Category: Evolution

A sketch of societal-based obstacles to transformation after trauma

In the preface to his book The Order of Things (1966/1973), Michel Foucault shared the following excerpt from an ancient Chinese encyclopedia: “… animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) …

Why do women have sexual fantasies of rape?

The United Nations describes violence against women as a “pandemic in diverse forms.”[i] Thirty-five percent of women have experienced sexual and/or physical violence, often in intimate relationships. In some nations, an unimaginable seventy percent of women have suffered sexual and/or physical violence in intimate relationships.[ii] In every country in the world, the threat of sexual and physical violence is …

Neurobiology, symbolic imagery & Jung — and a book that brings them together

The Neurobiology of the Gods (2012) first gained accolades for grounding CG Jung’s ideas in modern neuroscience. Yet Erik D. Goodwyn’s explanation for why we create symbolic imagery makes this an important book not only for analytical psychologists, but also for evolutionary psychologists, traumatologists, and anyone interested in the central role of symbolic imagery for human …

Need help loving humanity? How to evolve beyond “us” versus “them” thinking

Painting of the word "Love".

One of the greatest threats to humankind is our tendency to create what sociologists call in-groups and out-groups. While such distinctions contribute to group solidarity, increased safety, and a personal sense of belonging, they can also lead to the us versus them thinking that underlies humans’ greatest acts of cruelty. Each of the following precipitate from us versus them …

Capitalism exploits the body’s response to traumatic stress

Shelves of Ceramic Models of Brains

The Great Recession, like financial disasters before it, took its toll on bodies and psyches as much as it did on bank accounts and lifestyles. Suicides, family violence, stress-related diseases, and mental disorders increased during the crisis. For many, these hardships continue. Yet even during the best of times capitalism’s dependency on social hierarchies — …

Attachment theory through a cultural lens

In an article titled “Attachment and Culture (citation below),” Heidi Keller exposes attachment theory’s Western, middle-class assumptions. She argues: “… the definition of attachment in mainstream attachment research are in line with the conception of psychological autonomy, adaptive for Western middle-class, but deviate from the cultural values of many non-Western and mainly rural ecosocial environments.” …

Trauma nation?

Medicine is where hope is alive and well in America. During the past fifty years, due to rapid advances in microbiology, many persons who once might have died prematurely, or suffered debilitating diseases or disorders, instead enjoy productive lives, albeit often with chronic illnesses to manage. Through its near-miracle successes, the field has engendered the …

Shopping our way to extinction

We humans have been destroying environments and eradicating species throughout our history. When some of our ancestors arrived in the Americas over 10,000 years ago, they wiped out at least 70 genera of large mammals and literally millions of animals — including ground sloths, camels, wild pigs, and several species of horses. Not much seems to …

A sensorimotor approach to becoming indigenous (and healing trauma)

Trickster plays with me. Last week I wrote about Indigenous wisdom as a “gentle” trickster for violent, destructive times. This week, while hiking among the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park, I learned the Paiutes Indians called these rock pillars the “Legend People,” who coyote trickster turned to stone because of their evil ways. Looking …

The impact of trauma on protecting and preserving Earth

Photo: Oak tree in grassy field.

Do you worry about the nuclear waste and bombs squirreled away in underground bunkers? And wonder what would happen if there weren’t humans constantly monitoring these stockpiles? Such questions once led me to read Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us (2007), which explores what would happen to the planet if humans suddenly disappeared. His book answers the …

1.Stop. 2.Blink. 3.Imagine. (Repeat)

Chaim Potok wrote: “Life is like the blink of an eye. What is it worth? Nothing. But the eye that blinks — that is something.” Yet Tamami Nakano of Osaka University and her colleagues are discovering the blink is meaningful. Rather than just a mechanical reflex that keeps the eyeball moist and flaps away dust, …

Dioramic visions of a forgotten past

Do you remember childhood field trips to science museums, gazing into dioramas of our distant ancestors? Perhaps you saw artistic renditions of Homo erectus huddled around a fire, or sitting near a faux cave carving stone tools, a nod to our ancestors’ fledgling cognitive capacities and more human-like traits. Saber-tooth cats or woolly mammoths were …

Grief following natural disasters

Since 1975, natural disasters increased by 430%. Yet percentages may mean little to those who lose loved ones, homes, communities, and livelihoods when monster storms like Hurricane Harvey floods Houston, my childhood home, or Irma flattens parts of the Caribbean and quickly approaches Florida as I update this post. Thank goodness for people and organizations …

Born to be raised

I often wonder what it would take to heal centuries of violence, oppression, complicated grief, and emotional neglect. And yet the impulse to heal, social engineer, and reform often seems symptomatic of what is traumatizing about the US and the West in general — that perpetual need to fix a broken system. We know things aren’t right with the …

Trauma’s imaginal worlds

Few people pass from birth to death without intimate knowledge of trauma’s capacity to alter the landscape of the psyche. So many experiences are traumatizing: war, rape, death, car accidents, hurricanes, earthquakes, bullying, scapegoating, incest, family violence, racism, homophobia—and this, a cursory list at best. Even if you are fortunate enough to dodge trauma, its …

Alexithymia, emotional neglect & capitalism: How are they related?

Alexithymia. Now that’s quite the word. Derived from the Ancient Greek, it means “without words for emotions,” and identifies difficulties with recognizing and naming feelings. Since emotions are central for understanding oneself and others, not being able to discern what you feel can cause distress, agitation, and anxiety — along with rocky, unsatisfying relationships. (Honestly, …

“Being Human” from a trauma-informed perspective

I spent Saturday, March 24 at the Being Human 2012 conference with over 900 people who, like me, are preoccupied with the question, What does it mean to be human? Scientists, scholars, and artists addressed four areas where human experience is being redefined: • Perception | Sensations • Mental + Self-Representations | Decision Making • …

What can nightmares teach us?

Few of us make it through childhood without getting the wits scared out of us by a nightmare. Michel Jouvet, professor of experimental medicine and author of The Paradox of Sleep, theorizes such dreams may be behavioral rehearsals for survival, connecting emotions with corresponding actions. The dragon chasing you in your childhood dream is Nature’s …

Wired for distraction

USA Today identified 2010 as “The Year Technology Replaced Talking.” Rather than face-to-face communication, it seems a significant number of us prefer using cellphones and other wireless devices to keep in touch, even when the person we want to talk to is just a spoken word away. (93% of Americans have cellphones/wireless connections.) In her …

Biological ≠ Medical

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published a review (2008) that concluded articles submitted to journals by pharmaceutical companies and psychiatric researchers about the effectiveness of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors—SSRI antidepressants—gave a rosier picture of this class of drugs than the studies actually show. By mainly publishing studies that tout SSRIs success and …