When we started Living Ubuntu, we knew the pros and cons of our name. Yet, feeling that Ubuntu was a concept worth getting acquainted with, we were willing to deal with the public’s unfamiliarity with the word. Even when Ubuntu becomes more familiar, the next hurdle for us has been to effectively communicate how it relates to what we do, and hope to do in the future.
When I was studying Infant Mental Health several years ago, there were a couple of key concepts that jumped out at me in such a strong way, I couldn’t just try to metabolize them and move on. What I learned disturbed me in a deep and profound way.
First was reading a journal article written by Sheila Wang, entitled “Traumatic Stress and Attachment”. The concepts that stayed with me were, self-preservation vs. species-preservation. Post-Traumatic Stress keeps us stuck in a survival state focused on self-preservation and interrupts our ability to feel connected to others, embracing the common good (i.e. species-preservation).
The second realization was that infants can be born into stress hormone states resembling PTSD simply by being carried in the uterus of a woman with PTSD. As if that wasn’t enough, attachment studies reflect high risk for babies being raised by caregivers with PTSD. They are left more vulnerable to developing a host of emotional difficulties later in life, not limited to, but including, PTSD. You can see how the cycle continues…
So, if PTSD is trans-generational, increases risk of violent reactions, traps people in self-preservation states, and can be triggered by anything from natural disasters to violent incidences, can you understand how my inner sense of alarm and urgency escalated as I learned more and more about these things?
The word Ubuntu reflects the way we are human together. I am a person through other persons, and, what impacts you impacts me. In a sense, it is the healthy, non-traumatized state of being. It is the relational state we return to when trauma heals. I often think about what the world would be like if most people were living in this way.
We are currently in the planning stages for one of the ways we seek to interrupt this pervasive, commonplace, dangerous cycle of trauma. We want to bring trauma recovery into local communities, in easy-to-access ways. Our emphasis will be refugee and immigrant populations in Orange County and San Diego. We have a lot of work to do, and a lot of money to raise to be able to pull it off, but it is hard for us to see anything more worthy of our commitment and focus.
On Sunday July 31st, we will be offering a free mini-workshop, Introduction to Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE). TRE is a body-centered method created by David Berceli that has been used extensively for trauma recovery in numerous war-torn regions of the world. Please visit our blog for more information about this event.
Executive Director, Living Ubuntu