Looking at all Sides in Social and Historical Traumas

Our experiences shape us. We have difficulties and challenges that we face from our childhood, on through our adulthood. We have personal experiences that reflect who we are. These experiences can impact how we deal with our friendships, social engagements, careers, and even our romantic relationships. They can make it complicated to look at perceptions, others, and even ourselves from all sides.

Our identity can also be representative of labels. As humans, we put things into schemas. These can represent identities, which can also be reflected from others. It can make negotiation and openness complicated to find. It can make connection difficult to experience.

Despite the complications we face, it doesn’t change our inherent need to connect with others. We’re neurobiologically wired to connect with each other. For our ancestors, connection was survival. Disconnection was certain death. Without a group, early humans were easy pickings for predators and other threats in their environments. This continues to be part of who we are. We might not die without connection in our lives, but we certainly aren’t living as well.

This isn’t to say that we are to be connected with everyone. Sometimes, people aren’t a good fit to be in your life at a particular time. This is nothing more than holding solid boundaries.

At the same time, there are things that we can focus on practicing with people who have different life experiences. Generosity and empathy are important in understanding yourself, another person, and in practicing kindness. In order to move forward, this has to be offered. However, there are times where they can’t be offered as well.

Confusion About Generosity and Empathy

Many times there is a competition that people struggle to transcend. There is a competition of struggle. I will see this in marriages and relationships. Both people will try to prove that they have had the more difficult experience.

Then there are people who really have had difficult, complicated, and even abusive life situations. Others may deny this perception from them. Out of this anger and disconnection can happen. We often label these things as unhealthy, which is unfortunate. There are healthy, balanced ways to have these emotions and to experience boundaries, without discrediting the person who is having those experiences.

This is also why we tend to connect most readily to those who are most similar to us. There is less to explain. They will know and understand the feelings we have. They will likely even accept them, even when they’re considered taboo, because they have likely had them as well.

Where Are The Lines?

In my own life and my therapeutic practice, I truly believe that these intersections can be healed through the process of Somatic Experiencing (SE). A somatic therapist and mentor of mine pointed out to me and my colleagues that “regulation is always the most important thing.” When we are dealing with difficult, disconnective topics of identity, we are likely to become dysregulated. This simply reflects threat responses that we’ve lived with in our lives.

Through SE, you can look at your levels of tolerance. You can identify the aspects that you can offer some flexibility. This can include generosity. You can also identify the times where you need to protect yourself. Identifying this can mean that you can step away from the situation. It might even mean that you recognize that there is a discrepancy between what you want in the relationship, and the reality of what the relationship is.

However, SE isn’t the only way to work on this as well. You can also identify some of your own values and thought processes that can help you deal with differences. Through personal understanding of yourself, you’ll be better able to communicate with others. You’ll also recognize threat responses, and utilize strong resources in your life, rather than react to those who can’t offer empathy in return.

The Reality of Social and Historical Traumas

Looking at things from all sides means that we can also deal with intense topics such as social and historical traumas. For those who are part of communities and who have identities that have involved social disparities continue to carry these stories. These things are always difficult to talk about. However, healing involves processing through them as well. Thus, whether it’s in your friendships, career, or in your community, it’s important to find places of understanding.

Whether in Relationships or in Broader Context, Healing is Important… and Possible.

Through personal work, you can also identify where you can shift and release what has been bound from some of your own experiences. We all have a story to share. Some of our stories are verbal stories. Some of our stories are built into our bodies. All of these stories can benefit from understanding, empathy, and connection.

  1. After 19 years on SSI disability following multiple incidences of blackouts, seizures, and losing time, my original diagnosis (driven largely by my family) was psychiatric. Twelve years of relentless psychotropics, ECT, and nearly open-brain surgery (“just make her able to work again”), I OD’d (purposely); had an NDE; began to meditate, and titrated myself off of medication. Still, in my disability, I had been returned to the family I had left in order to stay alive; actually in order to live at all…In March 2015, when Hopelessness again overwhelmed me, I saw a doctor who had helped me leave a hospital I had been in during the psyche med years. He changed my diagnosis to cPTSD and prescribed prazosin PM. The very next morning I awakened to a different world and could no longer allow myself to dissociate from the fact that every day spent near the mother I had been born to was a re-opening of my originally devastating developmental wounds. During this time of awakenings I found an SE therapist and have made greater progress in nine months than in 15 years of talk therapy (even with two skilled and caring therapists).

    The body holds experiences until one is adequately prepared and sufficiently willing to See. Then, when a certain psycho-nervous equanimity has been allowed, the body produces the reveal and one can receive and integrate the Awareness. I am only at my beginning following a 59 year prelude.

    Blogs such as this are lighthouses that attract and remain in the consciousnesses of the wounded like me, and can eventually lead them to healing no matter how long the voyage to arrive there. Thank you, Michael, for your writing and your light.

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