Originally posted on FB on April 28, 2019
“Your last two articles have really hit home for me. They’ve helped me understand trauma better. I’ve been doing a lot of work around healing my traumas. And I’ve learned a lot of acceptance for myself. I’m interested in this “fundamental acceptance” you talked about. How is it different from the acceptance you get once a trauma heals? Is it different?”
What does it mean to “heal a trauma”?
One way to look at it is to consider “trauma” to be the effect of some terrible or violent experience. When considered through this perspective trauma belongs to the victim. It is something that has been caused by one person or group to another person or group.
Children are traumatized by negligent or abusive parents. Some women are traumatized by abusive partners (and vice versa). Historically certain ethnic peoples have been traumatized through the control and colonization of their lands by foreign powers. Soldiers are traumatized by the horrors of war. The setup is more or less the same.
And in each of these cases our prescribed response is two fold: justice for the victims through proportionate punishment of the oppressing parties. Followed by a healing process for these victims, so that their trauma can be met, healed and eventually resolved.
Sometimes that trauma may indeed feel resolved and the individual may finally feel some acceptance around their own pain and what was done to them. Yet, this kind of acceptance is only partial. And that is because our understanding of trauma is only partial.
There is another way to look at trauma. Rather than the effect of what has been done by one person to another, we can think of trauma as the entire process. Trauma then includes the oppressor, the victim AND the act of oppression, exploitation or violence. The entire cycle is the traumatic experience.
And it is revelatory to see trauma this way because trauma IS cyclical. Trauma has no choice but to cause more trauma unless the cycle is FULLY resolved, not just partially. In other words, the healing process has just as much to do with the oppressor and the traumatic act as it has to do with the victim. And resolution can happen only when all three have been met with understanding and finally acceptance. Only then can acceptance be complete.
Typically victims of trauma suffer from deep feelings of shame and self-loathing. This shame is debilitating and so a lot of trauma therapy centres around addressing these feelings of shame. Shame is quite a common human experience. And shame is quite different from guilt.
To put it simply, guilt is a sense of “what I’ve DONE is wrong”. While, shame is a sense of “who I AM is wrong”. They are fundamentally different things because guilt relates to our deeds whereas shame relates to our being. It is far simpler to change one’s behaviour than to change one’s self. Which is why shame is such an insidious feeling. It is amorphous and hard to pin down.
Guilt is resolved in a much more straightforward manner. One can show remorse, one can atone, one can rectify one’s behaviour and make amends. But shame is not easily resolved this way. In fact, even after a lifetime spent atoning and doing good deeds the feeling of shame can still be just as pervasive. Ask any good catholic what that feels like and they won’t hesitate to share.
Which is why in lieu of a clear strategy on how to deal with shame we resort to the next best thing. Shifting “shame to blame”.
This is how a lot of trauma victims learn to cope. Having taken a psychological beating not only from their oppressors but also from themselves, they come to a point where they realize that they shouldn’t be holding themselves responsible for what happened to them. This is certainly a crucial realization. But the next question is: then who IS responsible?
And the clear candidate then becomes the oppressing person or group that was responsible for the act in the first place. This shifting of shame to blame can feel extremely liberating for the victim because they feel free of the burden of “there is something wrong with me”. Now it’s a sense of “there is something wrong with THEM”. And this can be a motivating feeling especially when one receives the support of others who share in the sentiment.
And so, one may “feel” one has resolved their own trauma and learned to accept themselves but this isn’t entirely true. The trauma hasn’t been resolved. It still exists within us. We have just redirected it now. And that trauma is kept alive by a sense of “seeking justice”.
This is the energy that drives most of the Social Justice Warrior culture so prevalent in society today. It is this feeling of “I was traumatized. I’ve learned to deal with that fact. And now I’m going to make sure no one is ever traumatized in that way again.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. When unjust acts happen, justice must be served. This is the basis of a just society. Yet, there is a difference between assigning guilt and assigning blame. It is essentially the same as the difference between feeling guilt and feeling shame.
If I say you are guilty of something, I am judging your deed. And it is imperative that we judge these deeds correctly. Yet, when I blame you, I am judging who you are. Rather than holding you responsible for your actions I am now holding you responsible for your very existence.
Which is why SJWs are not merely content with demanding justice be served. They are obsessed with labeling people as bigots, racists, mysoginists, homophobes, transphobes, fascists, rape apologists and so on. As if the entire existence of a human being could be summed up in a single act.
And yet, that is what they have learned to do with themselves when they originally bore the burden of their traumas. They saw themselves through the lens of shame: the lens that seeks to reduce the being to a mere label, symbol or identifier. And so, that shame is just redirected in the form of blame. And it seeks retribution by reducing other beings to nothing more than labels, symbols and identifiers.
Trauma begets more trauma.
The only way to break that cycle is to see the entire cycle as the experience of trauma. And if acceptance must be found it must seek to resolve the dynamic as a whole.
This means we develop a compassionate understanding of ourselves as the victims but also of the other as the oppressor. We understand that if this is a cycle then the oppressor was once a victim too. And if it is a cycle then we victims will one day be the oppressors as well. The only way the cycle ends is when there are no longer any victims or oppressors. There is only the traumatic act. And that also must be then be reflected upon with compassion and understanding.
That is when acceptance becomes total. Then there is no further fuel that burns within us requiring a sacrificial scapegoat. We are willing to sacrifice neither ourselves nor our oppressors to that fire. The rule of law is something else entirely. But I’m referring to spiritual law here.
While total acceptance relates to specific traumas, it is not the “fundamental acceptance” I referred to in my post THE FUNDAMENTAL ANXIETY.
The “fundamental acceptance” is seeing that ALL of life is a traumatic experience. Simply put, life is suffering. And there are cycles of trauma within cycles of trauma, from the personal to the global level, which feed into each other in endless tides. This is the human condition in a nutshell.
And this fundamental acceptance dawns when one understands that the we are not the victims of some unforgiving fate, nor is there some invisible oppressing force that threatens to cause us misery and suffering. There is only life. And it can be painful, but that pain is, and always has been, a necessary part of it. There is no shame in one’s existence nor is there blame to assign elsewhere.
There is total responsibility for life JUST as it is.
The fundamental acceptance is no less than a compassionate understanding of the very root mechanism of the trauma cycle. And from it a total acceptance of trauma of all kinds is simply the default stance.