Trauma Culture – Finding Hope Amidst the Guns 

Emma Gonzalez, Florida High School Student speaking out against the “BS” of the country’s inaction on gun control


From the front page:

There are so many different things I could say about how gun violence is a part of trauma culture but I want to start with the sense of disempowerment that so many of us feel around this issue.


I want to start by saying that it doesn’t need to be so.


We have the power to change this culture. Yes, in the short run we are up against overwhelming odds and overwhelming obstacles.


But for some of us, at least, we can take a breath into that overwhelm.

We can actually learn to make space for ourselves even here, in a way that is real and sustainable. We can then find space to do the things or maybe even just the one thing, that is possible for us to do.

The students who are starting to speak out in this regard, on this issue, are showing a kind of leadership that is sorely needed here and for so many other issues in this country. They are not ignoring their grief and anger but instead finding a way to be with all of it in a way that works for them.

And in doing so they are opening a possibility in this conversation, that has never existed up until now.

There is a lesson here for all of us.

That real change is going to come from the kind of full bodied expression of grief and anger that these students are leading us with.

It is true in this movement.

It seems to me, to also have been true at Standing Rock, in the Black Lives Matter Movement, in the #metoo and #timeisup movement, in the fight for gay marriage, in the fight for trans people’s rights and on and on.

Social change comes not just from political organizing but almost always from when people come together, in some specific way, which then in turn then sparks a possibility for real political movement to happen.

Knowing that gives me hope for what we are doing together.

It means that we all get to take a breath and feel into what those places are for each of us. What is our part in being in relationship to the broader world, from a place that comes from our own deeper experience?

What is our own grief? What is our own capacity for love? What is the place where we need to be in healing of our own relationship to trauma culture? From there, what is our place – in ourselves and in relationship to the world? Can we learn to trust that place – no matter what it might look like?  

The flip side of the overwhelm of this issue, and many other issues, is that there is work to be done everywhere and on every level.

That also gives me hope.

Hope that we each just need to do our part.

Part of the overwhelm is that these issues confront us in many ways, with some truths that for good reason, many of us, would rather avoid if we can.

I don’t say that with any judgment. It may in fact be emotionally too much for many people. I am not encouraging people to think about this in a way that re-traumatizes them. If this is all too much for you emotionally I encourage you to trust that too.

Maybe that is your part in some way that none of us can understand.

A core part of the work of healing trauma culture is to trust the place that we each are or that we each choose to be.

But for those of us that are choosing in some way to engage or even just to look at issues like these, we need to be honest about how embedded this violence is in our culture.

There is a reason that many of us feel so overwhelmed.

Part of that may have to do with trauma issues that we are still working through and for some of us, part of it may be being pulled out of the privelege of getting to, in many ways, ignore issues that others can’t because of their life situations. 

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But none of that, negates the pain of facing how much this country is built on gun violence and on violence in general.

Despite all that might also be good and beautiful about our democratic institutions, these same institutions are built on the blood of this ongoing gun violence and on violence in many other forms.

It is built on the genocide of the indigenous people of this land.

On the violence of slavery.

On the violence of the current mass incarceration of black men, in the name of the drug war.

On the violence that has sparked the #metoo movement. On the violence of US imperialism which is at the foundation of our economic system. And again, on and on and on…

On the one hand the level of violence makes it hard to know where to begin.

On the other hand, the violence of this culture is so widespread and so a part of the broader culture of trauma, that the answer to that question might be to begin with what is true for you, right where you are in your own experience.

For ultimately the disempowerment, that I spoke about at the start of this article, is the underlying issue to all these issues.

If you can begin to trust your own experience again – and I say “understand”, not on just on an intellectual level but in the context of understanding your relationship, your felt experience of being raised and living in a world rooted in trauma culture.

In that way we can each in our own way, undermine the roots of trauma culture.

We can each in our own way build a new culture that is rooted in a deeper experience, than the shallowness of this culture’s dissociated idea of what it means to be alive.

We can have experience that is rooted in real love and passion, as opposed to the love that the mainstream of this culture offers, which is at best only sentimental and at worst pornographic.

We can build a movement that is rooted in inner healing, that is rooted in consciousness that has the possibility of becoming a different kind of social and environmental consciousness.

In this way, we can each make change happen.

The overwhelming omnipresence of the dominant culture, can also be its weakness if we make it so.

If we trust that the place that you can have the most impact, is rooted somewhere in who you already are, then they might not be able to defeat the work that we are doing. I realize that it is despairing to see what is happening in the world right now but in truth many of us, particularly those of us that are more privileged, are seeing a truth that existed long before this administration.

Do not ignore your despair but also remember that there are others that have seen this for far longer and who are still breathing and choosing to fight for possibility.

I do not say that from a fantasy place of it will all be okay.

For I do not know if that is so or not.

What I do know is that I choose to open my own heart to all of this. I choose to do that in a way that is sustainable for me and that trusts and honors my own experience in this culture also.

I choose to live with that passion – and for me the grief that comes with that passion. I choose it, because it is part of simply being alive in this world. And I choose that life with all its challenges over the numbness that is the alternative that this culture offers up.

With respect and in solidarity,
Bill St.Cyr
From the unceded, occupied land of the Abenaki People

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