I imagine some people are thinking, “ugh, TRAUMA is such a THING right now! Why is everything suddenly about trauma??” And I hear that, especially because I follow ALL THE ACCOUNTS. I’m steeped in it.
Spoiler alert: I think it’s actually a VERY good thing that conversations about and awareness of trauma have filtered into the mainstream, even if it can feel a bit “much” for some people. I think it represents a profound shift in our self awareness.
And while I think it’s important to differentiate between people who haven’t had significant trauma with long-lasting physiological consequences and people who are or could be diagnosed with PTSD, CPTSD or other diagnoses that tend to come from those (representing the neurotypical / neurodivergent divide), I think it’s also time we recognize that we are a profoundly traumatized and traumatizing world.
Whether we’re talking about the trauma of being a person of color in a colonized, white supremacist world, the trauma of being a woman in a patriarchal society, the trauma of living on a planet with a precarious future, or the trauma of living in a capitalist society where we HAVE TO reach a certain level of success and support or else we are basically left to die, traumatizing situations and experiences are all around us, all the time.
And things have been a similar kind of rough since humans discovered fire. In some ways, I imagine life now is MUCH easier, and in some ways, it’s probably also MUCH harder. And throughout all this, humans have been having and raising kids and trying to make it work, basically blind and often with their hands metaphorically tied.
I’m sure there are fairly idyllic families who are basically emotionally well-rounded and raising fairly stable kids in the world right now. Maybe they’re rich, or living in the country, or got genetically or situationally lucky. And I admit to having zero knowledge of the history or cultural practices of parenting in non-colonized, indigenous, non European, or non-white-supremacy-tainted societies now or in the past. It’s possible this entire rant is not relevant to a handful of cultures.
But. I think it’s still fair to say: our parents didn’t really know what they were doing. And their parents didn’t really know what they were doing. And in between all this are wars, famines, recessions, natural disasters, plagues, ancestral trauma, and capitalist bullshit, feudalist bullshit, and so on all the way back. And people under stress can cause harm, even if they’re doing their best (and I think almost everyone IS doing their best).
So. I think trauma is such a THING right now because we’re waking up to the fact that a majority of the human population has been raising children in the midst of struggle, by adult humans who have no idea what they’re doing, and who are beset on all sides by the pressures of modern life on Earth.
We talk like people should know better. But so much of the science of What Makes People Tick is only really coming to be known NOW. We didn’t know better. We didn’t know that praising a kid too much can make them afraid of trying new things, and teasing them can start a cycle of lifelong toxic shame. We didn’t know that conditional love might lead to abusive relationships in adulthood. Or that gluten and sugar might contribute to long-term diagnoses. Or that simply being busy and emotionally unavailable to a kid can translate into a form of trauma.
We are coming to a collective understanding that all of us are just nervous systems walking around in various states of regulation. Our choices, actions and interactions are all dependent on a MYRIAD of factors that highly influence an outcome, and so many of those factors are out of balance. And what we’re learning about studying trauma – about our brain, nervous system, gut and so on – is actually relevant to ALL of us, all the time.
I think we’re also on the verge of realizing that people aren’t just randomly assholes for no reason. For sure, personal responsibility will always be important, but we now know that we become less able to consciously control our behavior the more dysregulated and traumatized we are. People don’t just randomly harm others for no reason. We don’t just live in a terrible world full of shitty people who were just “born that way” because “humans suck”. That’s not how this works. And instead of giving in to the hopeless sense that people will never change, we’re learning just how crucial it is to understand what makes people the way they are so that we can positively influence our individual and collective outcomes.
A HUGE part of that is figuring out how to properly raise and care for children, teenagers, and adults. How to nourish healthy, regulated nervous systems. How our food, our beliefs and mindsets, our relationships, our systems of oppression, our systems of support, our stress levels, our “work-life balance”, our communities, our opportunities, our sense of abundance, our dreams and our perceived potential ALL go into not just creating “good people”, but creating a just, unified, emotionally intelligent and resilient society.
So. Let’s keep talking about trauma. Let’s talk about it until it’s integrated and boring, and we all finally have a sense of WHY we do what we do, and how to do better.