A few months ago, I picked up Richard Grannon‘s “removing the narcissistic malware” course. I found it incredibly interesting at various levels. From a personal point of view, it’s helped me look at patterns in the way I mess certain things up. Although I pride myself in not making the same mistake twice, I do make the same kind of mistake with unfailing regularity… which really amounts to the same thing. Although the information is incredibly helpful, at times it’s hard to digest. The lines between agency, responsibility and blame can get painfully blurry.
Almost none of it is completely new to me, but I’d filed it in one mental folder and not looked at how it connects to everything else. It’s a stupid/normal/human thing to do. It does reduce the practical applications of information, which is a waste. At the same time, it also reduces the amount of time I spend feeling nauseated about the state of the world, so I guess it’s a trade-0ff.
The latest punch to the gut was realising how trauma and self-defence instruction can get intertwined, can grow tight and twisted around each other; how they can so easily feed into each other; and how sometimes even situations that are very functional can be based on an underlying kernel of deep and abiding dysfunctionality.
Trauma often changes people. Whether it’s temporarily or permanently; whether it’s for the better or the worse; whether that change is harnessed by the person going through it or a freight-train running through or over them; whether it’s in everyone’s face or so internal as to be virtually invisible even to the individual in question… Trauma and change seem to go hand-in-hand. Hell, maybe that’s the difference between “something that happened” and “a traumatic event”: the fact that the latter changes you whether you like it or now.
Trauma, or the change it brings about, has a tendency to make people look for certain things, and susceptible to certain things. Yes, everyone is different and everyone is special and everyone reacts differently, due to a myriad of variables that affect the impact of an incident on their lives and their recovery from it. However, everyone is also human, and there definitely are patterns in how humans tend to react to things.
Trauma can make people exceptionally good at doing some things. Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes that’s a bad thing – sometimes the difference is only an issue of short- vs long-term, because some exceptionally useful short-term adaptations and tendencies are hugely toxic if carried on indefinitely. If you lose the ability to find that switch, or if you identify with your survival mechanisms to the point that all you can do is survive, that you’re too afraid of letting go and moving on to thriving… not good.
Trauma can also make people more prone to getting into violent or abusive situations; traumatising situations, ultimately. Trauma can lead people into more trauma. Sometimes I think of it as a virus, altering people’s behaviour to make them more prone to catching another dose, or to spreading it around.
Self-defence is about managing violence, or the threat of violence. For us in this time and place, violence is often closely linked to trauma. But the process can also work the other way round: traumatised people get into self-defence because of their trauma, and incorporate what their trauma has taught them in the way they learn. They accept and respect lessons delivered in damaging ways, or altogether damaging lessons. Worse than that, traumatised people get into self-defence because of their trauma, and incorporate what their trauma has taught them in the way they teach others.
Perhaps trauma has taught them so much in such a short space of time, and dismantled so much of what they’d previously learnt, that this way of learning feels “more real.” Perhaps I’m full of shit. Perhaps I’m seeing imaginary things. But I look at the ways in which some self-defence is taught and preached, and I see the hallmarks of trauma all over it. I see lessons that are carried too far, or warped (e.g., yes, it’s important to be strong and withstand bad things and bad people, but it’s also important to remember that getting the hell out of their way, if it’s an option, is often the best option). I see methods of teaching that are potentially traumatising or re-traumatising hailed as “transformational.” I see a false equivalence between what is awful and hurtful and what is real. And although I think I get it, I can barely stand to look at it.