It seems to me that in the Pre-Trump Era (PTE) there were trigger warnings popping up every time we blinked, preceding all but the most neutered of media offerings. “Careful, now – hearing/watching/reading this bit of information may just bring up some nasty memories from your past! (and we don’t want to be sued for that!)” Has anyone else noticed that there’s significantly less of these niceties now? The present U.S. President has lowered the bar on political correctness so far as to allow precious few of us to limbo easily under, safely untriggered….
I recently had to tell a young woman that if she was unwilling to be triggered, she’d better not come to see me. My understanding is that to heal our wounding, we must bravely go where no one (in our families) has gone before, diving into our cellular memories to become aware of, to feel, and to then have the opportunity to release the pain and trauma that we have inherited through generations and carefully maintained as essential aspects of Who We Are.
Crippling PTSD is experienced by war veterans, survivors of sexual abuse, crime victims, survivors of natural disasters, survivors of terrorist attacks, refugees from war-stricken lands…the list is expanding exponentially. The same symptoms can be found, though, in those who have experienced systemic racism and misogyny, whose families are hiding secrets… really, in everyone who has felt enough shame to hide their true thoughts and feelings from the world. Precious few of us are free of somatised trauma.
We are the sum total of all the stories that have been told about us – this is an ancient understanding of the world’s wisdom traditions and indigenous cultures, and is finally being tentatively accepted by western scientific communities.
Just think about the history of humanity on this planet. If you believe in past lives, just how many of them do you think are likely to have ended peacefully at a ripe old age? Even if you don’t believe that the soul reincarnates, what about our biological family histories?
What do you really know about your ancestors – the people who programmed the DNA blueprint from which your body emerged? Do you know anything about the lives and struggles that have created your life and body? Chances are that it has not all been bouquets and picnics….
[The Prince of Wales hosts the legendary 19th Century Gathering of the Clans. Identified are the Chieftains of the Clans Cameron, Campbell, Chisholm, Farquharson, Fraser, Forbes, Gordon, Graham, MacDonald, MacDonnell, MacFarlane, MacGregor, MacIntosh, MacKenzie, MacLachlan, MacLean, MacNab, MacPherson, MacRae, Munro, Murray, Ross, Scott, Stewart, Sutherland.]
It used to be that when tribes or clans gathered, or when ceremonies were held,the participants would announce who they were by reciting their genealogies. Names of the ancestors were spoken in recognition of their presence, physically in the blood and bones of the speaker, as well as in spirit, as they were called into the circle.
How many generations back are you able to name your People..? There may be a few sheets of paper somewhere that Cousin Martha has put together because she’s into that sort of thing – a diagram of connected and broken lines – a short-hand for lives/unions made, lived, dissolved…. Can you summon the names of your predecessors from memory, and with a feeling for the flesh-and-blood people who carried those names?
Most of us cannot, but nevertheless, we are more and more aware that we carry the stories of our ancestors in our bones and blood – in our DNA. Intergenerational trauma is finally being recognised as a major factor in the understanding and treatment of addiction, depression, and other self-destructive states. Family histories of suffering and/or joy and accomplishment become our personal measures of value and success.
Over the course of a few decades of listening to people’s stories of trauma and suffering, I’ve come to believe that we’ve all ended up with PTSD, and that the the reason for this boils down to the fact that we have learned to define personal value as having power over something or someone.
Pyramidal structures of social hierarchy arose so long ago that we believe them to be natural and inevitable. Studies of animal communities undertaken to understand the evolution of social organizations are based in the assumption that there will always be competition for resources – food, territory, or mating partners – and that power hierarchies are a natural result of this struggle. Any given population will expand to the limit of available resources, power dynamics will result, and the population will then stabilise to a place of equilibrium with its environment.
Although most discourse on the topic assumes that scarcity of resources will inevitably create a power hierarchy, the opposite is also true, and pyramidal hierarchies depend on scarcity – on the fear of not having Enough. We’ve established that often the intelligent, connected and wily are those that will reach the apexes of power, but it doesn’t take a degree in marketing to figure out that as long as people believe they need and desire something that we can provide, we’ve got it made!
