When the mass grave of 215 children was discovered this past week, I found myself overwhelmed and speechless. I scrolled through endless posts calling out the atrocities feeling that I should also say something, but with no words coming through I do nothing. Pull away from this horrible feeling deep inside of my being, wanting it to just go away.
Looking for something instead to distract me, something pretty like the flowers my friend just posted from her morning walk, or even better something pretty I can buy. The sinking in my gut still there but muted now as I move on, just another senseless tragedy in a sea of others. Nothing changes, nothing will.
Some call this lack of speaking out complacency and they are right. This is how our world has been built. If we pretend hard enough that it isn’t there, ignore it just enough while patting it on the head half-heartedly, there, there we can just get back to normal.
There is something else happening here though. Something so deeply biologically ingrained in our nervous system, and this is the true source of the problem. When we are faced with an extremely high degree of stress, system overload or in the extreme, life threat our nervous system doesn’t just move into fight or flight the way we think it should, but rather by-passes this system all together. We freeze.
While we may have understood the concept of freeze to be fainting or literally stunned in our tracks unable to move, please remember we are highly evolved beings. Freeze is a shutting down, so while physically we go about our business as usual emotionally we become cut off. Literally unable to process the grief that is so vast we stuff it away, bury it deep, and either pretend or actually believe (the brain is a tricky thing) that it doesn’t exist.
This is the root of our complacency. This is not an excuse. This is an explanation. Even now as I write, a push notification pops up on my phone from the CBC, “after Kamloops, the politics of Indigenous reconciliation will never be the same.” And I say bullshit. The discovery of a mass grave of children will now create change when for years hundreds of families in Canada have been without safe drinking water? When for years a predator(s) has been on the loose kidnapping and murdering an estimated 1000 Indigenous women. When after years of public enquiry about residential schools, where people in power have known that these unmarked graves exist all over the country but now finally one has been unearthed, now we are going to see change?
You see the words, the feelings, the emotions are still there but I don’t know what to do with it all. I don’t feel like I have any power to create change so I don’t. Watching from the sidelines as one group blames the other while rattling off excuses on why it is what it is. And we are back once again in the vicious circle of a few days of sorrow, silence and complacency while waiting for the next tragedy to strike. But this is the great tragedy of our lives, this endless circle, the serpent eating its own tail.
Yet a small ray of hope. In understanding our biological reactions to trauma, we begin to shine the light into those dark corners. We become aware of our response and no longer follow our unconscious mind but rather awaken to the present, the truth of the present.
I may feel helpless against the system that has created these tragedies against humanity. But, I can shine the light against ignorance of what is happening in our own bodies. What our nervous system and brain are doing in an attempt to protect us but instead creating a wave of silence and complacency. However, knowing where this silence and complacency comes from we can no longer look away. Knowledge is power.
Holding these 215 children in my heart. Indigenous children, Indigenous people matter.
If you are interested in learning more about how we process trauma, the impact of generational trauma and how we can begin to heal please reach out. You can also read: Being Trauma Informed posted with my other blogs.