As we live in this time of pandemic with its threat to life and its fractured political and economic systems, we are all subject to significantly increased physical and psychological vulnerability. Even those of us in the best situations wake to, as the renowned trauma researcher Bessel van der Kolk describes, the formidable precursors of trauma.
These precursors have become all too familiar elements of our day. The lack of predictability and immobility; the loss of connection to others and the numbness that ensues; the difficulties with attention and focus from our disrupted sense of time and routines; and the loss of a sense of safety and purpose as we peer into an unknown future. We know these precursors in themselves do not translate into an experience of trauma. Even with these difficult factors prevailing we know it is our individual and collective responses that will shape our present experience and the lasting legacy of this time.
Is it possible to respond to such global disruption in any significant way? The answer is yes, as we learn to viscerally speak to our body in a way that comforts and organizes us. Because it is our body that registers the possibility of threat it is our body that seeks a reassuring sense of life as predictable, meaningful and filled with connection. When we create a schedule and keep to it, move our body when feeling numb or unfocused, or express creativity in cooking, art, or organizing the house, we become agents of change with increased control over our environment. In doing so we offset the potent effects of these precursors to trauma.
In asking for help to complete a task during moments of disorganization or scheduling a zoom meeting to decrease isolation, we reassert an experience of life as familiar and trustable. The list goes on and on as to how we can successful respond if we remember we are speaking the language of the body. As we learn this new language of caring, of comforting and organizing the body, we may find it is this language that supports us in building the future we are all imagining, for ourselves our loved ones and our one precious world.