Your weekly reminder to back up your data, update software and otherwise pay attention to your digital environment. (Oh, and to head to the CRASH Space meeting…)
Zone 02, “identity,” how to increase the chances they you’re you and they’re them when interacting with people online… except today I don’t really care. I have a part of my identity that’s important to me to me today. I come from a NYC family. I lived a life, until I moved here, that made me a citizen of the Boston-Washington corridor all the way. Almost two decades ago something really really awful happened in multiple places that I love all at once. My feelings got complicated, watching people all over the country take that event on as their own trauma. Which they do to this day. The race to react on a political level was even more disturbing, challenged by only one voice, Barbara Lee. You can watch a video of Lee’s speech here about voting against the Authorization to Use Military Force in Afghanistan. (Transcript) The most quoted line from that speech, itself a quote, meant so much to me, “Let us not become the evil we deplore.” She released an op-ed about her decision via the San Francisco chronicle a few days later. To this day, she persists.
We’ve since committed war crimes as nation as a direct result of that resolution. Starting tomorrow, children who weren’t even born when it happened can be sent to fight in Afghanistan still. We now reject any investigation into our behavior by the International Criminal Court. We rushed to react. We rush to deflect. We rush towards devastating mistakes.
I would love to rage and point fingers away from myself. Sadly, I know too well the squirm away from trauma that starts deep in the bones. The defensive flinch-punch reflex happens from legislatures to living rooms. We all cause tremendous damage willing ourselves to be “one of the good ones,” pretending to be the righteous victim in the face of another’s pain. To be fair, sitting with pain and ugliness and grief without immediately judging it requires practice. Most of us do not come from backgrounds free of intergenerational family trauma with parents capable of teaching this skill. Frankly, anyone who’s spent even a minute consuming media needs a giant dose of narcissistic abuse recovery.
Normally in this space I’d yammer on about protecting against identity theft rather than identity development, but security threats come from humans. Some times, we are that human. Sometimes, in protecting ourselves, we engage in the behaviors we’re most afraid of. We become the evil we deplore. Taking a look at what’s in the emotional attic leads to smarter choices on every level. Actual choices, rather than reflexes.
I don’t have all the answers by any stretch of the imagination. On what remains a deeply solemn day to me, I can only offer some things that have helped me try not to pass on my own traumas:
- Learning to create space before reacting: When I start to flinch, I have to focus on my breath, feel the tension in my body, and exhale through the tension. Only then can I engage with the challenge to my identity rather than just react to it. Here in SoCal meditation teachers simply abound, but Pema Chödrön is frequently cited as one of the experts on using it to heal trauma, when there is no escape. Her vibe doesn’t suit everyone, so Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction might be more your jam. I gave more info in a Relax section in March.
- Learning to notice & record what’s happening: I can recommend Moodnotes as an app that doesn’t suck your data into their cloud. For those that prefer paper, the Feeling Good Handbook remains a CBT classic.
- Physically getting out of the usual routine: Where ever you go, there you are. Take your shadow on a date, a full on pilgrimage or just to a new cafe with a journal. I mean it. Be kind to your shadow. Take it out and show it a good time. Then be quiet and listen.
- Having a routine to return to: Sitting with heartbreak requires energy. Having known behaviors to default back into makes that a less consuming process. Here’s some help for items beyond the scope of the Tuesday Sweep.
- Reading/Playing stories: Fiction works better for me. It’s a safe place to try on feelings at an emotional remove.
- Having a witness: Find a counselor who can be with you while you process. If you don’t have one and things have already gotten too much please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
Good luck out there. Your efforts are worth it.