Some Thoughts from a Trauma Therapist (and Survivor) on Yesterday’s January 6th Reflections

Even though I’ve been watching the conspiracy theories and their consequences unfold from across the Atlantic, it’s been horrifying to watch more and more people seemingly believe them. Yesterday’s coverage, with reflections from lawmakers, the police and staff, naming what’s happening, offered some relief. This blog post shares some self care ideas…

TW… abuse

About 6 years ago, I was sitting in my old living room when I heard noise. My flat was right by the communal front door for my block so this wasn’t unusual. But it got louder and sounded like fighting.

Something hit my front door and, as quietly as I could, I ran over to see. Through the eye hole, I realised I’d seen one of my neighbour’s HEAD hit my door while her boyfriend looked on coldly.

Shaking, I took a quick calming breath (no time for an expansive power pose) and opened the door as assertively as I could manage.

It was after midnight and while I was worried about disturbing other neighbours, I loudly asked, ‘What’s going on? Do I need to call the police?’

She said, ‘Sorry. And yes.’

I went back inside and rang 999 saying how worried I was that she might have a concussion or worse. I remember being scared that she might die. I was relieved that she’d said ‘Yes’ about my calling the police.

They arrived within 20 minutes or so and came to me first. I again explained what I’d heard then seen and what I thought had happened. I imagine I sounded incredibly wishy washy with my worry but they said I’d done the right thing in calling.

I went back to the living room and figured I’d done as much as I could do. I think I did some Sun Salutations to burn off some excess stress hormones before bed but then there was loud banging on my door again.

The neighbour who’d said ‘Yes’ when I asked if I needed to call the police was yelling at me that they were taking her boyfriend away. And that it was all my fault.

I told her that I’d been scared that she might die. Her head had hit my door. Hard.

The police were still there and they took her away telling me it was OK.

I was shaken but didn’t see what else I could have done.

Kevin McCarthy, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and others who expressed fear and a sense of ‘ENOUGH’ on 6th January 2021 only to then continue to lie about the election results and minimise the Capitol riot and insurrection attempt as nothing to worry about remind me of that neighbour

Except that the Republican Party leadership (and wannabe Speaker) and Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, in denying reality, are harming the world and democracy

On 6th January, 2021, watching the horrors unfold at the US Capitol, I had no idea that far from putting an end to the madness, many of the law makers who’d been under attack that day would STILL vote against certifying Joe Biden as President (but didn’t question the legitimacy of their having been elected themselves, many on the exact same ballot)

Even though they had no problem with accepting the results of the very same election when it came to their successes. On the very same ballots.

Some attacked brave people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and one of the police officers they had claimed to support, Michael Fanone for being open about their trauma and putting the shame where it belongs. On the attackers and those who incite hate.

As Donie O’Sullivan put it (in his first live broadcast according to the recent RTE Documentary), while surrounded by insurrectionists, the madness wasn’t happening in a vacuum.

It was the result of years of lies and propaganda being spread.

Yet, in the year since, we’ve seen even more. The twice impeached former president wasn’t convicted by the necessary Senate supermajority, voting laws have been passed to make voting harder in 19 states and many people still believe his lies.

Democracy means one vote for every adult citizen. Everyone eligible to vote should have safe, convenient and joyful access to this privilege so many around the world are denied.

The emperors have been naked for years

I moved to Ireland in 2019 as a direct result of the Brexit vote. I despaired at the rise in hate crimes in the UK and lack of accountability and consequences for any of the people who’d so blatantly lied.

I’d only lived in the US (Delaware) for one year as a kid but, Indian Irish, had been born in London and lived most of my life in the UK. I still don’t understand how people in both countries have continued to vote for known liars for so many years.

When people say the personal is political, the political is personal too. Policies have a direct impact on the most vulnerable lives.

I’ve not been able to understand why so many people have continued to support politicians who’ve been talking about their beautiful imaginary garments when it’s surely obvious to everyone that they’re not wearing anything.

