Trauma is real. Each human soul sits inside a protected space and when those necessary boundaries are crossed uninvited, we feel violated. It can range from something as seemingly small as an offhand disparaging comment and move up in intensity to a bike getting stolen to getting beat up to getting raped. The trauma lodges in our cellular memory and pierces our soul. We don’t feel safe, we don’t trust, we feel wounded and sometimes take on the notion that somehow we caused it ourselves, it’s our fault. We build a necessary armor around our heart simply to survive. And we don’t ever forget.
But as thousands of people can testify, we can finally heal. But the process is slow, slow, slow and needs the full force of our resilience, our courage, our ability to forgive and the full support of those around us. And we never can heal completely, that cellular memory lurks in us like a stalker biding his time.
A friend recently told a story on Facebook of two times when she was raped and how Trump’s face and attitude calls up those painful memories of violation. I responded:
“Hard to press "like," but I share your sentiments and admire your courage in sharing those difficult stories. We all carry different degrees of our personal trauma and now share a common political trauma. No surprise that the same feelings surface. But remember that Good Will Hunting line "It's not our fault." We may have underestimated that undigested hate in this country, but we ourselves did not invite it. Let's stay strong through the habit of open-hearted vulnerability, which includes outrage and fierce refusal to accept evil.”
But how indeed are we going to manage to do this? No one puts up a photo of the person who violated them on the wall to see day after day, but we have four years ahead of that face on the news and in the papers. I went to a rally yesterday and tried to join in on the “Not my President” chant, but that doesn’t take away the shame I feel that I live in a country that chose him. Even though I know in my head that it wasn’t my fault, the rest of me feels tainted and dirty and disgraced to show my U.S. passport when I travel. What seems like a mere political problem has become a collective psychological problem, over half the nation feeling like their delicate heart of hope has been violated without our consent. We are a nation in trauma and healing will not come from a couple of pills and a therapeutic shopping trip. This needs attention and a lot of it and the right kind of it.
Like many, I’m not doing well. Some days the sun shines bright and the birds sing and I believe them. Other days I hear Christmas carols of love and peace in the coffee shop and want to vomit. Mostly I’m hiding inside the 88 keys of the piano, but even Bach fails to console me. That’s rare. Right now I’m watching old re-runs of the TV Series The Defenders from 1961, trying to reach that innocent time of my childhood and a world where the good guys cared about issues and the bad guys got put in prison instead of the White House. No, it was not the good old days, but some of it was, a sense of common ground in what constituted basic decency and an agreement to be upset when the veils hiding the evil were revealed. Now no need to even pretend. Just say it straight out and get elected.
I have no idea how to move forward, but suggest that calling it by its right name— a collective national trauma of massive violation where the rapists walk free— might be a necessary start to some future healing.
Meanwhile, I’m off to Disc 2, Season 1.