Why are humans so hard on each other? You would think we would have evolved to be more compassionate, forgiving and understanding. After all, we are the same species! But instead we judge, look down on, separate from. We act as if we are completely different species that feed on the same small scraps of food…..tearing away at each other to get to the bits that we feel will sustain us, looking like a primal need to be more when inside it is a feeling of being less. Of having less.
I believe a large part of the problems of the world is trauma, not only our own, but our inherited and community trauma. We see each other through our own damages and our protection of those damages. And since trauma arouses the fear part of us, we are wary of each other, afraid that someone will take what we perceive we have.
Here is a scenario:
My father was gone to war for a long time. When he was gone, life was a struggle, for food, for survival. I knew there was a war and I knew we were in some kind of danger on some level, but didn’t really understand. I was too young. Then the war ended and a strange man came home to live with us. I didn’t know this man but he was despondent sometimes, violent sometimes, drank sometimes. I began to wish for wartime again when he wasn’t here.
I learned to stay away from him in his dark moods and run when he drank, but sometimes that wasn’t enough. Sometimes I was caught. I slept with a hallway light on because night time was the scariest time….no where to run. And so, as soon as I could, I left the house. I got away.
I didn’t know how to behave in a way other than the way I grew up. Those fears that were instilled in me became my core beliefs. I was wary, on guard, untrusting, alone. Then I met someone that I felt understood me, so I moved in with him knowing that if he understood me he would protect me. We could build together a life that was solid and secure. I still slept with the hallway light on.
After a while I began to realize that this man was similar to me. He too had his fears and beliefs from his traumatized parents. We built a life together that included three children. We adapted to each others fears and ways, gained our security and status, but still were reacting from our inner beliefs. During our fits of being angry with each other or just shut down, we managed to raise these children to become adults. We all slept with the hallway light on.
The three adult children struggled with their own fears and insecurities, yet never really understood where they came from. They knew that their parents had not beaten them, had not abused them, there was no wartime. They just had a sense that their parents had not raised them lovingly enough, or were too controlling but they couldn’t quite put their finger on it. They all had children.
This is just one example of trauma being passed on from parent to child.
Three generations affected by one war. How many wars are constantly going on around the world? How many veterans are there? Some countries have an enormous amount of veterans that have actually seen active duty. If you add in the sexual abuse, child abuse, illness, accidents, loss of parents, etc., trauma is within us all.
There are scientists that believe the damage becomes genetic, but even without going there, the effects can last many generations.
When I hear clients speak of how hard, mean, unforgiving, cold, judgemental, etc., their parents were, I always wonder where the trauma actually started. What generation? What made that parent behave that way?