I felt compelled to write a post. I have been doling out ‘quotes’ for the past few months. It has been enough for my mind to keep sensing, feeling, processing, learning & adapting with the help of these one or two liners. That is, till today morning. As I prepared for the day ahead, I got some free minutes, a rare feat I may add. As I glanced through the newspapers, I came across three poignant photographs. A child sitting in a bright orange chair of an ambulance clicked in the dead centre of a picture. It would have been a cute or an adorable picture save for the torn, bloodied clothes, the dazed, war-ravaged injured face of his. He, for me, became the epitome of trauma. He wasn’t crying, he was in shock. He seemed too numbed out to even register himself or his surroundings, all the life-saving symptoms of trauma.
I do hope as you read this description, your heart broke into million pieces or at the very least cringed in horror before you thanked your stars that you didn’t see these pictures or may be said a prayer for the little one or offered gratitude to the universe for keeping your family safe. All wonderful coping strategies & possibly all goods signs of a loving, kind human being. As you read this, possibly you sense a streak of anger in my words. I am angry, I am grief-stricken. If I let the veil of anger lift, my eyes immediately fill up with tears. Tears of pain, loss, deep sadness & a sense of helplessness, despair at what trauma is getting inflicted everyday. It is out of these feelings, the helplessness that I am penning these words.
The little boy is from the Syrian city of Aleppo, which though has been evacuated, had casualties when bombed recently. Syria for me, like many of us, is very far removed from my reality. I, like all kind human beings, say a prayer for them, not condone violence & hope to forget the memory of these grisly details. A normal, adaptive human coping skill. Today it failed, it rarely works as well, but today it failed, with 100% success. I am glad.
As I looked at his little boy, I could see trauma written all over, born of human conflict & creation. He has just learned that the world around him is a dangerous & unsafe place. He also has learned, with absolutely no efforts to imbibe these learnings, that the people currently in this world are also dangerous & will tear him apart for their gains, that no one can be trusted. Lastly, not the least, I say with the heaviest heart that he learned his biggest lesson of all that he is a speck, an insignificant speck on the surface of this earth. He for some time, will jump at every sound, will either sleep too much or not enough, may not feel hungry, may feel very angry all the time or may just feel like not doing anything. Or may be he may just be frolicking in the transit refugee camp as if nothing really had gone wrong, giving us all the impression that he’s such a strong little fella. Well, we would be wrong, dead wrong. If he thinks all is well, he is well, he has successfully disconnected from his horrors.
Now human brain is a beautiful thing, it always, & I am emphasising, it always works in your best interest. If it believes that you need to disconnect from your difficulties, it is probably the best surviving strategy for you in this moment, right now.
So now would be a good time to ask me, so what’s got your goat! All the symptoms, thoughts, behaviours I described are the expected, evidenced after effects of trauma. A lot would now depend on what kind of help, after-care would this little boy receive. But can you imagine, how the anger at his home, safety & innocence being snatched away would evoke hatred & despair in him. Would it be a long stretch to imagine how this hatred would keep building latently over years & then one fine day he meets people who share this anger, hence deep pain & grief that has long gone into hiding?
Would it be a stretch to imagine how these people bound by the pain of their losses, connect & with the aid of resources decide to inflict the same horrors to make themselves feel better? Would it be a stretch to imagine that someone could easily tap into this forgotten pain & take advantage of it, may be promise healing in way of retribution?
I don’t think this is a long stretch, I believe this is a reality. May be one percent of the affected people respond this way, may be you will put in front of me thousands of fine examples who responded with bravery & turned their life around. I, like you, am rooting for that. I, like you, do believe in the goodness of people, prayers, gratitude, thousands who are extending their hand in help.
I also do know, it’s take one Adolf Hitler, one Saddam Hussein, one Osama Bin Laden to mobilise the pain of millions & connect them in a way that peace & genuine human bond could never. As long as we have war, we have horrors, innocent bystanders, we have traumas, as long as we traumas, we will have violence, passed on through generations.
As long as we have violence, we will need more humans who can bare their hearts to tolerate the pain & losses of others with compassion, knowing that we are collectively responsible for what we inflict on each other, morality & ethics remaining of little matter.
So what am I asking of all of us today? Look at the picture of the little boy for 10 seconds, will yourself, let yourself be awash with pain & grief. Dip into that pain & make a promise that each time you come across so-called dark emotions of humanity, in you, us, you will try to find some compassion for it. After all, we all have our crosses to bear & unique stories to tell, they become easier to bear when humanity opens their humaneness, in all of its healing glory.