How to start to heal from trauma

Here in the home of the brave, the rugged, macho, eternally prevailing individual in a winner/loser culture where a real man will shoot you in the face to take what you have, as long as the law allows it, you might as well pack it in if you’re weak, or squeamish, or traumatized.

In playing the game as it is laid out here and trying to compete as though this culture of indifference, addiction and exploitation is “normal,” you can easily lose the thing that makes us humans in the best sense of the word — empathy. The quality that makes people rush into a fire to save a crying baby they never met.

Dr. Gabor Maté, who has made his life’s study the effects of trauma and various addictions, drugs, junk food, work, exercise, avoidance, danger, self-destruction, recently wrote a book called The Myth of Normal. Some of the craziest, most damaged and destructive people I’ve ever met have been obsessed with the idea that they are the most normal people in the world. They are so normal that they will kill you before they will ever look at their own behavior, their own pain, their own trauma. Maté quotes James Baldwin “not everything that’s faced can be healed, but nothing that’s not faced can be healed.”

You can hear an excellent interview with Gabor Maté here:

DR. GABOR MATÉ:  Well, the key here is trauma. Trauma is a psychological wound that people sustain. And I’m saying that in this society, most of us, because of the nature of the culture, the way we raise children, the way we have to relate to each other, the very values of a society are traumatizing for a lot of people, so that it’s false to say that some people are normal and others are abnormal. In fact, we’re all on a spectrum of woundedness, which has great impact on how we relate to each other and on our health.

And when you isolate people, atomize them, you make them feel guilty or weak for their illness, and tell them to get over their trauma, you’re just shaming them more, you’re isolating them more, and you’re entrenching them more in a traumatic imprint.

What people need is community, contact, compassion, safety. That’s what allows people to work through their traumas. And unfortunately, that’s not really available.

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