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July 17, 2020

I am the Cultural Emblem of a Predator…

Injustice has been brought into the light. Its reach is vast and global, the sheer magnitude making it hard to breathe. Underneath it, palpable anger hangs heavy in the air. It creeps through our bodies — bursts from our pores.

As a psychology student, I am currently enrolled in Gabor Maté’s Compassionate Inquiry professional training. In one of the training videos, the physician, renowned speaker, and bestselling author ruminated on  which is a psychological term that alleges trauma can be transferred between generations.

Everything inside me resonated while listening to his words. Inwardly, I cheered. 

But then, as the video continued, he began to list the races and religious groups who tend to carry this type of trauma.

African-American people. First Nations people. Jewish people.

And I felt my soul shrivel when I realized he wasn’t talking about .

Shame crept in. How dare I consider myself to carry any part of the suffering these highly abused and underprivileged groups are weighed down with — and have been for decades, even centuries.



And a white girl from  of all places.

If anything, I am the cultural emblem of a predator, not a carrier of ancestral trauma.

Or am I?

What I do know is I was born with guilt in my bones — guilt that is older than I am, than my parents are. With every breath I’ve taken since the day I was born, I was taught I have to atone for the sins of my ancestors. Not my ancestors as in my blood lineage — at least not to my knowledge — but as in the people of my homeland. It’s like being a character who didn’t come in until the middle of a story, who didn’t ask to be there, yet somehow still gets blamed for the beginning they had no part in.

Ever since I was a little girl, I felt like I wasn’t good enough — could never be — that the task of repentance was too far beyond my grasp. At an early age, I decided I needed to be controlled, had to be as perfect as I could possibly appear. My quest for perfection led to me denying myself the right to even feed my own body. In the process, I developed severe anorexia. I ended up bringing myself to the brink of starvation, which led me right to the very edge of death.

Was I trying to heal the injustice my grandparents’ generation inflicted on thousands of innocents? The theory is too out there for some people, but it is a very plausible statement in the light of epigenetics. But regardless of whether it was my intention or not, I do know it wasn’t working.

Now, I am not asking for pity. I’m not denying any of the horrors that have happened in the past. However, my following question is genuine and heartfelt.

How can we — human beings as a whole — possibly manage to make amends for the atrocities we inflict on each other year after year, decade after decade, maybe even millennia after millennia?

By acknowledging we have done wrong?

By apologizing?

By asking for forgiveness?

By finding ways to make up for it?

And by eventually forgiving ourselves?

Yes, I definitely believe so.

But by punishing ourselves and each other into eternity?

I’m not saying these stages can or will happen overnight. The most important thing to remember is implementing these steps takes time. There’s a natural progression of feelings, which will come in stages — anger, grief, forgiveness, and, yes, eventually, the hope of redemption. According to the study of epigenetics, it takes seven generations to be fully healed from severe trauma. We can’t rush this. Each stage requires its time.

But while we are busy healing from previously inflicted trauma, we might want to think about how many more traumatized generations we are creating… and consider how many more it’s going to take before we realize it is time for a new generation to emerge, one that rests in acceptance, compassion, and kindness. Humans who — regardless of race, religion, nationality, sexuality, or external differences — take care of one another and this precious planet.

I’m not saying I have the solution. I don’t know how to fix this unending, worldwide assembly line that creates predators and victims. But I have too much hope and faith inside myself to accept that we — the human population — can’t break this cycle.

Maybe it’s time we all took one step farther, dug one layer deeper. If we are able to, that is. And by saying, ‘if we are able to,’ I am being serious. For many of us, the pain is so alive, the threat so real, that our nervous systems are incapable of seeing beyond the immediate pain. Many people are hurt deeply enough that they are merely going through life in survival mode, somewhere between fight-and-flight and freeze. With the messages many continuously receive, it is beyond understandable, isn’t it?

“Inferior, suspicious, and dangerous,” the racist cop/store owner/employee enforces these beliefs on people of color with every discriminatory act.

“Nerdy, stupid, and flaming gay,” the high school bully says, gleefully spreading his homophobic rumors and views while taunting the only openly flamboyant-acting boy.

“Fat, ugly slut,” the popular girl cruelly hisses to the girl forced to always be a wallflower.

, each victim eventually yells inside their own head — starts to believe down to their very soul.

Trauma is not only created by horrible things that  happen, but it is also enforced by the good things that  have happened — but didn’t.

