What if our worldview just can’t perceive climate change? Why trauma recovery is essential.

A couple of weeks ago I had a meeting in Carlsbad. As I drove south on the I-5 freeway, the coastal view was beautiful. I began to reflect on how I have lived my entire life in Southern California. While I complain about many aspects of what life is like living in Orange County, there are so many other aspects that I really love and appreciate. As I continued to ponder the beauty of the ocean, I felt a wave of deep grief and sadness. How long would it look like this? How long until living in Southern California is no longer a great place to live? Beyond those questions I felt deep sorrow about where we are at this point in time as a species, and for how greatly alienated from and abusive toward Mother Earth we have been and continue to be.

I never pictured moving from this area – until recently. Now, as I absorb the very grave state of our planet including the implications of the current, ongoing, devastating drought in California, I have come to realize there might come a time I will need to leave, and possibly many others also.

Last week due to attending the Jewish World Watch event honoring Intel for the progress they have made in establishing a conflict-free supply chain for minerals, (BTW it was a great event!) I had the opportunity to visit The Museum of Tolerance for the first time. In one section of the museum dedicated to The Holocaust, there is a scene as if in a Berlin restaurant right before The Holocaust began. The audio portrays a conversation between a husband and wife. The wife is Jewish and terrified about what is going to happen. The husband is not Jewish and he seeks to reassure her that nothing bad will happen as there are too many Germans with good intentions that would never allow it. It really got to me as of course we all know what happened in reality. And how many times in history have similar conversations taken place in other situations?

Beyond the many genocides and mass atrocities of our time, it once again made me think about global warming.

Last Sunday, Orange County for Climate Action (OCCA) screened the film The 11th Hour. We had a great turn-out and a lively discussion afterwards. Yet — in the film, the human race is described as suffering from a ‘Thought Disorder’. There is growing evidence that catastrophic consequences are already beginning to occur from not heeding global warming’s early warning signs – yet we continue for the most part as if nothing bad is going to happen. I have literally heard from some – don’t worry – someone out there will do something about it. Also – oh, we have always been at risk that something could wipe us out (shrug).

BTW: did anyone see HBO’s Newsroom this week (see video clip above)? And — We Fact Checked Aaron Sorkin’s Climate Science on “The Newsroom”.

I look around and it all looks so normal and people for the most part don’t seem to be alarmed. Yet, recent headlines are downright terrifying: NASA Study Concludes When Civilization Will End, And It’s Not Looking Good for Us.

Now this is what is really starting to freak me out. We humans are only capable of living within the worldview that we possess. What if that template hasn’t integrated the potential scenario of catastrophic extinction into it – i.e. doesn’t / can’t perceive the catastrophic damage to this earth that we are doing that if continued unchecked might extinct us all and myriad other species? If that is true we might be relying upon a map to maneuver through this world that is extremely out-of-date, a grossly limited ‘GPS’ system. What if these limitations are contributing to us being so mis-guided that we literally can’t see what we are doing?

I keep thinking about Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) and Dr. David Berceli’s material on Belief Systems.

The worldviews we are raised with are often small and teach us to expect good outcomes — they leave us ill-prepared for the inevitable: traumatic events. Trauma comes in as a ‘shatterer’ of those worldviews because it wasn’t part of that prior template. Yet, trauma is universal. Life-threatening events that are totally unexpected do in fact occur — to all of us – it’s part of life — the part we mostly don’t see coming.

When worldviews get shattered, either one pulls deeper into a tight defensive posture – a contraction — and remains stuck, e.g. suspiciously on-guard, bitter, resentful and continuing to focus on self-survival only – OR – by resolving trauma, through the reflective, healing process, one comes out on the other side of it with an expanded worldview that has integrated the traumatic experience into it. With this expanded worldview there is the ‘knowing’ about the many forms of suffering we encounter as part of this life. There is more room for pursuit of the common good, and the empathy and compassion that come from having known suffering and healing.

Dave talks about the wisdom born of trauma and the great leaders of this world. Their own lives included trauma. As they reflected upon what had happened, they saw humanity in a different light. They came through their suffering with profoundly deep insights and essential clarity on what needed to occur for the positive evolution of the human race. Too often their wisdom was utterly rejected. Why? Because the masses had not undergone the same experiences. They had not gone through the healing transformation that is a necessity to bring one into wisdom.

