on trauma responses

December 28, 2020 at 2:20 am marks about 48 hours of harassing, racist, sexist and intimidating texts and phone calls from who I assume was a white male nationalist.  How this man got ahold of my phone number, I have no idea.  What I do know is that he was not impressed with my works of justice at Cook County Jail.  He did not just come for me, but he also came for one of my professors from my graduate studies. 

In the wee hours of the morning, I called the police for help.  They basically told me to call back if he’s outside my door, as if that would do any good. 

I would be lying if I said that I have never before felt the terror that I felt that night. I have…several times, mostly from men whose fragile ego was aroused by me moving in my purpose and claiming and voicing my boundaries. In turn, their fragile male ego ignited flames of domination, subjugation, retaliation, and deception, which sought to engulf my whole being.  I have come to know all too well that the aroused fragile male ego has the capacity to be death dealing for women, creating social, physical, emotional and material death.  

But there was something different about this event. 

I had no idea who he was or where he was located. I had no idea how much this man knew about my life. Did he know where I lived?  Was he on my block?  Was he outside of my door?  Like a woman who knows the experience of negotiating her safety between the lesser of two male violence’s, I wondered if I stopped answering his phones call, would I only intensify his angry?  How far will he go to show me his disapproval of my black, female body and works of justice? 

This experience has been tucked away in the back of my memory since the event occurred.  It resurfaces from time-to-time when my sense of safety and security are being threatened by the fragile male ego.  In those moments…

I hear the sound of his voice. 

I feel the fear in my body.  

I remember the utter sense of helpless I felt in my own home.

I gasp for breath because the panic attacks seek to restrict it.  

Recently, this event was triggered in my body by a man who I hired to work on a few home improvement projects.  And in the spirit of the fragile male ego, he used our professional relationship as an opportunity to deceptively and covertly push boundaries to pursue his romantic self-interest, as if I was clueless to his scheme.

In turn, there I was in a full-on trigger episode, and once again not feeling safe in my own home. I have done enough of my own healing work, in therapy and in the safety of trusted community, to know when I am experiencing a trauma response. 

In God’s grace, a male friend of mine called in that exact moment. We dialogued and devised a solution to resolve my issue. 

I don’t share this experience to offer a prescription on how men with a “fragile male ego” should go about confronting their toxic masculinity, nor I am interested in shaming men, nor do I have solutions for how people who have been victimized by the fragile male ego should seek healing. And, I am not sharing to elicit sympathy. I am in a good place, or I would not be sharing.

Rather, I want to enter into the gray space– that murky place when we’re experiencing a trauma response. I want to offer nuggets of wisdom I’ve gleaned along the way:

  • Doing your own healing work should necessarily make you more empathetic.  Hold space for wonder and curiosity instead of judgement.  Hold space for yourself and others.  We are all one interaction away from a trauma response. 
  • Pay attention to how intuitive knowledge (trusting your gut) and trauma responses feel in your body.  They illicit different sensations and reactions. Know the difference so that you can respond accordingly.  
  • Identify those folks who can hold space for you when you’re in a trauma response episode. Some folks just don’t have the capacity to be present without judgment or without projecting their own trauma responses on to you.  It’s okay! We are all at different stages on our journey.  Remember you are not excluded from projecting your trauma on to others. 
  • Be unapologetic about your boundaries. You are responsible for keeping yourself safe.  Folks can come alongside and support of you, but only you know what is best for you.    
  • Be caution of not retraumatizing yourself every time you retell the experience. It’s your story.  You decide when and how often you want to share your story. (I personally never share parts of my story publicly until I have done my work to heal so that I share from a place of abundance not need. 

Where ever you are at on your journey, you are not alone. You are being held in light, love and warmth.  

Cheering you on!

———-

I first posted this story on Facebook. After reading it, a friend and colleague spoke a blessing over me from To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue. I offer the blessing to you, and I speak it over your life.

"To Come Home to Yourself"

May all that is unforgiven in you 
Be released.

May your fears yield 
Their deepest tranquilities. 

May all that is unloved in you 
Blossom into a future 
Graced with Love.  
                                                                                                                                     

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