200 A Traumatised Species
I spend a lot of my time observing people. I ask myself, why does this or that person behave as they do? Why do I behave as I do? The reactions are responses to conditions both in and out of our control. In that sense, Skinner was right, but in favour of a reductionist version of reality, he missed the underlying root cause. These conditions could be the most insignificant everyday occurrences, like bumping into someone when you weren’t looking or the choice of whether or not to let someone into your line of traffic. Or they could be catastrophic, like a car accident or the loss of a loved one. In all of these incidents, we show ourselves. And that self we show can be measured and pre-meditated, or it can be unguarded and reactionary. But in all of that, there is the traumatised individual. It is ultimately unavoidable and forms what Jung referred to as the shadow.
Every one of us is traumatised to varying degrees, and it stays with us throughout our lives. We hide it. Some of us hide it very well, and others not so well. Then it explodes in a fit of rage or implodes in a depressive episode and perhaps a suicide attempt. In the homeless drug addict, for example, or the dysfunctional teenager, it may be obvious. It’s easy to see on reality TV; My 600lb Life, Love Island, or any one of the hundreds of reality shows that serve only to commoditise and glorify the most acute manifestations of trauma. We don’t see it in the face of the forty-something mother of three until one afternoon she takes the lives of her three children to save them the pain of her perceived reality. We don’t see it in the everyday actions of the farmer until he kills his lover then burns her on a bonfire of tyres because she was going to leave him. Nor do we see it in the self-employed architect who drops his kids to school every morning, or indeed, in our own compulsive behaviour behind closed doors.
As Freud said, “He that has eyes to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore.”
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