Monday, April 13, 2015


Monday, April 13, 2015

My stroll through the landscape of the Values Alphabet continues.  Today's word of the day is conversation.  Boy do I ever feel this particular value is a timely one to write about.  And yet I haven't really been looking forward to writing about it.  I suppose that is because I often feel like a lone man on the top of a mountain who has decided he would prefer to do his writing and not really engage with the world in any substantive way.  But I will keep trying.  And I plan to continue engaging with other human beings.  I am just much more thoughtful about how I spend my time and energy.

Yesterday Hilary Clinton announced her decision to compete in the 2016 presidential election.  I was not surprised by this.  There had been clues that she was seriously interested in vying for the presidency a second time.  To use a term from the comic strip Peanuts it would take a complete blockhead to not connect the dots and conclude Hilary wanted to try again.  The realm of social media lit up like an overly decorated Christmas tree once her announcement was made.  I have to admit I am not as excited about her candidacy as I would like to be.  I suspect her candidacy might galvanize the political Right in such an extraordinary way that our nation will regress even more in the coming months and years.

Conversation is such a vital phenomenon in a vibrant, functional society.  I haven't been inspired by the capacity of my fellow American citizens to engage in civil discourse in some time now.  I have no doubt there are many factors that have contributed to our slide towards an increasingly uncivil society.  Certainly our media is one major factor.  You need only turn on the television and see lies peddled as truth.  Our interpretation of the merit of free speech also seems to be a contributing factor.  Just because speech is 'free' and protected to some degree does not mean it is contributing much to our ongoing discourses regarding our deepest issues.  I honestly think what we eat is contributing to our issues as well.  And I don't just mean obesity.  Certain diets are known to increase risk of persistent inflammation in the body.  The sugar and unnatural ingredients found in many processed foods certainly don't support calm, reflective thinking.  It seems we are a society filled with reactive thinking.  And I believe reactive thinking is often deeply connected to unhealed trauma.  I will write more on this shortly.

I ceased interacting with most of the individuals within my paternal family of origin due in large part to the fact that I could not engage in a civil conversation with them about the issues of trauma that affected me as a kid.  I was quite amazed by the amount of resistance and avoidance I experienced when I would try to bring up these deep seated issues.  And any criticism I made of the avoidance and resistance I encountered would typically be misconstrued as some sort of personal attack.  I find it sad when people have this equivalency set somewhere in their minds that criticism somehow definitively equals attack. Whatever happened to constructive criticism?  Such criticism seems to have vanished as Americans became less and less able to have conversations about much of anything.

So what about conversation and trauma?  Enriching conversation made possible by practices such as meditation and reflection can, in my opinion, be a very valuable ingredient in the healing process.  Making some sort of meaning of our suffering is something some traumatized individuals will feel the need to do.  And creating meaning often requires having less than comfortable conversations.  We may feel the need to converse with our relatives and friends as well as representatives of institutions that play significant roles in our lives.

Here are my questions of the day:

If you could choose one single person to speak with regarding a trauma from your own past whom would you pick?  

What would you hope to accomplish in such a conversation?  

How would you measure a successful outcome in such a conversation?

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