Trauma and technology, male socialization and emotions, healing and well being
“There was a valve in my throat: I knew what I thought and felt deep inside, but little of it came out into the world……” Rick Hanson
“Bio-diversity, like cultural diversity, builds resilience” Roz Carroll
“There is, in humans, a force whose job it is to ameliorate raw biological tendencies. We call it civilization” Terry Real
“Trauma impacts our societal regulation functions…” Thomas Hubl
In this post I am sharing a variety of resources and bits of knowledge I have pondered on or have been engaged with over the last couple of weeks. It is all in one way or another related to trauma, healing and well being.
In the previous post I posted a link to a short video by Thomas Hubl where he compares our relating and intersubjectivity to data-streaming online because we update our relationship, moment to moment, through data-streaming, like a camera that takes many photos and becomes a movie….. But trauma interrupts the data stream because the language of relation is resonance, and resonance needs feeling and sensing. Both the aftereffects of past events and things that may be going on in the present can disrupt the flow of relationships. Carrying on from that thread I am sharing a link to a TED talk by Hubl on The Trauma of Technology at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slHhmQvKIFY, which touches upon both the important breakthroughs of technology, but also the risks of unsustainable technological development and how this can manifest as anxiety, disembodiment and disconnect, especially, through abuse of technology and addiction to technology. On the other hand, he suggests that being trauma informed allows us to choose to develop and to use technology to increase connection, restore widespread legacies of trauma in the world and navigate the digital world with deeper awareness. In this sense cyber space can become a warm and respectful place. Roz Carroll claims that as a species we are learning that “network technology can be empowering, inspiring and co-creative. Yet in doing this we have to leap over sensorial absences, maybe for many hours a day, and this risks propelling us to a future of increased dissociation and disembodiment” (cited in Roz Carroll and Jane Ryan, 2020).
Concerning the risk factors of unchecked development and consumption of technology Roz Carroll writes: “We must question, though, the impact of continuous non-sentient, disembodied communication and organisation. We need to appraise the way this may be triggering deep disorientating and destabilising effects on the meaning, significance and experience of our bodies (McLuhan, 2015, cited in Roz Carroll and Jane Ryan, 2020). She continues “Algorithms, CCTV and other forms of surveillance track our every move and channel us towards further consumerism. We are harnessed to systems that continually upgrade, and are designed ‘to keep us running around in digital circles in search of the next dopamine hit’ (Klein, 2019, cited in Roz Carroll and Jane Ryan, 2020).”
Currently, I am also reading a book by Terry Real, I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression, on the connection between boys’ socialization within patriarchy and men’s depression, and the passing on of dysfunctional behaviours and beliefs to those who ensue through trauma. He writes: “Each man is a bridge, spanning in his lifetime all of the images and traditions about masculinity inherited from past generations and bestowing— or inflicting— his own retelling of the tale on those who ensue.”
I have chosen an extract from his book that somewhat summarizes points he highlights in his book:
“I have found that often, once men understand that the old roles are no longer working, once they submit to the necessity of having to change, they are most often excellent students. Men are raised to be good workers. Once they realize that they must work on themselves and on their relationships, they can usually carry it off. My faith in men’s capacity to relearn and reemphasize relational qualities is rooted in the understanding that we human beings are far more similar than dissimilar. And the range of skills and behaviors available to each sex is much broader and more flexible than we once believed. While our polarized vision of men and women carries some undeniable truth, this easy dichotomy obscures how nuanced and how plastic real human attributes are. ….. But the idea that the dichotomy that causes so much suffering in both genders represents an inevitable unfolding of biological destiny does a disservice to our understanding of both nature and nurture, and lends little hope for real change beyond learning to live with our differences………. there are structural differences between men and women, but the real picture is by no means as simple as one might think. There is some indication, for example, that human males are, if anything, more emotional than human females. Male babies have been shown consistently to exhibit greater separation distress when they are left by their mothers, to be more excitable, more easily disturbed, and harder to comfort. And the male’s comparative sensitivity to emotion may carry through, in some ways, into adulthood.
In a fascinating project attempting to map out the physiological correlates to marital interactions, John Gottman “wired” a sample of couples and measured their physiological responses while they communicated. Gottman found that his male sample showed on the whole a greater physiological response to emotional arousal than his female sample, and the men took longer to return to their physiological baseline once aroused. The aversion of many men to strong emotion, Gottman speculates, may not be the result of a diminished capacity to feel, as has been commonly believed, but just the reverse. Because men may bring a heightened biological sensitivity to the experience of feeling, strong emotion might be experienced as aversive, as physiologically overwhelming.
Whether or not one agrees with Gottman’s conclusion, such research represents just one example of the ways in which scrutiny reveals our biological differences to be infinitely more complex than headline-grabbing stereotypes about them. Focus on wholesale differences between the sexes blunts the extraordinary variation between members of each. It also fails to acknowledge that when circumstances change, each gender seems able to access qualities generally linked to the other. And, finally, it does not take into account that biological tendencies may be amended. Just because some human trait is “biological” does not mean, necessarily, that it is acceptable. One could make a case that racism is an extension of xenophobia, the contempt for strangers, and thus may have strong biological roots. But, one rarely hears a passive, fatalistic acceptance of racism…….. There is, in humans, a force whose job it is to ameliorate raw biological tendencies. We call it civilization.
In twenty years of work with men and their families, I have come to see men’s struggles with redeveloping neglected emotional and relational skills as about on a par with women’s struggles to redevelop assertive, instrumental skills. Generally, it seems about as difficult for the sons of Narcissus to open up and listen as it is for the daughters of Echo to speak.
Last but not least. Two more items, one is a short video by Forrest Hanson at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5p7CkdyiOGE, on how to support our well being and our capacity to simply be when we get caught up in doing too much or doing for the sake of doing and who might be ultimately benefiting from this. He says: “Many powerful people, most powerful people really are benefited by keeping you on the hamster wheel with real success always out of reach…”
And the other is last week’s Just One Thing newsletter by Rick Hanson with the title and theme: Trust Yourself.
He discusses the reasons we close up and put on our masks and how it is okay to be our whole self and trust our deep self. He writes: “So, as children understandably do, I put on a mask. Closed up, watching warily, and managing the performance of “me.” There was a valve in my throat: I knew what I thought and felt deep inside, but little of it came out into the world……….. Meanwhile, if you are like me and every single person I have ever known who has decided to trust one’s own deep self, you will find so much that’s right inside: so much knowing of what’s true and what matters, so much life and heart, so many gifts waiting to be given, so many strengths. Be your whole self; it’s your whole self that you can trust. This day, this week, this life – see what happens when you bet on yourself, when you back your own play. See what happens when you let yourself fall backward into your own arms, trusting that they will catch you.”