Keep the Coherence

debate developmental trauma misogny moral justice negative emotion polarization racism shame social media thought police trauma informed dharma triggered Jan 12, 2021

We all agreed in the workshop that we are living in a time where there is tremendous polarization and a tremendous upsurge of negative emotion.

People's hostilities are on a scale unprecedented. I don't spend a lot of time on Facebook, but all you have to say is one word and people are ready to pounce. As long as people are ready to pounce, how does that make you feel? You're less willing to say anything.

We live in this overly policed society where people get ramrodded by the thought police and shamed into submission. We live in a call out culture, essentially a bullying culture that has now forced people to shut the f- up. Submit. You might find yourself tiptoeing around things. In order to tiptoe around things, you have to squelch your feelings. You have to squelch your opinions and you have to squelch your views in order to keep the peace. You can do that once and you can do that twice, but eventually what's going to happen?

The very premise that people are policing out of some moral justice initiative, what they are doing in the long haul is possibly creating an environment where there is an equal negative backlash. If you tell people you cannot say those things and you cannot believe those things and your beliefs are not allowed here, your beliefs are reprehensible, what will happen to those beliefs? They will go subterranean. When they're out of sight and they're subterranean they take on an additional charge, an additional power, just like a lava flow and when a lava flow needs to burst, it's going to come out of the crust in an unsuspected way and it's going to wreak havoc. That is what we see societally right now.

I'm not saying that there's no vital importance to some of the initiatives that are taking place in our culture. There is a there is a need to bring out of the shadow the severe racism and misogyny that has existed in the shadows. People have felt very unsafe for a very long time. There's no problem with that. That's welcomed. It's a very important time in history where the darkness is no longer going to be allowed to continue. Some unacceptable behaviors are not going to be allowed. Whether it's government, officials, bribery, corruption, Wall Street or whatever it is, gerrymandering, you name it, touching inappropriately at work, these things are not going to be stood for.

But when you police people about their opinions and beliefs and you put them on moral trial in front of their peers without due process and you say things like 'impact is more important than intention', you forget in one moment, their career and their legacy and all the things that they do. You hang your hat on one single word or one single action. You are going to drive into the shadows a tremendous amount of backlash rage.

What you're going to have is a massive pendulum swing between people that are acting righteous but making a huge suppression and that suppression is going to come back. That's what we have politically, don't we? You cannot say a word anymore. There is no room for debate. There is no room for sophistication. There is no room for nuance. There is no room for holding conflictual or contradictory views. There is no mutual respect for difference and so that's what I mean by keep the coherence. You are allowed to have your contradictory belief here.

We have to allow people to have their contradictory feeling here. That doesn't mean if you have an objection you can't raise it. It means raise it, but raise it in a civilized way. We have to have micro climates where people can have civilized disagreement, otherwise whatever happens out there will happen in here and we're not going to make it into the next module.

I have survived almost three different incidents in my life in the last 12 or 18 months where it's so contentious, where one word has made a shit storm, where I've either been put on trial or somebody else has been put on trial. That's just me. You can see it at the universities across North America, where one word is all that it takes. So when I say don't break the coherence what I am really saying is, trauma is at play here.

Trauma is at play here. Trauma is at play for the person that says the awful word. Trauma is at play at the nasty backlash. Trauma is at play at the separation and the driving it into the shadow. Trauma is at play at the nasty resurgence. The whole thing is traumatized. There is no real healing there.

Keep the coherence doesn't mean bite your lip. It means have an objection but try to regulate yourself so that a contrary position can be heard and there can be the ability to agree to disagree. That's fine. That's welcome. That's real learning. That's trauma informed learning in my estimation, the ability to sit across from somebody with whom you disagree with in values and belief and still respect them enough to hear them and to share space with them.

Maybe I'm sounding idealistic. Certainly from what's available out there, this is a large stretch. Keeping the coherence doesn't mean bite your lip if you have an objection or you feel triggered by something. It means that trigger is telling you that you're uncomfortable for a reason and you can talk about it. You can talk about it. What I'm saying is, when you get triggered, that is our invitation to discover. It is the soul telling us something here, needs to be taken seriously, possibly for the first time.


Lightly edited transcript from Trauma Informed Dharma