It’s a public health issue, too

Back in March 2020, the idea of 2 weeks of lockdown felt extreme but necessary in order to stop the spread of Covid.

While I hadn’t voted for the Irish Taoiseach I felt relieved that with his medical background, he appeared to be putting lives ahead of the economy. I believed that all the people who would be suffering from being closed (I was fortunate to be able to work online throughout) would be compensated for their public health efforts.

The UK government seemed to be minimising the risks. The (still!) PM talked about herd immunity, minimising the loss of the older and other at risk people who’d be sacrificed in order to reach a level of ease with the virus. Healthy young lives seemed to be the only ones that mattered.

By April, we knew that wearing a mask wouldn’t protect us completely but that if we ALL wore masks, we’d massively reduce the spread of this airborne virus.

All of a sudden, people who happily accept that there are very few 100% guarantees with anything wanted 100% certainty before doing the little things (washing hands, wearing a mask in crowded public places while continuing to social distance as much as possible) that could potentially save lives.

People who’d never worried about surgeons being able to breathe while performing complex operations, often over many many hours at a time, or children in Hallowe’en masks, suddenly said that being asked to wear a small temporary nose and face covering to protect, eg, other shoppers and staff, was ‘abuse’?

I know Ireland has a relatively high uptake of the Covid_19 vaccines but while I know lots of people can’t have it or are worried about it for medical reasons, I know alarming amount of people who share QAnon hashtags. I imagine that social media algorithms took them down these horrifying rabbit holes I feel sad that so many people are risking hospitalisation and death (as well as contributing to the potential creation of new variants) as well as aligning themselves with white supremacists. And I have no idea how medical professionals find seemingly endless supplies of patience.

Not being a doctor, I gently encourage people to speak to their own doctors about whether the vaccine is right for them. I know I was worried about anaphylaxis after initial reports and having a food allergy and I had my three shots at my GP instead of the further away county centre.

I also did for each jab what I do when I take my herbal medicine and vegan supplements each day, ask that it be guided to the parts of the body that need it most and that it helps. The mind body connection IS strong and I believe that it’s easier to benefit from any placebo effect and/or medicine by priming both to heal. I see no either/or about it. Complementary not alternative

Getting vaccinated felt like an obvious thing to have not only to minimise risk to myself (excellent protection against the original strain, pretty high against the Delta variant and high enough, with the booster against omicron) to offer some protection to others and to prevent my body becoming a lab in which any other variants might develop.

We can get better at handling uncertainty so we’re less likely to fill information vacuums with conspiracies and lies

The need for 100% certainty is one reason why conspiracy theories are so appealing — they offer an explanation where all is so uncertain.

Many people are listening to shouty videos promising certainty rather than the frustrating reality of science unfolding in real time, step by step, learning more, getting confused and knowing that’s simply part of the process with a never seen before virus causing global pandemic.

I keep asking myself if I’m missing something. If I’m getting it wrong but I’m not in denial about, for example, the vaccine being a new, experimental drug. We can’t possibly know long term effects yet but they’ve been through rigorous testing and the global situation brought scientists and doctors from around the world together to create what feels like magic in a very short space of time.

I also feel grateful to be able to take my chances with the vaccine that so much of the world is being denied. I hope it’s available to everyone who wants it — wherever they are — asap.

Similarly, I am so saddened by the situation in Afghanistan (as I have been since attending peace rallies before the US led military intervention) AND believe that Biden is not only doing his best but that his best is much better than so many other options.

When our nervous system is functioning well, with good vagal tone, we’re better able to navigate the complexities of modern life. Recognising its both/and instead of being so either/or.

It’s easier to set healthy boundaries in a loving and compassionate way.

Get your f***ing foot away from my face

I’ve been learning to set and maintain healthy boundaries since I realised it was an issue in my teens. The holistic approach I use with clients, students and members (including somatic work and energy work) has helped me enormously.

