The Trauma of Charlottesville

Anxiety has been my lifelong companion.  While it has been debilitating at times, my recovery work has helped me so much. 

I don’t have the same responses to life that I did in my younger years.  I don’t get paralyzed in the same way.  I can breathe through oncoming panic attacks.  I can write from the emotions under the surface.  I have come to a place in my recovery where I can stop anxiety before it overtakes me.  I am proud of that.  I love how anxiety is not always in charge anymore.  But I have to admit, the past two days, it has been in charge.

I am paralyzed.  I have a mile-long “to-do” list and none of it is getting done.  I just keep scrolling through my Facebook feed reading articles and watching news streams.  But here’s the thing.  I know with all my being this is the wrong thing to do.  I know all the ways to break out of anxiety and this is not it.  But I do it anyway.  When I do break away from my computer, I feel like I am on the verge of grieving all the time.  That makes sense.  The anxiety is meant to keep the grief away.  Grief is about the uncontrollable and my controller wants this to be controllable.  My inner rebel feels trapped.  My inner children feel scared.  And my inner mean kid wants to punch someone.  So I scroll.  I look for answers to make everything okay.  But it isn’t okay.  It was never okay.  This is the world I live in.  My controller can’t pretend right now.  And that is terrifying.

I live an hour from Charlottesville, Virginia.  I live in a town called Richmond, Virginia which might become news for similar reasons in the future.  But 23 years ago, I graduated from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  I lived there for four years.  I loved Charlottesville.  It is one of my favorite places.  Maybe it is because of what it represented.  It was my first taste of freedom.  I had escaped my family.  I was living on my own.  But as you might imagine, all was not rainbows and unicorns.  I was terribly dissociated and my trauma manifested a ton of messy situations and relationships.  But in my mind, I was free of that family and I was never going back to that house (and I didn’t).  Charlottesville and I have a special connection.

Needless to say, I was heartbroken by what I saw on Friday and Saturday.  Watching those terrorists walk through my college town around my Rotunda and down my lawn was horrible.  And I didn’t realize until just now what that represented.  It represented my family coming to my safe place and messing it up.  It felt like my safe home was invaded by my abusers.  It felt like that other shoe dropping like I always knew it would.  And now my system has hit the ceiling, and honestly, this might take a while to calm down.

Good question.  Those terrorists represent what happens when generations of trauma get passed down with no attempt to heal.  They represent the fear of being raised by parents with PTSD from wars, oppression, sexual abuse and domestic violence.  They represent the fear that requires power over others to regain some semblance of sustainability on a day-to-day basis.  Their fear of life requires them to climb to the top of the ladder of “I’m better than you”.  They create labels and separation from others because they don’t know who they are.  They have lost themselves in a sea of complex trauma so they have to create a story of superiority to keep going.  And it’s a huge lie that they must maintain.

I know this because it is what my family did.  I grew up with people who judged others for their labels.  I have people in my family who see others as less than them.  Members of my family were involved in the KKK.  I have been harmed by those family members and their KKK terrorist friends.  Let’s face it.  The KKK is about having power over others.  They are racist, but they are also pedophiles and domestic batterers.  They don’t care how they get their power, but they must get it.  In their eyes, their life depends on that superiority, that power over others.  If their house of cards crumbles, if their lies fall apart, they will die.  They literally believe it is life or death.

And of course, I can relate this to inner parts.  Some of these actions are fueled by a power-hungry controller who only feels safe at the top of the ladder.  Some of these actions are fueled by a judgmental mean kid who wants to tear down others the way they were torn down.  Some of these actions come from the inner rebel who refuses to listen to rules because they don’t apply to them.  And in all cases, they are protecting their scared inner children.  But this isn’t fair to those inner parts.  Generational trauma is not an excuse to terrorize others.  Generational trauma is a wake-up call to heal.  As adults, we have a responsibility to become aware of our fear and how it is impacting our actions.  We have a responsibility to make different choices from a grounded adult perspective.  And the terrorists are no exception.

I normally don’t bring triggering events to my blogs.  I avoid this because it is impossible to learn how to work with triggers if you are currently triggered.  And my job is to teach trauma recovery.  That said, I am consumed by this now.  And I owe it to myself and you to get honest about the role trauma is playing in this event.  We have to get serious about taking this back to the core.  This started a long time ago and we have an obligation to go deep.  We cannot continue to relate to life from a place of fear.  Trauma recovery brings us toward love, but we can’t break these patterns if we don’t know they are there.  So let’s get real about the truth.  Hate comes from fear and that fear started a long, long time ago.  It self-perpetuates.  We have an obligation to wake up and break the cycle of fear from generations of pain.  If we don’t, we will never live in a world without hate and fear.  We will never find the safety we so desperately want.

** This video is not what the image implies.  It comes from the perspective of a recovering white supremacist.  It is a great example of how trauma recovery can change people.

Arno Michaelis reveals the truth about racists

In light of the violence yesterday at a white nationalist rally in #Charlottesvile, VA – Arno Michaelis’ words have newfound relevance. Here, the former white supremacist gang leader explains the one thing everyone should know about racists.

Posted by Mic on Sunday, August 13, 2017

Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW

The Trauma of Charlottesville was originally published @ Beating Trauma and has been syndicated with permission.

Photo by evannesterak


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