“Injustice is traumatic. It does real damage to our bodies, our relationships, our emotions and intellects. We’re all trying our best, hampered by millennia of PTSD.” –Medicine Stories by Aurora Levins Morales
Polarized views can come out of deep ancestral traumas.
Source: Purchased by the author, Lyrica Fils-Aime
There is an academic, intellectual, and organizational silence on the conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians. No one wants to say the wrong thing. Editorial opinions are written but are polarized in views. The wrong statement can be alienating. And, anti-Semitism is a real and recurring trauma. So is the displacement of refugees. We are not free of power imbalances, caste enforcement, and brute force. And we are scared to talk about it for various reasons. In the face of that silence, I’ve received multiple requests for recommendations regarding conflicts between therapists, students, and faculty on the viewpoints—so I know conversations, or arguments, are happening. And they are full of strife and trauma.
In a quick search on Psychology Today, one of the first posts that came up on the conflicts was published in 2010 by Heflick—Is Israel or Palestine to Blame?—and talks about pre-existing beliefs and confirming biases. And the words written in 2010 are still just as relevant today. Heflick is still right, and we need to take time to position ourselves and our power. We know even more about this now, in 2021, as Isabel Wilkerson writes about Dominant Caste Group Threat, a vital examination to conduct in a time like this. Folx who are arguing for either side in the USA need to look at their positionality, their power, their ancestral trauma, and what feels threatened in these conflicts.
We are often talking out of our cumulative and intergenerational trauma wounds when speaking on such polarized issues. So, before social media posts get removed, emails are brought to HR, and conversations get messy, leaders, therapists, and supporters need to take a step back, examine positionality and power, and be introspective. We don’t want to be navel-gazers, but we do need to be reflective before we speak, post, and act. Read more than just two opposing views, check a third, fourth, and fifth source, too.
We become reactive, responsive, and rush to action and urgency—especially when lives are at risk. Of course, real lives are lost and safety is in jeopardy, and we are impacted by that, physically or vicariously, and it triggers generational wounds. Leaders and organizers need to create statements that suggest they are looking into issues to learn more, rather than adding statements to websites and creating hurried programming. We need to learn, slow down and process what is happening for us and examine what feels threatened.
I’ve heard therapists assert that the decades-long crises in the East do not impact the people they work with. But we make associations when we see stimuli, especially regarding violence towards a group of people. We have to be therapists who bring up “Oppression Olympics” when (we feel safe enough to do so) and consider how much we can disagree with a clients’ opinions. Just as important as the question of “How much does race play a part in this?” is “Which ancestral trauma is this triggering in you?”