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The Holiday Trauma Vortex


This blog post explores how the consumer machine is strategically designed to counter nature's inherent co-regulating forces that support a secure attachment with life. A collective body that is dysregulated is vulnerable to control and manipulation.


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As we enter into the darkness of winter (in the northern hemisphere), all of life descends into the roots. Nature’s invitation is to slow down and decrease. Yet it is precisely at this time when the consumer frenzy picks up, encouraging the opposite, and the cost is our humanity.

Taoist wisdom reveals that life moves inward and outward in fixed rhythms. There is a period a flowering followed by decline, although what appears to be turning back is really turning inward as life continues to move forward. [1] The womb of Winter is a time to slow down, turn inward, practice restraint and evaluate our lives.

However, Black Friday as an example, is a symptom born of the trauma of colonial capitalism. It is a day steeped in the mythology of individual freedom, progress and eternal growth. It seeks to legitimize and normalize the exploitative consumer machine along with our personal pursuits to satiate the inner hunger of disconnection.


Separation from nature is the source of our collective trauma as it alienates and cuts us off from the intelligence of our ecological selves and relational nervous system. The alarms are going off and collectively we cannot hear. We are numb to the pain of the world because the trauma of separation is ongoing and the violence of our culture continues to impact our ecological self.



The Trauma Cycle of Consumerism

From a cultural Eco-Somatic perspective, Black Friday is a trigger in the addiction cycle that switches the cultural nervous system toward the trauma vortex of dysregulation. The pace, movement, thoughts, breath patterns and collective ways of being associated with the hallmark holidays indicate an addiction to the state of hyper-aroused activation.


Research reveals that there is a clear neurobiological link between compulsive buying and substance misuse. The writings and work of April Dawn Harter addresses this as it relates to Narcissism when she says, "we activate trauma compulsively in order to numb (dissociate) the emotional pain associated with C-PTSD.”


Around 96% of people admit they are making impulsive purchases either in stores or online and about 43.5% of Americans regret buying things on sale. Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, characterized by sales that cause frenzied excitement and yet is marked by injuries and even deaths that are a result of mass hysteria. It is expected to produce 429,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from product deliveries alone — that’s the same as 435 return flights from London to New York. The ensuing madness from now till the end of the year illustrates how addiction and trauma are bi-directionally linked.


Jan Winhall emphasizes that, “when we understand that addictions function as neurophysiological state regulators in light of traumatic experiences, it follows that they need to be addressed and treated together. And, regardless of whether you believe that trauma underlies all addiction, the state of addiction is a traumatizing experience in itself." [3]

What’s important to understand here is that we are not separate from the larger systems that shape us and as a result our nervous systems have been groomed in relationship to the overcultural body which:


“enforces a system of beliefs, world views, self-concepts, coping strategies, and flows of belonging built upon a certain set of values, goals, and qualities: namely self-interest, individualism, domination, competition, short-term thinking, impulsivity, power hunger, profit-seeking, authoritarianism, consumerism, endless growth, perfection, urgency, reductionism… among others… Ultimately, the Western cultural framework of imperialism, colonialism, industrial growth, capitalism, white supremacy, cishetero-patriarchy is a culture that inflicts a kind of complex trauma.” [4]

Western culture and industrial growth society relies upon domination, disconnection, fear, and scarcity to drive the growth of our economy while compromising the delicate balance of ecological systems in the process. We are born into and shaped by a system that isn’t designed for our thriving but aims to keep us in the trauma cycle of survival, further disconnecting us from our bodies.


We are inundated with messaging and are sold the narrative that having new things and accumulating wealth is what will provide you with a sense of security, love and a sense of belonging. We have been groomed as a collective to try and meet our attachment needs through the avenue of consuming which only further separates us from the very thing we long for.


The violence of industrial growth society (aka. separation, mind-body split) enacted against earth gets stored in the body as trauma and shows up as certain holding patterns and addictive cycles of behavior. The resulting disembodied state creates an alienated sense of being in the world which fuels feelings of apathy, numbness, disconnection etc. and which ultimately make us less caring and sensitive, and more likely to feed into the viscous cycle of addiction and trauma.


How to Counter the Holiday Trauma Vortex

Our tendency to go along with the status quo is an adaptive strategy to a maladaptive environment. The more people who choose to participate in this cultural somatic movement pattern and set of behaviors, the more entrenched the mythology at its root becomes. Keep this in mind as you navigate this season.


Being attuned to the energetic shifts on a collective level, especially during times of heightened activation, is part of our responsibility as bodyworkers for the earth. If you opt to participate, do so mindfully and with care.


Slowing down, creating lots of space for pause, and settling your nervous system will support you to notice the shifts taking place collectively. It is this kind of embodied awareness that will also support you to be more intentional with what you are investing in.


Here are some ways that you can counter the holiday trauma vortex:

  1. Start a meditation practice using an app like Insight Timer. You might also like to join a group online or in person. For example, as part of our Sacred Grove Community, we host free Sunday night meditations during the lunar cycle leading up to the Winter Solstice which usually begins around the end of November.

  2. Opt out of the holidays all together. Go on a retreat instead.

  3. Instead of shopping, spend time outside exploring natural areas close by. Practice mindful walking as you walk slowly and take in all the beautiful sensory gifts.

  4. Instead of giving gifts, share in meaningful experiences like volunteering for a local organization to help clean up a creek or serve food.

  5. Minimize your online spending. Challenge yourself to cut your spending habits during a time when the tendency is to spend more.


References:

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