Christopher M. Anderson
Author Advocate Trauma Theorist
Another brick in the wall...
October 11, 2017
We live in a world that is not trauma informed. As a result, few of us are able to find the support we require in order to heal at the pace we'd like. Not only is it difficult to find access to trauma informed resources, we are also are bombarded moment to moment by triggers. Stories of abuse, disasters, and illness come at us constantly from the news, social media, friends, and family members.
There is no intention behind this, and there is little we can do to stem the tide of upsetting information that comes our way. As a result the barrage of triggers and the difficulty of finding trauma informed support can often feel unfair and depressing. Unable to build or find a safe place for ourselves and those we care about, we can feel rage, deep melancholy, and perhaps most destructively - powerlessness. And it is the powerlessness that can keep us trapped in cycles of traumatic suffering.
However I would suggest that it's not wise to allow those feelings to overwhelm us. There are always tools we can use to reduce our sense of suffering in the moment. And even a superficial knowledge of human history should instill in us a deep awareness of how unenlightened the world has been and continues to be. What we see that is "wrong" today is not anything new. There truly is great progress being made. Efforts the world over are increasing lifespans, improving living conditions, and decreasing poverty for hundreds of millions of people. But what isn't yet being formally addressed is how we make the quality of these lives better. We are only now beginning of ask, "How do we ensure the lives we save and extend are worth living?"
We are only now beginning of ask, "How do we ensure the lives we save and extend are worth living?"
This is why we need to talk about the centrality of trauma in human experience. We must learn how trauma can be toxic to our health and well-being, and that there are things we can do in the wake of trauma that can make life more worth living. We need to acknowledge that abuse (trauma arising from human behaviors) is actually something we can meaningfully reduce if we shift our attention away from the unattainable goal of prevention of harm to the actually attainable goal reducing harm.
There is no doubt that this is the way forward, however the challenge is that few people currently understand or see the importance of a trauma informed paradigm. Few people grasp how powerful a trauma-informed framework can be to reducing their own experiences of harm while increasing their sense of safety and well-being in a world that can never be made safe. And few people understand how to alter their own behaviors and habits to become more compassionate towards themselves and towards others.
Anyone who understands the importance of the trauma informed framework also knows that they will stir up controversy even as they work to make safer spaces for all. Those who are on the vanguard of a new way of seeing the world often face hostility from forces that want to defend and preserve the way things are. These are immutable and unavoidable obstacles when fighting for political and social change. Real change is only possible when we meet these obstacles with compassion and tolerance and not hatred and vitriol.
We have to have the moral awareness and intellectual courage of figures like Galileo, Einstein, King, Sanger, and so many others who proudly and determinedly communicated their "new" understanding and awareness of the truth. Just as they spoke clearly of a new way of seeing what is possible and what is real in the world, so too must we speak of "truths" of trauma. And we must also do so with humility borne of our acceptance that we are ourselves flawed and imperfect. It is far more likely we are only adding another brick to one wall of the temple of knowledge, rather than single handedly constructing the whole edifice ourselves.