Everything feels unsettled.
The world is going through so much pain. The COVID pandemic has pushed our already exhausted stress hormones to the max. The terrible crimes of injustice brought against people of color have forced every one of us to name our bias, prejudice and complicity.
Inside my soul I feel so unsettled. And, at the same time I have hope. I know how powerful we are as a human race. I’ve seen first-hand what happens when people of racial, cultural, socioeconomic, religious, and geographic differences come together to share their gifts and talents. I’ve felt the power of collective action. I know what it means for people to band together for a common goal and the betterment of all society. I believe in our commitment to one another.
The poet Gregory Orr talks about the “storm” that unsettles the deepest parts of the soul in times of trauma. His words have been a great comfort to me. His words help me to realize the healing I seek, for myself, for the woundedness of the world, for the ravages of injustice brought against black and brown people – the healing I seek comes from connection.
Our body’s reaction to long-term, insidious stress, is incredibly damaging. For people who live in the experience of disconnection from the basic life needs – stress can be overwhelming. In the context of our current world, too many people are disconnected from the basic resources they need to live the lives they deserve.
Too many people have limited access to a living wage, evidence-based affordable health care, high quality education . . . and that's not to mention the hundreds of millions of people whose lives are challenged without access to electricity, clean water, hygienic waste disposal or basic medical care. Without access to the resources we need – we live in a constant state of heightened stress and anxiety; and the longer we live in this adrenaline induced overwhelm, the more our bodies react with adrenaline and stress hormones. And, the more we are pushed into a constant state of fight, fright, flight, freak-out or freeze.
There is so much trauma: social trauma, political trauma and trauma of disconnectedness. People are unsettled. Rightly so. We’ve lived for too long in a heightened state of stress. The pandemic, the inequity, the injustice . . . it’s overwhelming. It isn’t fair for me to own this feeling without also fully owning the inequity that exists within the experience of trauma.
A 2018 study by Melissa T. Merrick and colleagues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that over 60% of adults surveyed in 23 states described adverse childhood experiences (ACE) including physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, household mental illness, household substance use, household domestic violence, incarcerated household member, and parental separation or divorce. Perhaps most alarming about the study, Merrick found that study participants identifying as black, Hispanic, or multiracial, those with less than a high school education, those with annual income less than $15, 000, those who were unemployed or unable to work, and those identifying as gay, lesbian or bisexual reported significantly higher ACE exposures. Think about this for a second, greater than 60% of people who participated in a large, multi-state study report adverse, damaging life experiences – and disproportionally the impact was more damaging in the lives of people of color. And we wonder why the world is in hurting so much.
The science of healing the invisible wounds of trauma show a clear, evidence-based causal link between healing and relationship. All healing happens in relationship. All healing happens through connection. The renowned child psychiatrist and trauma researcher Bruce Perry put it best when he said - the most powerful therapy is human love. Perry’s research has found “relationships are the most significant agents of change.” Connection - person-to-person - heals. And, yet – we are disconnected. We focus on a screen over one another. We’ve lost the soul scratching art of being vulnerable with one another. We’re disconnected.
We are called to be in witness and community. I feel this in the deepest parts of my being. I also feel we are expected to shine the light on those who haven’t been represented. To bring into view the inequity and injustice that hasn’t been fully seen or acknowledged. This is a terribly challenging time, on so many levels. I, we at Health Bridges, stand with black and brown people in the fight for equity, justice and hope.
The healing the world needs, it will only come from connectedness. It will only come from relationship. We’re in this together . . . at every level.
The HBI Blog is a rotating journal from our staff. Our Blog is a series of messages from the field, insights from our work, and lessons in service.