America Needs Trauma Therapy

(Please note: I am taking a simple stance on a complicated topic. I’m doing so because starting to work on this issue takes a few small steps outside our comfort zone. Please do not believe I think this is easy, but we’ve gotta do something to maintain our survival. Also, if you’re from a country outside the U.S., thank you so much for stopping by. We’re working on some issues here so please allow us time to grow)

I work with youth who have a significant history of trauma. It’s sad how much our youth have been through during their short time on earth. Of course their parents also have significant amounts of trauma and their parents, and their parents. Are we seeing a connection to why America has issues with moving forward? I’ll talk about generational trauma some other time, but for now just know there’s a significant amount of traumatized beings in America. Our country’s emotional wellbeing looks like that old, tattered flag.

As a counselor, one of the best examples I have found and provide to those working through trauma is that it’s like an out of control linen closet. There’s hurt scattered all over and it’s hard to make sense of any of it. For America, think of the trauma each group has experienced and continues to experience. Think of the anger that comes from the frustration, the inability or refusal to connect and understand others because of your own trauma story. That’s America right now and it’s ugly. We can change this though, we really can.

Tattered American flag

Tattered American flag

It’s never quick and never easy, but helping people work through significant trauma has become the way I spend my days and many nights. This linen closet thing has helped quite a few. Ya see, if you know how to clean out and organize a closet, then you got this. And for the country, we do it on a bigger scale. But Vivi, my closets are out of control. Okay, it’s okay. I want you to go and take out one towel, sheet, toiletry, whatever. Now I want you to put it back with some sense of order. Maybe you decide that the top shelf is for towels. Maybe you decide the towel is old and can be donated to the local animal shelter. Whatever, just take the first step, that’s all. I just want you to see that you can make change and it only takes a moment. Add a few more moments and we got a cleared out closet totally assessable. Can you imagine if we could get our country there?

The Most Basic and Probably Inappropriately Simple Look at Trauma Therapy.

First, let’s get to a place where we can talk about issues without too much defensiveness. I suggest a little Miguel Ruiz and his The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) to get to a less defensive place. Seriously, this kind of work is all about what you can control and what you should even care about controlling.

Next, take out each trauma and evaluate it from a rational point of view.  Think about the trauma, examine it but make sure you are in a safe place with supportive people identified to help you work through the harder issues.

Now place that trauma back, neatly folded away knowing you have control of where it goes and when it comes out of the closet and returned.

I know, it sounds simple and that’s because I’m simplifying. Therapy takes a bit of time and there’s a reason why most people need a therapist to work through this activity.

Now let’s put this on a bigger scale. You know you have the power to make change, even if it’s just a baby step so, let’s take a look at the U.S.

Healing America, One Issue at a Time

First, let’s get to a safe place where Black Lives Matter doesn’t trigger your defensiveness. Figure out why they piss you off. What’s behind the anger? More than likely it may be a lack of understanding, frustration that your own issues aren’t being discussed and/or a general inability to connect with the group. Here’s the thing to remember, America was pretty much built on oppression, not just that of minorities but simply those without overflowing bank accounts. Here’s the thing, if we pull out all the traumas, we’ll be buried under a pile we can’t crawl from under. 

So, one at a time, let’s focus on the issues with a rational lens. Try to understand the issues, the history, the proof. You don’t have to discount your own traumas in order to support someone else’s. In fact, most people I work with report that helping others through trauma helps them even more than their own therapy. So, basically, help others and you’ll help yourself.

Now we place these traumas back in the closet. We don’t throw them away, you can’t, they’ll always be there. We can, however, take control of them. We don’t erase the ugly from history books, we leave it to learn from and teach future generations from our mistakes.

It’s Getting Nasty Out There, My Loves, Let’s Be Kind

As I’m seeing the N-word all over Twitter and Facebook due to Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem, I’m evident that America needs therapy to work through the big issues. It’s going to get ugly and you are going to get pissed but we have to do it or there won’t be an America left for us, not one we can support. There is no White Lives Matter in response to Black Lives Matter. And this is where people may pull out their dead relatives who served in the military and fought for freedom. I could do that, I have done that, but no more. Ya see, we all have ancestors who fought for a better life. Mine came from Denmark, France and Mexico. Each person’s struggle must be validated. Each slave story, each story of segregation, each story of poverty, each story of worker’s struggles for basic rights, each story of starvation in one of the richest countries in the world, each story of people’s own land being taken in the name of America. Listen to the stories, relate to the stories, learn from each other. It’s the only shot we have at getting this country to a place where we truly stand for equality. Vonnegut wrote it best in God Bless You Mr. Rosewater,

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies, God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” – Kurt Vonnegut


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