In the professional world–the educated, organized, and well-resourced world, we shape things with lingo. We call something by a new name, and then we can work with it differently.
We aim to out-think things that don’t know how to think. We measure, analyze, ponder, brainstorm, apply, and reiterate the cycle.
We endeavor to deconstruct and investigate all the smallest pieces of a problem. Then we reconstruct, amplifying the good and casting off the bad. If we’re aware of our human tendency toward overconfidence, we keep the cast off parts. We might find out we needed them after all.
Today I’m focusing on something that’s happening with trauma. Components of the professional world are trying to un-name it, rename it, and shuffle the work. Trauma is getting more air and attention than ever before, and more funding.
It’s become trendy to be trauma-focused, and that’s a good thing, but this is also about many of us making our own individual bodies of work. If our lingo is softer, better, or more accurate, we are using creativity well, but we must remember that trauma itself hasn’t changed. Trauma doesn’t care what you call it, or un-call it.
The proper response to trauma has always been the same–kindness, diligence, and care. Healthy, informed nurturance. While our societal response to trauma is starting to change, it’s still mediocre enough that funding agencies are breathing new life into trauma-informed approaches.
We’ve gotten better at noticing how it impacts us as organisms, and how its ripple effects are strong enough to knock us to the ground…no matter how adept, resourceful, or strong we are. And we understand how those same ripple effects can rock our communities.
We understand now that we can stand back up, every time, and even so, all of this looks about as graceful as Zach Galifianakis’s staged falls. Resilience is a word that sounds good, but it’s actually unwieldy and even a little clunky, before it’s as smooth as its linguistic representation.
What I’m noticing is this: We can’t seem to stop reacting to the wounds, when they are bleeding right in front of us. No matter how trauma-informed we are, we seem to forget that it’s not about the traumas, the lingo, or the scaffolding we diligently put in place for our students, clients, or community members. We can’t make it go away by “doing it right.”
We have yet to embrace that the wounds matter, even if self-inflicted and seemingly perpetual. That’s a part of it. Until we can see the wounds, fully, and understand that they matter, and model to the rest of the world how to see the wounds without flinching, personalizing, blasting, or turning away, we won’t be getting anywhere. Call it whatever you want.
It’s about our ability as members of a society to recognize that each of us is constrained, affected, or even significantly impaired by the circumstances we have navigated prior to the exact moment that’s unfolding now. And though there are moments where the bleeding stops, it always needs tending. Tending to our wounds is exhausting, and so is the alternative.
It’s about striving to understand how we are all either doing our best, learning to do our best, or not supported enough to do anything but stand up and fall back down so many times that we just begin to sit. And maybe bleed.
It’s about how we put structures in place that are warm, welcoming, well-boundaried, and consistent. It’s about how we bring science to the table and employ it with sophistication and nuance. It’s about dignity, and it’s about managing our assumptions, judgments, and reactions.
It’s about setting our own wounds aside to attend to the needs of another, without taking over the responsibility for them. It’s about kindness and firmness, in balance–a handful of each. A pocketful of each. A truckload of each.
And its about rest, and playing well, and sleeping, and using intoxicants with caution and in moderation. It’s about drinking enough water, taking the damn supplements or medications, and it’s about sitting in your own body, and wondering if you’ve ever even made friends with yourself. It’s about understanding there is no autopilot without consequences. There is good rest, and there is checking out.
If you work, live, or neighbor with individuals impacted by trauma, you can talk about self care, but really, it’s time to dig deeper, into self love. Self care without self love is small fuel. Self care that digs into, and parallels the meatier topic of self love, is fuel for the winter.