Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.
– Hermann Hesse
April was amazing! Thanks again to everyone that came out to attend the “Remembering the Past Toward Healing our Future” events. Genocide is an incredibly horrific topic to deal with, and can rapidly take a toll on anyone trying to learn more about it, let alone the enormous (beyond description) toll it takes on those who have lived through it, or were born into a family that did. In line with the title, the question begs to be asked, what can we do to better address the need for healing in this world, in our own lives, and the lives of others? What can be done ‘toward healing our future’?
As we look around our world there is much that is in urgent need of sustained attention, committed engagement, and well-thought-through, wise action. We see alarming reports on global warming, numerous international conflicts, countless natural disasters, and an array of important additional long-neglected domestic issues.
Yet most people in our society are just trying to survive the overwhelm that comes from seeking to keep up on the many varied demands of everyday living.
With so much required of us, in so many different ways, what’s a mere human to do?
Picture a continuum with cumulative-chronic-daily-stress at one end, post-traumatic-stress at the other, with compassion-fatigue, vicarious-trauma, and trans-generational trauma somewhere in between. Unless you have found a lovely little tropical island hideaway as permanent residence, (and been fortunate enough to escape hurricane, tsunami and the effects of rising sea levels) most everyone in our society will fall somewhere on that continuum.
Good news / bad news: human beings are highly adaptive. That makes it easier to keep going when we need to. It also puts us at great risk to be living in a state that merely masks what is really going on, in other words, we stop feeling it. When we ‘stop feeling it’ we can mistakenly think we are far more ‘okay’ than we really are. While extreme stress can show up as hyper-vigilance, the opposite can also occur, where we stop fearing the thing we should and feel perfectly safe when we’re not. Many mistake a sense of psychic-numbing for being calm, when in fact they are distinctly different experiences.
Adaptations have limits, and over time, stop working. To ignore this is to gamble, risking that we lose out by compromising the quality of our relationships, unable to preserve our own health, and never fully living the quality of life we wish for.
Here is what I know. When our own needs get met, we feel better, and have more to give.
When our nervous system remembers how to access ‘calm’, we are more able to be emotionally present, pay attention, learn new things, have creative thoughts, access good judgment, be more generous and compassionate, and bring our best to relationships. Calm is essential for being able to genuinely ‘feel part of’ and connect with others; when we feel well-connected, we can maintain our calm longer. It helps us get out of self-defeating cycles, and enter ones that support our own well-being and enhance our quality of life with others.
We are also more likely to get a good night’s sleep.
As a starting place, I want to invite you to join me on May 17 for Introduction to Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE): An introductory level experiential mini workshop on chronic and traumatic stress, vicarious and trans-generational trauma, compassion fatigue, and recovery. Complete details are here.
I really hope you can be there.
Barbara English, LMFT
Founder & Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
[Ubuntu] n. Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human beings.