Social Trauma and the Healing Power of Vulnerability

I think that our society is currently experiencing major systemic emotional trauma. Out of the collective group that makes up all of us, most have experienced some sort of traumatizing experience in the last few months while others have existed in a state of trauma during that entire time. Many people, particularly within the African American community and in other marginalized groups have spent their entire lives living with some type of direct or secondary trauma through discrimination. This condition of living under the daily pressure was compounded with the election of the “rolling dumpster fire” that was elected president three years ago. His actively divisive, reactionary, nationalistic, narcissistic, and discriminating rhetoric alone was traumatic to many and serves to continue the division of the US rather than to move us toward unity. Many of us have become highly reactive to our surroundings and to one another. The racial injustices and the social inequities that have bubbled right at surface level for many years were exposed and have boiled over completely in the wake of all that has transpired. Most of us think of trauma as being caused by a person having something terrible happening to them. While there has been no shortage of that as of late, there are other forms of trauma as well. The one that has been on my mind recently is called secondary trauma. Secondary trauma occurs from indirect exposure to trauma or through a first had account or narrative of a traumatic event. Our entire society has had access to watch a video of a police officer killing another person. It is impossible to NOT be affected by watching someone die. This is doubly so when the death is due to the perpetration of violence. Add to it the racial dimension and the injustice, and we have the makings of complex secondary trauma for nearly everyone who has seen that video. However, that is not all. Many of us are on the heels of direct trauma ourselves. As a society, we have spent the last several months with our lives in upheaval over an invisible threat in COVID-19. People lost jobs, they became financially insecure, and fear and desperation surfaced. Concern over contracting the virus added to the stress as did the media accounts that seem to change conventional knowledge on a daily basis. To take it even further than that, there is great uncertainty as to what the “new normal” is going to look like. The government officials are polarized in handling the matter and it has only served to further exacerbate the divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” in this country. Trauma, being a cumulative thing has continued to stack up. Some things like racial injustice are very clear, but other reactions to the trauma many feel and the narratives that drive those actions are being perverted and confused daily by the news seemingly in an effort to fan the flames of division and dissension. However, being the eternal optimist tempered in reality, I believe that there has to be a solution. As of this moment, we are hurt and struggling and are unable to see past the problem towards the solution, but the solution is slowly making itself known. The solution comes with every police officer that kneels in solidarity in an effort to end excessive violence against African American communities. The solution surfaces each time a person is open and honest about how bad they have been hurt and that person is met with a listening ear. Vulnerability rather than violence is what is needed to heal us. Violence makes the wound deeper. Only the healing salve of vulnerability can help us to see the humanity in those around us. Vulnerability helps us to understand that another person’s story is just as important as ours. It also helps us to see the that sometimes in history, we must work to bring attention to the story of another over our own in order to help them move forward and to be empowered towards justice and equality. Just as we do in therapy to help someone navigate trauma, we need to create a new set of narratives. The narratives we have created are not working. This new narrative requires the recognition of the individual and the collective narratives and the interweave between the two in a complementary harmony. The only way to accomplish this is through humility and vulnerability. We must learn to be vulnerable and humble if we hope to heal. It will be a difficult and emotional journey, but the journey to heal trauma always is. Difficult and emotional…but worth it.-

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: