Recently, a couple of people have talked to me about the idea of unpacking their emotional baggage. If you know me, then you’re probably wondering why anybody would bother trying to bend my (generally)unsympathetic ear. What you may not know is that my ears and my attitude weren’t always the solid fortresses that they are today.
A (not so) long time ago, I was a shy, softhearted child who honestly did care about everyone and everything. You know how they say a hard head makes a soft behind? Well those of us with soft hearts learned from experience to build sturdy walls around our fragile selves in order to avoid being in a state of perpetual heartbreak.
Trauma builds up our self-preservation muscles. But it also does something else. I recently learned the term “epigenetics”. This scientific field of study researches whether or not stress and trauma have an impact on our DNA.
This is both fascinating and frightening. It is fascinating to learn that outside stressors can impact the very core of who I am. It is frightening, though, because these mutations in my DNA might possibly be passed down to my children. Imagine, then that any one of us has experienced a trauma we never even voiced to the world. Now imagine our babies, and even grandbabies forced to carry that unnamed trauma in their bones.
I think of the trauma experienced by familial separation, whether at the border, or in our suburban homes. I think of the trauma of warfare and mass shootings, the trauma of visiting the prison, for the first or the last time, or hearing another cancer diagnosis. I don’t know that it ever gets any easier. And my heart hurts, so I start building yet another wall, and my Body responds accordingly.
The thing about trauma though, is that it doesn’t occur in a vacuum. These stressful occurrences usually impact more than one person, and though we are impacted in different ways, it affects all of us. It’s why almost every child coming of age in the 1960s can tell you where they were when they heard about the Kennedy and King assasinations. Children of the 1970s remember photos coming out of Vietnam. 1980s babies remember the Space Shuttle Challenger news coverage. In the late 1990s, there was the Columbine shooting, and shortly after that two planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City. The 2010s were rife with trauma after trauma, with barely a break in between.
So here we all sit, bruised and battered, fron the outside in, according to the research. But in this trauma, we are bound together. The Bible says that a brother is born/built for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17) But i’m Wondering though if it should read that brothers are born in/of adversity, that the people we are closest to, shared in our most tumultuous of times. Either way, be a friend and a brother whether bound by DNA or not. Build bridges, not walls. We all need somebody to lean on(I cannot resist quoting song lyrics, ever!)