The inner development of compassion, caring and sensitivity to the pain of humanity emerges as a result of recovering from one’s own painful experiences of life.
 – Dr. David Berceli

My fear with global warming is that it is so pervasively catastrophic, going so quickly already and qualitatively momentum-building – and we have already (as a species) successfully tuned it out for so long in its early stages – that by the time it successfully impinges upon our current worldview – there won’t be any time left for redemption. Some damage is already occurring that we can’t “undo”. How much further will we go into the destruction before it truly, fully enters our perception? And how far into the exponentially expanding momentum will we be at that point?

Without felt access to the body’s vibrancy, the mind becomes disconnected from not only the body, but also from nature and others.
– Frederic Lowen

We have got to heal our own trauma and help others do the same. To me, this is one of the most urgent silent contributors to what might make us truly doomed. Stress and Trauma decrease receptivity, and increase overwhelm. With templates that can’t perceive the impending catastrophe, and nervous systems that can’t take in and make use of new scary info – rapidly advancing mass trauma recovery is essential as a foundation for change. This will require swimming upstream since the globe already has a mass epidemic of trauma – and the effects of climate change will greatly and rapidly increase the number of traumatized on this earth.

The thing is – trauma is something we can recover from. There is no reason for us to just keep suffering from it – the hope within the despair is – human beings can heal from trauma and when they do they become more compassionate and able to pursue the common good.

Living in a contracted state blocks our ability to perceive the rhythm of the natural world we are part of. The more we deny the need to heal – the contraction just continues to hold us in its very tight grip, deadening us so that we have no ability to resonate with the “all”. By contrast, when we heal, we can perceive more and more how to live harmoniously with all that is around us. We can be restored into a deeply felt sense of belonging to one another, and within one another. This can extend far beyond the human race into how we sit within the entirety of the natural world.

In the world of “I’m fine” and “I wish I could, but I am far too busy” this call for healing may go unheard. The very survival system that saves us is also good at adapting. It can leave us with the false impression that we are more okay than we really are.

So let’s just call it what it is – at this point in our history, we are ALL stressed out and traumatized to some extent. We just differ as to where we fall on the continuum.

This era of human history is witnessing tremendous trauma on a global scale. It seems impossible to try and stop such tragedy despite our greatest desires to do so. In light of this unstoppable, irreversible and seemingly self-destructive era of our humanity, we need to ask: What possible good can come of all this violence? Once again, if we view trauma as a part of life, we must consider the possibility that the large scale trauma that we are experiencing has the potential of helping us evolve into a more ethical, moral and caring species. This global trauma can be viewed as the pain of the human species going through the birthing canal to be born into a new era of human consciousness.
– Dr. David Berceli

We do have choices. So often we wait for disaster to force our hand, yet it doesn’t have to be that way. We can choose to pursue healing. We can choose to make lifestyle choices that are more harmonious with the natural world. We can make many, many choices that contribute to the common good, and if enough people all did this together – it would make an enormous difference in our ultimate human fate. We could even create cumulative healthy pressure to press upon those in power to change their paths too.

We can do so much to change the path we are on — the question is: will we?

For those who want to know more about how to pursue releasing the self-limiting contraction in order to move into a more whole and compassionate state, please consider attending Toward a More Peaceful World January 17 & 18 at Golden West College. Learning TRE from the one who created it, Dr. David Berceli, is an excellent way to start the process of healing and we are thrilled that he will be coming to Orange County as we celebrate ten years as an organization. He has taught millions of people all over the world how to recover – I can’t think of a better role model for showing us all how this paradigm shift can take place.

Barbara English is a licensed Marriage Family Therapist with over 20 years of experience in the field. As a Certified Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises Provider and Certified Bioenergetic Therapist, she works from a mind-body perspective, and utilizes relational somatic methods as part of the process toward healing and a sense of well-being. Much of her training has focused on Early Development, Infant Mental Health, and healing after abuse or trauma. She is the co-founder and Executive Director of Living Ubuntu, and a 2009 Carl Wilkens Fellow.

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