concrete room. This room has no windows; this room has no doors. Here sits a boy in a cold, dark room… huddled in a corner, afraid of what will happen next. Here sits a boy in a concrete room. It is not his room, but a construct of ideas that seek to define the cold shell surrounding him. Here sits a boy in a concrete room. He is alone. He is frightened. And he is yearning to be seen.”
When we look at trauma histories, we look at things locked away and hidden from the conscious mind. We tend to these boys, locked in these concrete rooms, by packing boxes on top of them. Some filled with empty bottles, some filled with work, some filled with anger, and some filled with rage. The more we pack on top of these rooms, the harder it is to access these long lost forgotten children of the past. And, although we seem to have a grasp on how to manage the cries and screams from the depths of ourselves, these boys in these concrete rooms find a way to the surface.
With each successive generation, we get closer to the nature of behavior. The evolution of our understanding of trauma continues, laboring on with one quintessential common denominator…what happened then, is happening now. It may not be a perfect reenactment of the pain previously endured, however, its influence seeps into the fabric of life and can drive the decisions we make. Unresolved traumas, however significant or insignificant they are perceived, tend to take the wheel in times of distress. In any given situation, when the body is distressed and low on resources, the more difficult it is to suppress traumas. And what is it that gets suppressed? Pain, shame, guilt, sadness…any of the feelings that are socially inacceptable for men to express.
As men, most of us are taught from an early age that anger is the only acceptable feeling we can express. The rest of the emotions… pain, sadness, shame, guilt, and fear are conditioned away with hurtful words and phrases. “I’ll give you something to cry about!”; “Stop that sniveling”; “Knock that off”; “What are you? A little girl?”. Over time these words build barriers and walls, they create trunks and boxes locked and stuffed into the dark and dusty corners of ourselves. Just because these barriers exist, does not mean that these forgotten and scared boys dissolve into the ether, or evolve into strong men, no. They cry and wail in the dark. Needing comfort. Needing safety. Needing us to comfort them and be present with them; to nurture them and let them know everything will be all right. When do men get the opportunity to be afraid? to show pain? to show sadness? And what does it mean to be vulnerable? What does it look like to remove the barriers and walls, to unlock those boxes and trunks that hide our pain?
What if I told you vulnerability equals strength? How does that sit with you? How do we, as men, rediscover what it means to be strong? to be open and vulnerable? to find safety and strength in showing fragility, and stress, and pain? To let others see the boys trapped in these concrete rooms is a powerful way to say to the burdens of the past “What happened then, does NOT have to happen now.” We can find strength in vulnerability, we can let others see our pain. It does not make us weak, rather, it makes us whole, and complete, and stronger men.
From a brother in healing,