How Trauma Is A Bear

“The Achilles heel of our conscience is that we forget. Stories help us remember.”

How amazing is that quote? And how true. Yes, as people we forget. We forget a lot, because it’s not in our day every day. Whatever it is. Racism. Abuse. Poverty. Oppression. Violence. Authoritarianism (well…ummmm). Disease.

All of those things and more. We are lucky if we don’t experience them, but we still need to know them. And stories, as author Barry Lopez said during a captivating “All Things Considered” interview, refresh our tired minds.

It reminded me of a powerful, verbal illustration an expert made recently about the physiological affects of domestic trauma, be it physical, verbal, sexual or other types of abuse in a home. It could be a very scientific conversation, and if it were, it might be ignored or fly right over a listener’s head.

But not when a bear is involved.

The expert compared domestic trauma to an encounter with a grizzly bear. That moment – the adrenaline that pumps, the fight or flight mechanisms that are triggered, the terror, the total switch to survival mode – as the life you were living is suddenly threatened.

And you survive that moment. In the wild, it’s over. You lived.

But at home? The bear comes home every night. And that physical response is triggered every time, even if the bear doesn’t attack. The fear of what could happen is enough to ring all the alarm bells and blow all the emergency whistles.

Is there any more powerful of an analogy than that picture?

If we encountered a grizzly, we’d shutter and sweat and freeze and feel our heart beating out of our chests and maybe try to tip-toe away from the danger. Imagine that at home. All the time.

No one should have to fear a bear, every day. No one. But they do. Too many do. And by making a visual story to offer a relatable comparison, story helps us remember.

Here’s hoping we don’t forget.