Even so, those initial impressionable first years on the planet, where I learned that others’ needs were so much more important than my own safety, have taken a lot of effort to overcome. It’s an ongoing practice.

Yoga therapy, being body work we do for ourselves, has been an enormous part of my own trauma recovery. I love sharing self care tools with readers and clients who might never step onto a yoga mat but who can still learn to rewire their brains and retrain their nervous systems.

I instantly loved yoga for the pain relief it offered me in 2001. I’d started going to classes after recovering from surgery for endometriosis and being told I’d need more surgery every two or three years until menopause.

Cat Cow, Wheel and other abdominal stretches offered pain relief and classes really helped but not having yet begun properly processing my trauma history, I would routinely sob in Savasana at the end of classes. I was mortified but also knew that the pain relief was helping. Yoga is a psychospiritual practice and I hoped it was helping to heal the flashbacks and other thoughts I so struggled to be still and quiet with. I’d had to quit alcohol that year, too as it made the pain worse so I was dealing with a lot of feelings and memories sober for the first time.

I knew the importance of shadow work but still struggled with setting boundaries and wanting to be ‘nice’. I lost count of the CPD (continued professional development) trainings I did where London yoga studios would cram as many mats into the room as possible. I’d inevitably squeak, ‘Excuse me, could you move you foot away from my nose, please?’ at some point during the workshop.

By this point, I’d already been coaching for several years and had been a therapist for years too (and having had so much personal therapy over the four years’ training).

And I’d still be angsting that asking a grown adult human who seemed to think a foot in someone else’s face was acceptable was ME being too precious around boundaries and personal space

While trauma sensitive yoga is more popular and understood now, back then, there seemed to be very little understanding about the need for space and choice.

One of last night’s dreams showed me how far I’ve come in the decade or so since. It involved international travel and a nightclub. No social distancing and no thoughts of Covid. I was there with three people and we were having a great time dancing. But then, two people came between the four of us. They were moving so wildly, one kept kicking me. Hard. In the torso and even face.

Dream Me had no qualms about wanting to be all ‘love and light’ and ‘nice’ and I yelled over the music, ‘Get your f***ing foot away from my face.’ Maybe she didn’t hear. Maybe she didn’t care but I had to yell it several additional times as she kept kicking me.

Each time, I yelled louder and stood taller. I was angry that I was having to point out the obvious (that it’s NOT OK to kick people because you want more space) but also assertive.

At no point in the dream did I think (as I so often thought years ago), ‘Maybe she somehow needs to be able to kick people to be OK? Maybe I’m being unreasonable here?’

My message was clear and simple and I repeated it until she finally heard it. I asked if I needed to get her agreement in writing (again, it was a dream) and she said no. She understood.

There was no apology but I woke up feeling like I’d spoken up and eventually been heard. It felt great.

Listening to people’s experiences is essential for healing

And I am sure that watching the reflections from staff members, police people and lawmakers as well as Biden’s speech yesterday helped me.

After years of so many people ignoring and even enabling political abuses, Pelosi and co yesterday set a collective boundary. I know they’ve been trying all along (with the phenomenal Jamie Raskin and co and the Impeachment trial and all the behind the scenes work but I hope that this week really makes a difference.

And I continue to cheer from across the Atlantic.

I also know that just like Younger Me used to think it should be enough to simply say something once, people who disregard boundaries often need repetition and clearer consequences.

We all have a responsibility about what we choose to share, to check our sources and to remember that we’re all connected.

Journal prompts: What boundaries are you going to set today?

How can you give yourself permission to stop others harming you by requesting changes?

What helps you feel most empowered energetically?

What helps you feel most empowered somatically (in your own body)?

How might you make more time for these mind body practices on a regular basis so they become more easily accessible for you when you need that calm, empowered sense of safety and ease most?

I hope this post helps you believe your own eyes and ears. Please feel free to share it on your social media etc so others who may want to do similar can read it.

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