This pyramid paradigm perhaps began with brute dominance – the Right of Might…the Law of the Jungle…eat or be eaten. Testosterone and adrenaline were required to push dominant individuals to the top of the Physical Survival pecking order and maintain their position once they got there. Being quick of mind also helps us survive, though, as does heightened intuition and other-dimensional perception – if one is not able to dominate physically, either in strength or in beauty/fertility, one can find power in other ways. Those over whom we have power may have others under their power and control, extending our influence and increasing our perceived personal worth. Although at some point, the human brain proved equal if not more powerful than brawn, it still takes a huge and constant expenditure of energy to plot, manipulate and negotiate one’s way to the pinnacles of power and stay there (Have any of you watched A Lion in Winter?). Power/control/dominance became a commodity available to anyone with the stomach and stamina to achieve and maintain it.
The ‘beauty‘ of this setup is that wherever you are in the pyramid, you can find someone below you. The employee at the bottom of the food chain in a factory, subject to the whims of overseers and bosses, can go home and beat his wife, who yells at the kids who torture the dog. You’ll probably also agree that when we are tired and people ask us for things (i.e. When we are maybe not so sure we can provide what they want and maintain our image as The Person in Power), we tend to get cranky – even nasty. Just think about being an exhausted parent….
Actually, when I think about it, it’s been suggested that the pyramidal power paradigm took over when certain cultures made their supreme deity into a bossy Big Daddy. Maybe he just got reeeeeeally tired…?
Most of the colonial settlers who came from Europe were fleeing something – saving some treasured part of their identities from annihilation. True to time-honoured human tradition, they turned around and attempted to obliterate identities of the communities they found once they got here. The cultures that value domination have run rough-shod over those based in cooperation for millennia.
These days, traditional earth-based societies that never relinquished the Circle of Equality for the Pyramid of Hierarchy are rare, but many indigenous people have held on to their traditions, and kept them alive in oral teachings that could not be wholly destroyed as long as some of their people survived.
The abused will abuse, the powerless will dominate with whatever power is sprinkled their way – we have see-sawed back and forth between extremes of power-defined dualities through generations and generations. Those of us who define ourselves as poor, powerless victims often bolster our sense of self by considering ourselves morally superior – which is still a manifestation of the need to have some sort of power over someone.
I feel it’s important to recognise that the infamous 1% learned to be avaricious – loss of ancestral lands and wealth, betrayal by ‘others’ – a confluence of painful situations cultivated the need to accrue material wealth as security – the only ‘true’ security. The privilege accorded to the wealthy has been predicated on disempowerment of the have-nots, and the slow-grinding wheels of time have left many of us with the perception that The Rich and The Poor are real and permanent categories of existence – the only ones that count.
The language of activism so often revolves around these polarities. We will wrest power from the hands of those presently in control. We must never relinquish The Struggle – demanding/fighting/opposing with all our might. But duality is a closed system. There are only 2 options, and any ‘change’ is a flip-flop of extremes from heads to tails, black to white, in power to powerless, ad nauseum.
I, for one, am grateful for the people and situations that land in my path and wreak havoc in my life! I believe that a wiser part of myself called them to me so that I can be ‘triggered’ (not a word I normally use ). The more intense an emotional reaction I have to something or someone, the deeper in my unconscious resides the original memory that is being activated.
Emotions are running very high these days for many of us who have declared to the Multiverse that we wish to manifest the clearest, most light-filled versions of Ourselves. Old themes that we thought had been dealt with lifetimes ago are rising, consciousness Whack-a-Moles, giving us another shot before they duck down into our bellies again to hide – until the next trigger!
When we’ve been taught that ‘negative’ emotions are not ‘spiritual’, we can end up judging ourselves pretty harshly. The thing is, when we can stop bashing the stuff coming up – when we can manage to witness difficult thoughts and emotions with an amused curiosity rather than shrivelling shame, they gradually just fade away! It’s the most amazing, miraculous, liberating experience – and accessible to anyone with the intention to live it….