The Early Years: 1963 – 1970
For me, my Trauma Wake began in November of 1963, just days before my fourteenth birthday. Before that date, my life was pretty peachy. After President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed I began to drink, and quit going to church. I can’t say if those events are related? But they could be.
The Trauma Wake is an accumulation of shocking events in one’s life that reside in the corners of a person’s mind. They layer there, likely in the sub-conscious; and result in complex PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Because the Trauma Wake is unbeknownst to the person, it can be deleterious.
This is just a theory of mine.
The second shock to my system, my Self, was the shooting and killing of four young people at Kent State University in May of 1970. The dead were shot upon by the US National Guard. People were gathered on the campus to protest the war in Viet Nam.
Shortly after that event, I dropped out of college. Again, I can’t know that one event led to the other.
Thirty years: 1971-1999
went by (the best years of my life?) before another major traumatic event happened. This was the shooting and murder of thirteen students at Columbine High School in Colorado.
[Notwithstanding all the other idiosyncratic life changing events in my life, of course. Such as marriage, birth of a child, divorce, moving, death of a loved one, loss of a job, etc. I’m not talking about those, which can and will vary from person to person. I’m referring to broad, shared, major happenings.]
The 21st Century
And then in September of 2001, 9/11 happened. At the time I’d just built and opened a bookstore in Evergreen, Colorado. I was hopeful.
Sales were trending up and then 9/11 happened. I opened the shop that day, brought in my little black & white portable TV. I sat behind the sales bar and combed through all the catalogues for every book I could find on terrorism and Osama bin Laden. There weren’t that many but I ordered them all. To no avail as it turned out. Not one sold.
Everyone disappeared. (Not unlike the pandemic twenty years later.) Fear reigned and I hemorrhaged money.
But who knows? Now, I can’t imagine myself content being a bookstore owner and seller for twenty years. But at the time, I envisioned a “family business” that would provide for me and My People way past my existence.
Colorado, after 9/11 certainly, was a Red State. OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM was popular. My quest for understanding and healing didn’t find much support. I was also strongly against the war. Sales had collapsed and I shuttered the shop. The bookstore failed to provide as did, broadly speaking, Social Work. I didn’t want to go back to the bar and restaurant business.
At my wit’s end and needing money. I put my house up for sale and it sold in June of 2004. The past year I’d spent traveling about the west looking for a new home and a fresh start. In May I had visited the Oregon Coast, Lincoln City. Perfect, I thought, and with Jake’s [my son] help moved all and everything to a two-bedroom bungalow on Harbor Drive, three blocks from the ocean. “You could hear the ocean roar”.
The Pandemic: 2020-
was next. The next major, shared traumatic event. It was March of 2020. Was 2020 the worst year ever?
Not by a long shot as it’s turned out. 2021 was worse and maybe 2022 worse still. The jury is still out.
[Speaking of juries and major, traumatic events. The five I’ve listed is not meant to be exclusive, there were others. President Reagan shot. The O.J. Simpson murder trial. The death of Princess Diana. Martin Luther King’s and Bobby Kennedy’s murder. The Oklahoma City bombing.
Not even to mention natural disasters. However, those are local events and the trauma can be easily ignored.]
of these major, shared trauma inducing events are people on people crimes. The cause is not divine. Nor is it necessarily hate. It is individuals acting on, or out of, personal grievance. People seeking justice. However misguided, informed, or perceived.
are a general loss of trust and amplified fear. There becomes a fear of intimacy and attachment, or conversely, of letting go. There is an amplification of tribalism and fear of others.
is not what it looks like. That would be a misinterpretation. It’s my own acronym for Fear, Uncertainty, Guilt, Obligation, and Doubt. Emotions that are driving discord and division in the 21st Century. Emotions that might eventually bring us all down. Because when coexisting they form a constellation of dread and despair.
Ironically, those emotions, all emotions, evolved to help us survive. On a hostile and chaotic planet. A planet rife with danger and threat. Mother Nature is a bitch and Father Time a tyrant.
is to talk with someone – a professional. Ideally a clinical Psychologist. They are better trained, and often smarter, than all others regarding psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. In that environment you are free to speak and explore your mind. Indeed, who you are.
However, yes, it’s expensive. And, there aren’t enough of them to go around.
Damn it. What a tough place we’ve gotten ourselves in – between a rock and a hard place.
11 thoughts on “The Trauma Wake”
We’re victims of our own species success. The way media, starting with radio and newspapers, then TV, then the internet, shrunk the world, we increasingly experience the bad things (because those things make the news). The social deconstruction that began in the 1960s has left many utterly unmoored from any foundation they can trust and believe in.
A very tough place, indeed. “Another fine mess you’ve gotten us into!” (“You” in this case being all of humanity.)
“We’re victims of our own species success.” Yes, in so many ways. We are THE dominate predator and have taken over almost all habitat/territory. That which is suitable for life, save the deep jungles. We can live in space, at high altitude, in the desert, in the arctic, and under the sea. But not in peace.
We began as prey and evolved into predator. Because of our unique ability to kill at a distance. And we keep getting better at it.
Yet, we contribute nothing to the ecosystem. Nothing to the balance, or harmony of the system.
We are due for a reckoning. And there will be winners and losers.
I’ve been saying that for decades. All our upward trends cannot last forever, and if we don’t dampen them ourselves, we’re gonna be in a lot of trouble. Humanity is due for an “adjustment”, self-imposed or not.
Ha! Clearly no one is listening. To me either. Or to these guys: “”In all these cases, political deception is not explained by any national or public interest, but variously by personal ambition, by the desire to stay in or consolidate power and to protect the interests of the policy makers, by the need to conceal the influence of corporate, commercial or unelected sectional interests on policy making, by the need to minimize public hostility and to avoid political exposure and democratic accountability for actions and policies which are at odds with public beliefs and convictions.” (p.209-9) in “THE POLITICS OF LYING” (2000). The least read book of all time. It’d be funny if it wasn’t true. And sad.
Why I drink, and join you in your misanthropy. Cheers.
Another major shared traumatic event in my life, 1987, was the Challenger explosion. I was watching it with my son, who was three. The collective response was a joke: “What does NASA stand for? Need another seven astronauts.” Haha.
What was interesting about that was how quickly the jokes came. With tragedies, they always come eventually — part of how many deal with trauma — but there’s usually a grace period. There wasn’t much of one in this case. (“What was the last thing that went through Christa McAuliffe’s mind?” “Her feet.” Dark, dark humor. 😒)
Schaenfreude, I think explains the Challenger phenomenon. Unlike the other events, it was not something most people worry could happen to them. Maybe it was more like, “Ha, serves them right. Bring those hot shots down to earth.” But over time – another example of the “experts” lying; and not knowing what they were doing. That takes its toll. Year after year, decade after decade.
People our age know this, or pretend otherwise.
Could be. And might be another indicator of how decoupled from physical reality culture has gotten. Especially with events that don’t really touch people’s lives directly. There is also that famous Niels Bohr quote, “Some subjects are so serious that one can only joke about them.” Humor has long been a shield and covert way of communicating difficult things.
“Humor has long been a shield and covert way of communicating difficult things.” For sure.
Gallows humor, not to mention stand-up comedians – saying that which is only allowed when couched as a joke (with an inebriated audience). Cheers.