September 11, 2023

NORMALCY IS A CHOICE (profanity alert):

The Geology of Misery: What Philip Larkin and Ted Lasso (and Science) Tell Us About TraumaOn Breaking the Cycle of Individual and Collective Dehumanization (Catherine Buni, September 11, 2023, Lit Hub)

[Burke Harris, author of The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-term Effects of Childhood Adversity,] has identified seven granular, research-based strategies that prevent the human-to-human hand-off of misery: sleep, exercise, time in nature, nutrition, mindfulness, mental health care, and healthy relationships. The tool she uses most? "Walk and talk. Exercise combined with talking with someone."

Ideally, she said, everyone has access to the tools for healing. To good doctors who can help them understand how their adverse childhood experiences and family history affect their risk of harm. To food and housing and job security, education and safety. Ideally, everyone who needs and wants it can get into therapy, not to gather up surface praise, but to dig deep for healthier ways to be in relationship with other people and, critically, ourselves. In therapy, Burke Harris said, "you can work together to create a plan for prevention." A plan to stop handing on misery.

Ideally, we all work to shore up policies and institutions that support collaboration and care, places, whether a family, neighborhood, school, or country, where people pull together and do their damndest not to repeat, repeat the harm. "The real work," she said, "is to change societal outcomes."

Unquestionably, it is a good time to pass along the revelations and research of Burke Harris, and others who are pushing back on cynical acceptance and imagining a different trajectory, while also, perhaps, cracking a grim smile alongside Larkin. There's Stephanie Foo, Judith Herman, Resmaa Menakem, Bessel van der Kolk, and others too numerous to list in full here, and, well, yes, says Burke Harris just before we hang up, there is now also "Ted Lasso."

"How has nobody emailed me about this?" Burke Harris recalled wondering as she'd watched. The show's communities are cooperative and inclusive, with characters who step up against bullies and bigots, who do not tolerate abuse and harm, of anybody, regardless of identity or position. There's a men's group that aims to nurture healthy relationships, she observed, the juxtaposition of one dad who is verbally abusive to his son with another dad who lifts his son up, and all sorts of people who decide to try therapy, including Ted. "It feels so different than what we would have seen even ten years ago," Burke Harris said. "It's beautiful."

Hard to know which is more mystifying, that so little is needed to treat ourselves or that we are so unlikely to embrace the (literal) steps.

Posted by at September 11, 2023 12:00 AM