We now are all suffering from acute trauma, in a trauma nation.
I would venture to say in a trauma world, but I am not certain of conditions in countries such as India, Indonesia, much of the Middle East or the like. I do think the trauma I am speaking of is present in most of Europe, the UK, North America, Israel, Australia and probably in many other places. Anywhere the vaccine rollout occurred, as well as anywhere that experienced lockdowns, social distancing, school closures, etc. That leaves few places trauma-free.
What is trauma?
The Oxford Dictionary defines it as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. If this is accurate then my only response is “duh”—of course we have all been traumatized. There is no doubt that we have all experienced a deeply distressing and disturbing experience. Many experiences, in fact, over many, many years.
But have we all experienced these traumas?
And have all of us experienced the same number of traumatic events, and have we all responded the same way to them? No, of course not. We are all individual human beings, and the traumas are also varied, and each has a unique impact. Let me present this idea in rather broad strokes. First, I will divide us all into two groups that each have roughly similar ideas and beliefs. You know where I am going with this, so without further ado, here they are: Sheep and Shrews. (Click here if you are not familiar with my sheep/shrew terminology.)
I do not think I need to spend time defining these two groups. There are of course outliers in addition to the main group—those who are quasi-sheep, those who are quasi-shrews, and those who really don’t fit into either group. But just for simplicity’s sake let’s say there are only two groups—and you and I belong in one or the other.
I will start with these two distinctions in order to say that each of these groups experience the trauma that has come to all of us in different ways.
The Sheep for the most part experience this trauma internally. They don’t really know what is happening. They may say, “oh my, Covid was horrible, the pandemic really affected me.” But they are only describing the fake version of the crises—the ridiculous infection rate, the ubiquitous fear of death, the ventilators, the hospitals, the lockdowns, the fake drugs, the social distancing, the masks. Vaccines coming on the scene were not part of the sheep trauma, they were actually the savior that descended from heaven to save the hoards from sure destruction. Now, for sheep, the trauma is largely over—the external fake one at least. The internal one is really just starting, but they still don’t know it.
Day after day I see psychotherapy clients who are sheep that describe depression, anxiety, listlessness, lethargy, meaninglessness, purposelessness, sadness, feeling lost, confused, on and on. Now, I have to admit, I cannot be sure if this is terribly unusual. That is typically the common complaints that come into my office, even before the Covid debacle. But it does seem to have a different quality to it. There is more of a glassy-eyed-ness to it all. Is this due to the toxins in the vaccine? Is it due to a collapsing economy, a collapsing culture, or a collapse of humanity? Is it due to the radical shift that has come in the previous three years, like ubiquitous masks, working at home, etc. “There’s something happening here . . . But what it is ain’t exactly clear . . .” (Remember that song? The next line is: There’s a man with a gun over there . . . Telling me I got to beware . . .” Oh my.)
This is sheep trauma. And sheep trauma will get worse and worse until it works its way to the surface, like a splinter that finally, after much invisible pain, works its way out. But unlike a splinter, when this trauma comes out it isn’t going to be easy to just wipe it away. It will then become conscious, like the Shrew trauma, which is mostly conscious. Is it better for the trauma to be conscious? In some ways it is, but in many ways trauma becoming conscious can be devastating.
So, on to the next group—the Shrews. We’ve got it bad folks. As if I even have to tell you that. And don’t kid yourself, this is bonafide trauma, with a capital “T”, right here in River City.
I would add to Oxford’s minimalist definition of trauma, “helplessness.” It is a hallmark of serious trauma—there isn’t much you can do about it as it digs its heels in, deeper and deeper.
Our world is falling apart. Sure, it has always been tenuous. But now, it is literally falling into the ashes. Up is down, down is up, it is truly Superman’s Bizarro World. Everywhere we turn there is trauma, we’ve lost most of our friends—friends we may have had for decades. Gone. And usually gone in an ugly way. We have lost family. Same deal. Gone. We may even live in a house divided. Sheep and shrew, living together. If this is the case, you may even doubt your own sanity at times—possibly a lot of the time.
Cognitive dissonance is always a concern and pops up around every corner. People you used to trust, at least maybe a little bit, are suddenly suspicious, or downright frightening. They say one thing, you know another. Nothing seems to match up. Nearly every source of information you used to rely on is now suspect. This at first may seem like a game. It also can seem, at times, to be a relief. Now you don’t have to trust anything. You no longer have the burden of trying to figure out what to trust and what not to trust—now you don’t trust anything at all if it is in the mainstream. This means things as simple as television and magazine advertising, billboards, the labels on cereal boxes, the headlines in newspapers, the smiling woman at Costco giving out free samples. Everything gets a cocked head response from you, like what your dog does when it hears a strange sound.
I was walking through a local farmer’s market one of these past Saturdays. It was a nice sunny, crisp, fall day. There was a cool breeze, and people seemed to be happy and having a good time. Then I spotted a family of four coming toward me. A mom and dad, and two little girls, about the ages of 5 and 7. All in masks. The whole moment collapsed for me. No longer did I feel like it was a nice day, or that I was strolling along with fellow neighbors, or even fellow human beings. A feeling of threat came over me, and anger began to creep up my spine. I no longer understand these people, I no longer feel safe amongst them. They now actually present a danger to me. I am traumatized.
OK, fine, so what? Well, this gets under your skin day in and day out. We keep thinking we are going to wake up from this nightmare but like Ground Hog Day, it just goes on and on. Nothing is relieved. When you hear of a won court case then in the same moment you hear of a shrew arrest. When you see a nice commercial about happy smiling people and giggling infants, within the same minute you will see beheaded babies in Gaza. Neither one of these images is trustworthy, nothing is trustworthy. The whole world has gone to hell.
That is trauma.
What makes it worse is our isolation.
Shrews are definitely not the majority group. And even though we hear there are indeed many of us, it doesn’t really seem that way, in reality. Where are all of the shrews? They are around, of course, but we don’t yet have regular, and local, meeting places where we can gather and talk, and argue, and share, and love each other. We need to start creating this for ourselves. We are not only isolated as humans, but we are isolated because we have no connection with anything out there that isn’t pure SHEEP. Everything we see, hear, and read, is SHEEP. The world accommodates sheep, like the Invasion of the Body Snatchers pod world—you can’t tell who or what is ours.
It all revolves around the vaccinated, the sheep, the followers, the blind. We are left behind. We live in a trauma nation.