Last week, TedxToronto held their annual conference, with the theme being “redefinition.” I thought it would only be appropriate to contribute, in my own way, despite being remote, my thoughts and ideas on redefinition. My viewpoint on redefinition, though, is not one based on community, but rather on the personal level. And I suppose that greatly bases itself on the experiences that I’ve had, which in turn have shaped my understanding of the word.
In discussing redefinition of the self, I point to the concepts of trauma and recovery. Granted, trauma is a very intimate subject and is one that has no clear lines in determining what is and what is not considered to be painful or marking. It goes to say that trauma is one’s own, and cannot be measured or judged by another. Overcoming this pain is difficult; and I contend that through expressing ourselves, and writing down our experiences that we can be permitted to and aided in moving on.
I propose the idea of writing since it is the one point in which we confront our traumas with great intimacy – revisiting them, re-purposing the experience into our own words, and thus, in a sense, reclaiming what was lost. To contemplate each word that we pen (or type in this case) is an activity that requires great thought and care, since trauma is so personal to us – we want to communicate what we know to be the “truth.” Evoking empathy or feelings isn’t the goal; for if it were, we would write compelling and more flowery text, as opposed to confronting a memory that we have sought to shelve and repress.
It is in this process of reclaiming, though, that we begin to own our memory, and not be owned by it.
At the end of this cathartic experience, we come out different. We are not necessarily changed, but we are more relieved. The memory that we have sought to hide from is now properly archived, and no longer strongly extricated from our mind and living obsessively in our daily conscious.
Whether or not we choose to share the experience is another point. We want to be altruistic and say that we confront our trauma publicly to help others – but is that really the case? For the most part, I would say so. But in some aspects, it is part of the redefining experience; being consciously aware that what you say becomes a part of the archive for others puts an onus on us to be more truthful to not only our readers, but also to ourselves. Instead of convincing ourselves of certain truths, we are forced to tell it as it had happened so as not to lead others astray (which of course comes back to the altruistic argument).
With that said, it comes as no surprise that we see so many texts on traumatic experiences published – it is one way for the author to overcome what has happened in a “truthful” manner.
To sum, redefinition, at least for me, is the reclaiming of one’s traumas through writing, which produces a candid (and sometimes slow) revisit in which we unveil the lies that we have told ourselves and instead, own not only the truth but our memory.