“I just want to go back to the way things were”
“I’m sorry, you can never go back, but you can get to a point where the trauma doesn’t control you. You can go forward and use it to become more than you were..”
This is the conversation that always occurs when I work with trauma in therapy. My patients always come in begging to make it all go away so they can return to their innocence. I have to tell them that it is now impossible. Their traumatic experience had exposed them to harsh truths about the world, so harsh that their understanding of the world crumbled. Their state of trauma will continue until they can rebuild their world view into something that allows them to live with those harsh truths. Their task is the transformation of the traumatic event; a transformation that changes the meaning of the event and an understanding of themselves.
I‘ve spoken before about the need to transform the meaning of 9/11. Since that time, Bin Laden has been found and killed, and Al Qaeda has been put on the defensive. Yet we still have Gitmo, the TSA is still strip searching people, and we are still brutally attacking protesters whose crime seems to be their exercise of their First Amendment rights. We have our revenge, but where is our transformation?
So I need to ask, what are you doing to heal?
It is not enough to just remember, if all you are remembering is the loss and the fear. It is not enough to memorialize if those memories are tainted with terror. You need to find the way to turn this day into something more. You need to find a way to say that you have grown stronger than the pain and terror. Only then will this day have real meaning. On then will you have transformed the day.
So find something to commit to on this day that will make the country stronger. Make sure everyone can vote this election either through helping with voter registration drives or helping voters rights protection groups like 1-866-your-vote.Don’t just say you appreciate firefighters and other workers who on call that day, fund raise for them, support their unions, or see what else you can do so they are not appreciated into poverty and unemployment. Join an interfaith dialogue to find what you can learn when you stand up and say you won’t be afraid. Feed the hungry, volunteer to teach, pick up litter in a park, remind someone that you disagree with that you respect their right to have their view, or do anything else to say that this is the day you have decided to stop hiding in terror. Make this the day that you decided to stop passively finger pointing and make this the day that you are going to work to make the nation stronger by building it up one step at a time.
Transform us from a collection of traumatized citizens to a nation of empowered citizens.