Updated: Nov 15, 2019
Welcome once again to #thoughtfultuesday! I mulled over a couple of topics throughout the day as I was running around chaotically. Rather unsurprisingly, I was most intrigued by the topic of emotional trauma. If you follow my blog posts regularly, it is likely that you are aware I have written about trauma previously. The intent with this post is to explore trauma from an academic perspective and less so from a personal perspective. I first listened to an interview with Mastin Kipp on a podcast episode (The Sheri & Nancy Show, Episode 102), which propelled me to delve into other avenues of Kipp’s work. The information I will be sharing today has been gathered from the aforementioned podcast episode, as well as his TED Talk (The United States of Differentiation, TEDx, 2019). I strongly resonate with all of his concepts, as well as his process of working with clients; which happens to mirror my own. Evidently, my fondness of his work is biased, but I do hope that you find it to be equally impactful.
In the past year, I have frequently heard (from numerous sources), “Never before have we existed in such polarized times.” Although I have no way of verifying what the world was like before my own existence, I can attest that I have experienced tension and opposition that I have not known before. In uttering this, it is imperative to admit that I have been equally as guilty in perpetuating this “otherization” and contributing to the polarization. As someone who has been identified as left leaning, there was a period of time in which I demonized the right. During this time, I was feeling particularly stretched and run-down. In my work with street-involved and disenfranchised substance users, I was receiving criticism and challenge on a daily basis; whether this was from community members, business owners, classmates, or law enforcement. Does this chronic exposure to resistance wear on healthy individuals? Absolutely. However, as someone who was facing challenges in all avenues of life, it was almost instinctive to channel all of my frustration and resentment and project it with laser-like focus onto an enemy. After all, the only way to perpetuate anger is to establish a villain. I recently heard a quote, which I am unable to recall word for word, but it was something along the lines of, “We experience resentment when we are not taking care of ourselves.” This rang so true and deeply, it stung. Resentment speaks very little about the other, but instead speaks volumes about I. This example is brought to light strategically, as it is relevant to Kipp’s TED Talk. Kipp identifies the source of our current polarization as, “Systemic unidentified, unhealed, and unresolved emotional trauma.” Given that our world is evolving and progressing rapidly, as citizens, we are moving further and further from basic survival hood. Accordingly, there is increased space and opportunity for pain to arise. Predictably, trauma transcends all. If it isn’t obvious, the only way forward is to focus on healing our own trauma in so that we can be available to hold space for others.
If you happen to be unconvinced that you have trauma, you may not fully understand what defines trauma. Most people assume that it is limited to capital “T” Trauma, which is often characterized by destructive and/or violent experiences. Yet, there exists little “t” trauma, which includes any situation that an individual feels wounded by. Even in the presence of these categories, trauma is highly subjective. Regardless of the category, all trauma is addressed equally. Kipp defines emotional trauma as, “Any rupture of physical, psychological, and/or emotional safety.” In simple terms, it is any experience in which you don’t feel safe and/or secure. That’s it. With this definition in mind, pull out the loose-leaf; we all have a long checklist.
Regardless of your views on trauma, it is known that beliefs are not only thoughts that reside in our mind; they also reside in our bodies. Our entire nervous system has a 'neural expectant belief'. "When this belief is activated, our body has a reaction.” This reaction occurs whether or not it permeates our conscious awareness. Take careful note of one of my favourite statements: “For this reason, we cannot just say, change your thoughts, change your life.” All of my soapbox moments criticizing therapy that does not move beyond the mind have been validated. As I revel in my ego, it is necessary to highlight that deep healing occurs when we move beyond the surface and explore root causes. In saying this, I would like to note that there can exist an over-fixation on the “WHY” which can keep one trapped in victimhood; that is for another post entirely.
With a recognition and understanding of emotional trauma, how does one move forward? “In order to change a ‘thing’, a ‘thing’ must be understood. There is a tremendous amount of wisdom in the diversity of our wounding. The ability to step into a diverse perspective lends itself to strength” (Kipp, 2019). As I have preached recurrently, existence is a paradox; only through the darkness is the light revealed. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of healing exists in the concept of co-regulation, which is achieved when we are surrounded by safe relationships. This again speaks to the paradox that is life; in addressing our own wounds and prioritizing our healing work, we can only do so in the presence of another who has done the same. In this full circle moment, it is apparent that we are more akin than we are different or, “Just like me” as is asserted by Pema Chodron.