Is it time to give up all hope that this pandemic and its mandatory pause might help us build a better society? Seems like it. We’re literally coming out of this pandemic guns blazing in the United States. 45 mass shootings in 30 days. Then today, Kenosha and Austin, with Austin mere hours after Ted Cruz ranted on Fox that “Biden wants to take your guns.” Meanwhile he rakes in hundreds of thousands in gun lobby money. Station KHOU-11 reported, “…during the 2018 election cycle Ted Cruz was the biggest recipient of money from gun rights backers with $311,151. For comparison the next highest recipient was Martha McSally in Arizona who got just over $228,000.” OpenSecrets.org reports he was the third highest all-time recipient with $749, 317. Mitt Romney was first with over $1M. The top 20 recipients of gun lobby money are all Republicans. When a politician is interviewed about an issue, we could at the very least put the total dollar amount they received from pertinent lobbies on the damned TV screen.
This week also meant another Black man, only 20 years old, killed by a police officer about ten miles from the Chauvin trial in Minnesota. A 13 year old boy with his hands up shot dead by a Chicago police officer. And the interconnectedness cries out for our attention. As The Sparrow Project pointed out, “George Floyd’s partner was Daunte Wright’s teacher. US Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario’s uncle was Eric Garner. Fred Hampton’s mother babysat Emmitt Till.” We keep saying, “Enough is enough,” but clearly that is not the case.
In examining my own outrage, I’ve discovered something that is tied to my own trauma. It’s easy for those of us who grew up with a lot of trauma to get incensed over injustice. We experienced our caretakers not taking care of us, causing pain and chaos instead of protecting and nurturing us. Childhood trauma is massively unjust and unfair. But what I’ve seen in myself — the past few years especially — is my use of the current political climate to quench the primal need to ride the adrenaline storms I experienced as a child in a traumatic, unpredictable household including the crash that comes with not being able to do anything about it. With social media, I keep riding that roller coaster. I cannot always get my adult to stop the ride. Outrage, anger, helplessness… it’s a familiar cycle and profoundly unhelpful without meaningful action. It doesn’t solve anything and it keeps me too distracted to work on the problems or pay attention to what I actually need. Emotionally, it keeps me mired in the past. Many of us are the embodiment of the New Yorker cartoon that noted, “My desire to be well-informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane.” Perpetually so.
This realization arose during the thrice weekly conversations I have with a close friend. We each came from households with quiet, passive fathers and caustic, abusive mothers. Our current working solution (in addition to longer social media breaks) is to concentrate on small acts of self-love and on the inner work with the hope that it makes a difference in the outer world. And she had the insight of coaxing the Inner Child (IC) to grow up. She’s on to something. My IC was sexually, physically, and emotionally abused and is often sad, hurt, withdrawn, angry, and sometimes in collapse. My IC can also be sassy and joyful and fun and spontaneous. But bottom line is my IC should not be running the show. Or staying on that roller coaster all hours.
What if my Inner Child grew up within me to match where I am now? What if I lived a heart-centered life instead of my old coping mechanism where my head tries to figure out everything in an attempt to feel safe? What if my IC grew to feel safe and not have the same repeated reactions wielding the same unconscious subterfuge in my life? What if I didn’t spend all that time flooding my adrenal system with outrage, no matter how justified? I might even discover enough bandwidth to consider how to help with the societal problems.
I don’t have answers. Not yet. I just know that what I’ve been doing individually and what we’re doing collectively isn’t working. We need to consider new possibilities, new viewpoints, new questions while we still can, beginning with an act that is radical for trauma survivors: self-love.