restoring imagination

[As the possibilities of “post-pandemic life” slowly emerge, this excerpt from Shelly Rambo’s insightful theology of trauma seem applicable. How do we restore “embodied practices of imagination” at this time?]

The practices of sensing life are embodied practices of imagination. When Bessel van der Kolk speaks about the path of trauma healing, he says a primary bodily connection to the world needs to be restored. In the course of his research he has discovered that, of all capacities lost in the experience of trauma, the loss of imagination is perhaps the most devastating. For trauma healing to happen, the capacity to imagine one’s life beyond a radical ending, to imagine life anew, must be restored. “The degree to which we are successful, as clinicians, is the degree to which we can restore these capacities of delight, hope, and imagination,” he says. Restoring the sense of trust and meaning is not purely cognitive; it involves instead a different sense of the world. Sensing life is this kind of reconnecting process; it is an exercise of imagination in the face of what is unimaginable.

This second movement of Spirit witnesses a process of coming into life, of sensing it again. The Spirit’s witness, here, is to forms of life that are less discernible, more inchoate and tenuous, than visible and secure.

  • Shelly Rambo, Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining (2010, p.162)

being surprised by racism

[From an article on trauma and racism]:

When people react with horror and surprise to racist and violent incidents, they may not be aware that their reaction might not translate well for those most directly affected.

I confess that even though I am not surprised on a macro level, and I know that hateful incidents are part of a pattern of systemic racism, my immediate, unfiltered reaction to a horrific incident is often a combination of surprise and outrage (e.g., “I can’t believe that this just happened!!”). I need to check myself because I’ve learned that the expression of surprise can unintentionally have the impact of invalidating another’s experience or give the impression that I believe these incidents are, in fact, isolated. For this reason, I’m working to restrain that gut reaction!

Black people aren’t surprised. They are not surprised about #TamirRice, #TrayvonMartin #AiyanaJones #EricGarner, #SandraBland, #AhmaudArbery, #BreonnaTaylor, #GeorgeFloydand countless others. BIPOC in Canada are not surprised about #MissingandMurderedIndigenousWomen, #ColtenBoushi, #ChantalMoore, #MachaurMadut, #RegisKorchinskiPaquet, and so on. For those who recognize the impact of systemic and structural racism, there is no surprise.

What can I do? Reflect on my actions, learn from mistakes, read more, learn more, acknowledge more, invite feedback, and listen to what BIPOC say they need and want. These are good things that anyone can and should be doing!