This past weekend has been an interesting one for me. This beautiful country we call Canada was filled with 150-year celebrations. Perhaps it was just my perception, however it seemed to me that this year’s Canada Day celebrations were filled with more dichotomy than I’ve ever witnessed before. Many people were conflicted between love and angst. For me, the festive celebrations were not loud enough to drown out the angst – or even the resounding silence that also existed. A conflict exists regarding Canada’s history that overwhelms, shames, angers, and saddens so many of us. Avoiding the angst that lives within our country does not make it go away, but allows the infection to fester. This avoidance pushes the infection deeper into the body of our communities. Do you ever wonder what would happen if this wound were opened up to release all of the pus inside; and be truly healed? Again, that feeling of overwhelm might appear…but then what? This post is not intended to answer these questions per se. I’m musing aloud about questions and thoughts that have been on my mind this weekend.
For instance, I’m fascinated by how determined we are to hide conflict. Interestingly, on both individual and collective levels, if we had to choose between hiding conflict/pain and expressing conflict/pain – we, more often than not, would choose the former. In order to avoid the poignant but transient discomfort of candid expression and authentic healing, we human beings regularly choose to hold conflict and pain hidden deep within the recesses of our minds, bodies, homes, countries, and societies. In doing so, we endure the excruciating pain of this conflict ripping us apart from the inside out. We do this in the name of saving face/maintaining equilibrium/cultivating peace/avoiding pain – and of course so much more. The irony is that the discomfort of hiding conflict/pain is comparatively longer and much more magnified than the other option.
It seems to me that what we experience and exhibit on a micro (individual) level is very similar to what we experience and exhibit on a macro level (as a nation). How many times do we compromise what is truly important to avoid external conflict? How many times are we then internally conflicted as a result of that compromise? Can you think of moments when you avoided expressing hurt/sadness/anger/fear as a result of a minor or major violation of a boundary you hold dear? I can! What type of emotions developed as a result of this kind of compromise/suppression/avoidance? Have you ever found the courage to speak up about something that was so important to you – only to have it ignored, disregarded, or devalued? This is not an uncommon thing in our societies. We socialise each other to stifle or swallow our reactions to violations/hurts/betrayals; rather than encouraging expression, release, healing, and movement forward. Some of our regularly-used phrases exemplify this:
E.g. “Suck it up buttercup!”; “Get over it!”; “You have a chip on your shoulder!” “Don’t get angry – get even!” “Swallow your pride!”
One reason we hide from or push away other peoples’ pain and trauma is that we feel we cannot handle it. It feels like it will overwhelm us. We consciously or subconsciously believe we will TAKE ON some kind of burden, responsibility or blame; or that we will LOSE some kind of freedom, right or privilege. This could not be further from the truth. In acknowledging and participating in the act of healing we are not only liberating others, but also liberating ourselves by acting as “filters”.
We become the external filters for each other – much as plants act as filters of our air and water in our environment. We help each other process various challenges – including pain from trauma. We do this in many ways – including reflecting, acknowledging, validating, empathizing, etc.
When you are overwhelmed and sucked dry of energy in dealing with a challenge in your life, you may turn to another person. This person may offer you different perspectives, fresh insight, abundant energy, beneficial life experience, soothing compassion, refreshing humour, candid reflections, supportive acknowledgment, etc. This allows you to release the full burden of your situation; filter it through this other person, and journey through your healing process – having been seen and heard. As a collective, this same interaction is needed.
Past trauma, if not appropriately addressed and healed, does not remain in the past. It follows us into the present and potentially into the future until it is processed, learned from and healed. On a micro level, the effects of unresolved traumas tuck deeply into our bodies and minds. They show up in many different ways. Unresolved issues become magnified, deferred, affect our clarity and manifest as a variety of ailments in our bodies and minds. The same is true on a macro level.
If we disallow space for expression and healing of the traumas that our lands hold, they will find expression in other ways. “How?” – you may ask? There are many ways that unexpressed traumas have manifested in our communities already; and who knows what may manifest down the road if we remain on the same course. A social media post doesn’t do justice to this topic. It does however offer me great space for musing.
It seems unbalanced to me to expend such energy in celebrating strengths and triumphs without recognizing the tribulations upon which those triumphs were built and through which our strengths were gained. Permit me another analogy: If someone you care about becomes ill with a chronic illness, would prefer the money be spent on her/his healing or his/her next birthday party?! Would you need to suffer from the same illness to have compassion for the pain s/he is suffering? How relieved and happy would you feel when that person heals?
When it comes to our country, we neither have to personally experience the trauma of our Indigenous brothers and sisters to empathise; nor do we need some personal gain in order to support the healing that is necessary. Yet, on a very deep level we do experience the trauma we gain in our support. The trauma of some of us affects us all – just as joy and triumph is for all of us to savour. Inclusive remembrance and commemoration is a path to Wholistic healing and progress. Do you ever wonder? Thanks for joining me on my musings today! Take care <3Keda