Good things such as: someone standing up for us, having our back, setting things straight, doing the right thing, being there for us, seeing our innate worth, and telling us that we .

It is the absence of what we know in our hearts  have happened but  that hardens a heart. When it starts, the ability to be mean is born. The harder the heart becomes, the more the ability grows and multiplies — to hate, to judge, to condemn. And yes, if the conditions are right, to be evil. That combination is the fertilizer needed to replant the breeding ground of past horrors and regrow them even stronger.

So, if we want to heal the trauma, where do we start? Gabor Maté captured it so succinctly when he said, “No society can understand itself without looking at its shadow side.”

The shadow side of our society — society meaning the entirety of the human race — consists of the people we cast aside. This includes the ones we consider lesser, who we deem deserving of punishment, and who we feel so little for that we believe them unworthy of anything besides abandonment — the prisoners, the criminals, the homeless, the addicts, the mentally ill, and the ones at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.

What do we do about them? I couldn’t agree with Charles Eisenstein, a social philosopher, author, and speaker, more when he said, “On some level, we know that our society, our planet, will never heal when people are languishing in prison. […] When the most vulnerable people are exploited and destroyed, the most vulnerable places are also going to be destroyed and we will never be whole.”

We cannot heal as a whole — not while there are people locked away in prisons, rehab centers, and mental hospitals. And to take it one step further, what if the very people who struggle to thrive in society are the ones who can show us what needs to be changed? What if they could point the way? It’s a point to take into consideration, and it brings to mind these powerful words from Jiddu Krishnamurti, an Indian philosopher, speaker, and writer:

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. We have lost it, or we have never had it; and, because we do not know how to judge anything, we have been led here and pushed there, beaten up, driven, politically, religiously and socially. We don’t know, but it is difficult to say we don’t know.”

. What would happen if we finally admitted it? Admitted that We. Just. Don’t. Know.

If we acknowledged that we are all yearning for a better reality — one we might not even be able  imagine. Because anything we are currently capable of imagining would still be some version of our current situation, which many of us can clearly tell is not working.

Charles Eisenstein could not have put it more eloquently when he said, “We don’t have a precedent. All we know [is] this isn’t working, and we don’t want normal to continue. We are done with this. I don’t actually trust anyone who has a complete, thorough plan for a perfect society because that plan is going to smuggle in aspects that are invisible to us that won’t become visible until this breakdown sweeps away what is normal. We are incapable of actually describing the world that our hearts know is possible. We feel it. We know it’s there. […] It is this knowing that there is somewhere where we are going, and we don’t know what it is. It is not technological utopia with flying bots and robot servants and mechanical computerized body parts and immortality. That is simply a projection of our current condition. It’s a proxy for what we really want. Just as celebrities are a proxy for the expression of our own greatness.”

So, if all we have for a moral compass is our feelings, it might be a good idea to look inward, dig deep inside, and actually allow ourselves to . Not just for ourselves or what we want — but how our actions or reactions might make  feel, too.

Otherwise, nothing will change. Minority groups and disadvantaged people will continue to exist and emerge anew. Sure, the outraged words on the demonstration signs will alter slightly. The protests on the streets will sound differently. But the crux of the matter will stay the same.

An African proverb states, “The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.” I believe every person can understand the meaning behind that down to their very essence — to the spark that  us human.

Humans need human contact to survive.

We  to hold someone.

Because what  truly need is to  held.

Tenderly, sweetly, and, most importantly, with care.

We need to hold each other in our pain, in our dreams, and in our desires.

Hold each other and convey, whether with words or actions, “I don’t know what you went through, and you don’t know what I carry. So, let’s sit and listen to each other’s stories.”

Hold each other with open hearts and say, “I see you — in your uniqueness and in your pain.”

Hold our elders, our disadvantaged, our children, our mentally ill, our addicts, and criminals. Hold them and actually listen when we ask, “What do you need? Why do you struggle?”

Hold them, hold them, .

Hold the hearts of the ones who are hurting the most.

, my friend, is where we will find the answers.

It is how we will learn and remember that everyone we meet is fighting a battle we know nothing about.

How we will remember to be kind.


So we can finally heal.


Photography by Suki Zöe

Works Cited:

Eisenstein, Charles. ,S1 Apr 13, 2020, 1 hr 21 mins, Luminary. 

Krishnamurti, Jiddu:

Maté, Gabor.. Penguin Random House, 2011. .

Maté, Gabor.Compassionate Inquiry Training video. .

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