This is precisely why, as taught by many including Pema Chodron, they need to embrace these experiences and aspects of their being in order to end their suffering. But the word “embrace” is something that the ego-mind rebels against. And although these were all people deeply on the spiritual path, they could not get past the fury of their ego-mind.
As I sat with this quandary, I realized that as with acceptance and forgiveness/compassion, embracing deep trauma has to be approached in stages. (See my posts, “The Stages of Acceptance,” and “The Stages of Forgiveness/Compassion.”)
The first stage is understanding how these experiences or these aspects of being came to be. The experience that caused the trauma was itself the expression of suffering. As a monk once told me, if anyone does something that pushes your buttons or harms you, that action was a direct result of their suffering. It is how they were programmed to act in response to their suffering. No one voluntarily does something hurtful.
This is true even if someone is truly evil, the devil incarnate. And while I would not treat such a one (they are no longer human, so I don’t use the word “person”) with loving kindness, I do have compassion for them. (See my post, “Evil - How Should a Buddhist Respond?”)
The trauma itself was caused by the fragility of the ego-mind. The feeling of insecurity that we all acquire very early in our childhood. (See my post, “Insecurity - Nurture not Nature.”)
The point is that both the experience itself and the resulting trauma came about not through some freely willed action, but rather through an automatic response based on the conditioning that we and the other had received. No one was at fault in the deepest sense of the word; responsible yes, but not guilty. Guilt presumes a choice.
Understanding this leads to the second stage which is compassion, both for the person who caused the traumatic experience and for ourselves for reacting to it in a way that was traumatic. In a way which we often characterize as weak. This too has its stages (see my post noted above). We are not by nurture (we are by nature, but not nurture) compassionate. And so we must first have the intent to be compassionate based on the spiritual teachings we have received. Then we must actually open up are hearts to being compassionate. Just do it.
Once we have achieved compassion, the door is then open for the heart’s embrace. Remembering that embrace does not mean putting a positive value judgment on it, that it wasn’t bad or hurtful. Embrace is just saying it was the way it was, owning it as part of your life, and being aware of its having a positive impact in so far as making you the person you are today, seeking peace and happiness on the path.
Once you do fully embrace your experience and being, you will find that all internal and external struggle will cease to be because nothing offends anymore. And when nothing offends, you stop fighting against it, which paradoxically only gave it more power. You will be at peace.