I know that most, if not all of us have been the recipient of some sort of relational trauma, I want to acknowledge that it’s painful. Really, really painful. And it can be long lasting or permanently impacting. I’ve never been abused in the classic sense of being hit or physically wounded by someone who was supposed to care for me. I suppose if you count that little best friend brawl in high school, but that left no lasting wound. But I have loved as deeply as I’m capable of loving and felt betrayed and alone. I’ve felt maligned and rejected when I expected to be understood and intimately accepted. I can still recall the pain of that and how it tore at my guts, my mind, and my soul in the most persistent, unavoidable, and hope crushing way I couldn’t have previously imagined. Perhaps one of the greatest pains we are capable of experiencing is the kind that comes from other humans.
I’ve been giving this idea a lot of thought. You know, watching youtube videos, reading books, and piecing together different chunks of content from the last 53 years. Eventually, I got serious enough to get myself a degree in community psychology. If you’ve never heard of that - it’s a real thing, I promise. As a result of both serious scientific research and a formidable pile of anecdotal evidence, I have become suspicious that it makes sense to say there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m not broken, I’m just lonely, and lonely is a common malady that can be more of a blinking indicator light than the clatter and grind of broken parts. But hear me out. If I’m right, it means there’s nothing wrong with you either. Other than your own loneliness.
There is always a pull to solve a problem. To figure it out is a lesser drive, to stop it is paramount. We want the bad, the painful, the heartbreaking to be done. We want our comfort back and to be left alone to enjoy it. It’s interesting that in our Western culture we would think or feel something like this, “leave me alone to enjoy my comfort.” Yes, we feel a sense of compassion for those who are affected by suicidal thoughts or substance abuse. We want the test scores of our educational institutions to be high so that we feel good about ourselves ensconced in our comfortable community. We want the blight of homelessness dealt with and hungry people to be fed. But we need to pay attention to what’s pushing us. It’s ironic that the concept of being left alone is associated with comfort. It’s not that it isn’t true though - the presence of others always interrupts our comfort. They bring their problems, agendas, annoying characteristics, and challenges to our status quo. They require us to consider our alikeness and our responsibility to each other. But they also bring wholeness.
I'm going to post a new section of my book, temporarily titled "How to Build Connected Community," every week. I invite you to read, comment, ask questions, or share stories. Your input will improve the expression of our community voice. Thank you for being part of my community and joining me on this project.
We’ve got some big problems. The human race that is. All of us. These problems show up in every space where humans interact with each other or are supposed to. They show up in the way we interact with our environment and how we feel about ourselves. They show up in our mental, emotional, behavioral, and physical health. They’re complex and they’re not going to go away by ignoring them. They’re also not going to go away by continuing to problem solve in the same way we’ve been problem-solving so far. We can’t just respond to each crisis as it shows up. We need to be preventive. Or even better, we need to promote health.
I write about belonging, storytelling, community building, prevention, trauma, resilience, neuroscience, and epigenetics.