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ECOLOGY of TRAUMA


What are the consequences of rising sea levels, loss of air quality, land and sea pollution and global warming?


Some results are predictable, and some are not. We know for sure that food growing becomes hit and miss when weather patterns are erratic. We see that species loss is accelerating. Some scientists predict that we are beyond the point of rescue and it’s now a question of damage limitation. We also know that human prediction often differs from the reality. This is partly because as a species we are innovative and have a remarkable effect on our surroundings – whether positive or negative.


What does ecology have to do with trauma?


Trauma is a prolonged emergency response to feeling overwhelmed. It can become hardwired into our nervous system and is easily reactivated under stress. Affecting sleep, digestion and social ease, it contributes to chronic pain and stress and can engender a habitual state of being ‘highly strung’. Trauma often begets discouragement, shame and a sense of powerlessness.


‘Big T’ trauma can follow extreme events such as war, abuse or severe accidents. Increasingly experts are realising that ‘Small t’ trauma – where the cause is less obvious - is also deeply wired and hard to bounce back from. This may build up due to childhood neglect, to a series of losses or emotional discouragements over time. It may be partially due to intergenerational factors, or to working for years in a harsh environment, or triggered by a series of painful relationship breakups. Far more people are affected than we had realised until very recently.


Our world is so full of war, conflict, instability and danger that we swim in a sea of disturbance. This is invisible, because we have experienced it as ‘normal’. The result is a collective dysfunction. A culture of trauma! As a community we tend to be emotionally shutdown, addicted to escapism, fearful and lacking in cooperative skills.


What can we do?


Fortunately, the process of emerging from trauma can foster ‘superpowers’. These include empathy and the ability to act with courage and compassion. Most of the world’s inspiring therapists, visionaries and social transformers have come through extreme adverse personal circumstances. From the compost of past pain, we can grow kinder and wiser.


A vital part of the work for reducing environmental harm and seeding a new Eden is to understand our collective trauma. Let us free ourselves and others to co-create a world based on collaboration and sharing.


- Stefan

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