October 28, 2017
THE MEN ARENA ATTACK AND BONFIRE NIGHT: Why trauma is more than a psychological issue
I will be using words in this blog that may be read by people who may have a “moment of remembering” upon reading these words so please be cautionary in reading and sharing of this blog. I do want you to share it and hope you will read it before using the acronym TW. I don’t normally use the TW word/phrase for reasons I’ll explain below and this word will be used in this blog, along with some other words that may evoke trauma memory revisits. Please seek support if you feel you are affected by this blog- I am attempting to share knowledge to implement change in favour of trauma victims rather than the blindsided behaviour of late.
I have spent the last few months working with some of the Manchester Arena attack attendees. During this time I have had my knowledge of trauma rewritten in many ways and I have been astounded at the bravery, courage and vulnerability of these clients. During the conversations I became aware of the impending behaviours of the public around this time of the year.
Much of what I have learned is that as a society here in the U.K. we are nowhere near ready to deal with these levels of complex issues around trauma. Much of what happened post the 22nd May (the MEN arena attack) has been lacking the knowledge of trauma by the system and professionals and this has added to the trauma of the people who were there. Not forgetting many of these people are children and young people and the adults who accompanied them.
I’m attempting to avoid the phrases “trauma informed care”, “trauma informed practice” and “trauma informed” as I personally believe that we could all become ‘trauma informed’ and not do anything with this knowledge. I mean we are all gravity informed Yes? Apart from Physicists most of us are unlikely to use gravity informed knowledge to practice our roles in society? For me this is the issue, we can read about trauma, attend lectures, watch videos that talk about trauma and so on but to quote Jim Kwik “Knowledge is potential power, its only when you use it that it becomes power” (forgive me Jim if I haven’t quoted you verbatim but you get my drift).
So my knowledge transfer here is about how trauma can be revisited by the body and memory systems. You see for all of the Manchester arena attendees their bodies felt the bomb blast no matter where they were situated in the arena. To reiterate; their bodies felt and now remember the feeling of a bomb. This does not require the thinking part of their brain to do this. This is a body experience. So to give you an idea of this, for those of you aged 18+ This is like the feeling of being stood in front of a nightclub speaker- its the feeling of soundwaves (in this case they are shock waves also), you don’t need to think about the sound you just feel it.
Furthermore when someone is presented with a word (spoken or written) this can also provide a person with a moment of remembering. For example “Beach” or “Christmas” may have just evoked in you a particular memory (good or bad and I apologise if its the latter I can never guarantee that any word I use will not do this for everyone). So words that are often used by the trauma community and by people on social media are “TW” (which means trigger warning) which precedes some information or images that are indeed ones that will and do evoke and elicit trauma revisits; This is where the body and mind remember the trauma, also known as a flashback or retraumatisiation.
Why am I sharing this with you? Well here is the ‘trauma information’ i.e. knowledge…
When fireworks, particularly the large, loud booming ones are set off over the next few weeks leading up to and after the 5th November there will be a number of people around the U.K. who were at the Manchester arena on the 22 May 2017. Guess what their bodies will remember and feel like when the big fireworks make their noise? Guess what their bodies are likely to remember and feel like if they smelled smoke that night and then smell a similar smell on the 5th November? Guess what they will remember and feel like if they see the firework names in shops on the high street? Guess what they will remember if anyone talks or writes about ‘trigger warnings’ if they were one of the attendees that thought it was a gunman? (after Paris who could not think this might be the case?).
Well here’s the ironic thing about trauma informed and the 5th November. ..Parliament (who were almost attacked on the 5th November) are/ought/should be trauma informed? I believe they both are and are not. We as a country actually celebrate this near attack by having a day dedicated to this. In the U.K. we have Veterans and serving soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from war zones, we have people fleeing war torn countries and we have an exceedingly high number of children (and adults) who have child trauma in varying formats and now we have MEN arena attendees with trauma.
How do we look after these people with legislation and laws? Well it seems we allow the selling of retraumatising, loud, large, booming fireworks to the public who can and do let them off at varying times during the year with a sales spike in November and the end of December. We support our traumatised individuals by reducing the number of organised displays, whereby they would have the option and choice to attend and would be able to plan for this. We remove choice, consent and autonomy in favour of sales that promotes the celebration of an attack that resembles those very ones we condemn from Parliament. This is considered trauma informed politics, business and life in the U.K.?
Parliament has the power to change this. Parliament has the power to use the trauma informed knowledge to change this for our population of traumatised individuals. You also have the power to not buy the fireworks and to share this message in order to inform people about trauma and yes there will always be those of us who abuse this power, however we can make a difference by understanding trauma and choosing to take care of those who are traumatised.
Hopefully if you see someone that seems to be struggling around the fireworks perhaps it would help you think about how you would react to a scared puppy who might be shaking, trembling, whining, urinating and possibly running around barking. How would you handle this? What do you think would be helpful? Perhaps the human being who is also displaying these kinds of behaviours needs the same kind of approach. How about: Softness and compassion? Just an idea….?
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