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The Intersection of Trauma, Healing, and the Human Experience
Across the human experience, trauma is a common occurrence that affects all people, no matter the skin color. It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white or pink. Trauma distorts life and hinders one's capacity to experience freedom, and it's something that is experienced by both the so-called oppressor and the so-called oppressed. In this article, we'll explore the ways that trauma impacts the black experience, the white experience, and the American experience as a whole.
For those of us who are descendants of slaves, trauma is a part of our history. Our ancestors were kidnapped from West Africa and brought to the United States during the Atlantic slave trade. As a member of this community, trauma is not something that is distant from me, as my grandparents still carry the fresh memory of Jim Crow.
Many believe that legislative measures can replace the necessary work of healing from trauma. However, trauma is embodied, stored in the body, and cannot be healed through legislation alone. The healing process is messy, long, and complicated.
The desire to dominate space is a defensive mechanism that is not exclusive to the white man. We all share this defensive mechanism as human beings, due to the most systemically oppressive institution of all: the autonomic nervous system, lol.
Bet you didn’t see that one coming did ya?
This system is six hundred million years old, and it's composed of two parts: the sympathetic system, which is biased to see the world as either an opportunity or threat, and the parasympathetic system, which is biased to see the world as completely safe. These two systems are constantly finding balance and adapting to the environment, shaping and being shaped by it.
All of us are the outcome of billions of years of evolution, and we've picked up certain adaptations along the way, some of which are trauma-informed. Trauma adaptations are behaviors we've developed in order to feel loved, worthy, like we belong, and like we matter. The slogan "Black Lives Matter" reveals how many African Americans feel about not being seen or heard or valued. The feeling of not being seen or heard can lead to a sense of not mattering, which can deeply affect one's sense of self-worth.
When we are confronted with rejection, we often become defensive, which is a protection mechanism that can give way to bigotry. Guardedness comes with an inability to trust oneself, and we cannot fully be ourselves if we are threatened with prejudice and death. This leads to a dangerous loop that can be hard to escape.
In other words, trauma is a part of the human experience, and it affects us all. Healing from trauma is a messy and complicated process that cannot be replaced by legislative measures. We must recognize the impact of trauma on ourselves and others, and work to heal from it in order to live our lives more fully and authentically. This requires committing ourselves to a daily practice that re-roots us in the spaces we inhabit, from the community at large to our bodies.
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