Editors note: At the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development, we strive to help children heal from the effects of trauma, abuse, and neglect through trusting relationships. This guiding principle informs all we do. It is the lens through which we view everything and the current news events stemming from violence and racism in America are no different. These events are traumatic and trauma-inducing. As we think about our piece in bringing solutions to these important issues, we humbly offer this perspective: relational problems can only be healed relationally.
by: Dr. David Cross
I am afraid. I can’t remember ever being more afraid than I am right now. But if I am afraid, what must the children be feeling? And what must all of the vulnerable ones be feeling? I am angry. I can’t remember ever being more angry than I am right now. But if I am angry, what must the bypassed ones be feeling? And what must those whose rights have been violated be feeling? I am hurting. I am hurting because so many of my fellow Americans are hurting. My pain has become unbearable, but if my pain is unbearable, what of the pain of the children, of the vulnerable, of the bypassed, of the violated? What must their pain feel like?
There is a passage in the Art of War that says: “Know the enemy, know yourself, and victory is never in doubt, not in a hundred battles.” But who (or what) is the enemy? And who (or what) am I, that I can fight this battle? And what does victory look like? I will say this: The enemy is fear, and it is feeding on trauma, like a beast slinking through the night. This trauma has many sources, including the coronavirus, unemployment, shuttered storefronts, shuttered schools, police brutality, and the specter of a police state. And fear is feeding at the table of our discontent.
And who am I, that I can fight this battle? I watch the news, I read the paper, I share with others. And I am afraid. And I am angry. And I am hurting. But feeling is not enough. Something must be done. But what? What can I do? I will say this: Each of us must do whatever it is that he or she can do. Each of us must fight the battle against fear, and in our case, against the trauma that feeds it. We have the power to change the course of history. We are changing the course of history. We know how to do it, child by child, survivor by survivor, family by family, organization by organization, community by community, state by state, and country by country. We have done this, and we will continue to do this. And this is how the battles are won – from the bottom up, creating real and lasting change, on the ground, on the floor, in the room, face-to-face, person by person. This is who we are, and this is what we do.
And what does victory look like? The beast is having its way right now, there can be no doubt about that. We are afraid. We are angry. We are hurting. We are hurting each other. There are those among us who ride the beast, goading it on, feeding its frenzy. I will say this: They ride the beast because they also are afraid. They treasure the darkness because it hides their fear. So what does victory look like? Victory is light. Victory is the light of compassionate understanding, reflected in the eyes of children, parents, survivors, caregivers, and and those of us who care enough to act. Victory is the light of compassionate action, taken on behalf of those who are afraid, angry, and hurting. Victory is not monumental change, but the incremental change that comes from thousands of small yet meaningful victories. Victory, in our case, comes from our commitment, our creativity, and our courage. Victory lives within us, it is part of our DNA, and we are needed now more than ever.