Present Tense

We HAVE to love

monkey-loves-cat1I was just reading an article about dog behavior.  Most things in the world come down to animals for me, particularly dogs, but this concept struck me as a perfect example of some insight into the question that has become our national mantra: “What is wrong with people”?

Seems that puppies have these two times during their development, when a fear response can become ingrained and turn into major behavioral problems for their entire lives.  One is between 8-10 weeks and there is another 2-3 week period between 6-14 months of age.

They cited an example where a perfectly normal and well-adjusted German Shepherd pup suddenly became extremely aggressive toward other dogs.  He was fine with people, but his owner was literally afraid that he would kill another dog.

The genesis of this very serious problem was one traumatic incident: the dog and his dog buddy were wrestling around in the front yard, as they had done for months, when they got too close to the invisible fence.  The German Shepherd was shocked and immediately went after the other dog, resulting in an all-out dog fight.

From that moment, he became increasingly aggressive toward other dogs and would never play with that familiar dog again.  ONE incident of traumatic pain and fear, altered that dog’s life forever.

Let’s turn to humans.  How many incidents in our past have shaped our relationship to life?  Things that we can barely remember or that we can’t remember?  The figurative electric shock of various traumas that have been layered one on top of another since we were born.

Even though life in the United States is relatively safe, compared to many parts of the world, there is a lot of trauma going on.  Trauma for many that begins the moment they were born into a family with a history of violence or abuse.  Trauma in their neighborhood, where crime and violence were common place.  Trauma from being different and/or not fitting in.

It may not have been anything physical like an electric shock.  Maybe it was listening to the adults in our lives express fear or suspicion or flat out bigotry and hatred toward someone or some group?  Maybe it was something learned in church or from media.

Maybe it was the devastating loss of a loved one or pet or friend?   My God, the list is endless, isn’t it?

All of these incidents add up over time and in some of us, morph into destructive behaviors.  Just like the dog.  We are really no different in our conditioning, particularly when we are young and don’t have the skills to cope or analyze.

So, as we discuss the various tensions within our nation and the world, remember that humans are not machines.  We are all shaped by our environment and surroundings.

Those of us who are pet owners, know that puppies need a lot of love, attention and socialization.  Training them with abusive or fear based methods can result in aggression and that makes them dangerous.

Humans are delicate.  We are easily bruised and scarred.  We also need gentle handling, not only as babies and children, but for our entire adult lives.  Be aware of that and be aware that many of your fellow travelers carry around not only their trauma, but the trauma of their ancestors, because that stuff is passed down.

It’s so easy to see.  Look at the Middle East.  Look at the problems in our inner cities.  Look at the problems on Native American reservations. Ancestral trauma.

We all carry it around with us like a heavy, ever-present backpack. In order to begin to see others in a loving way, we must heal ourselves.  We have to release our past traumas and pain in order to open up to healing the pain of others.  Don’t discount another’s trauma. It is real.  It animates them; often in ways that are destructive to them and to our society.

Listen to these people’s fears and experiences.  Really HEAR them, without your political or religious or socio-economic filters.  It’s not just their trauma, it is all of ours and until we acknowledge and embrace that, the killing and conflict will continue.

Empathy.  Walk a moon in their moccasins, measure your words and reactions. Be kind.  We are all in pain.

July 10, 2016 - Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Beautiful, in New Thought we call it “race consciousness”. Being mindful is one solution, self awareness & self consciousness of our inner child.

    Comment by Eva | July 10, 2016 | Reply


    Comment by Linda | July 10, 2016 | Reply

  3. Well, as you know I deal with a lot of young men’s trauma and have seen it turn into some very horrific decisions later in life that created more trauma for others. I believe you have struck on one of our major issues in our country and the world really. Many people are not willing (or able) to put aside their own “baggage” to listen, really listen to others. I try to teach my young men to listen. You do not know what struggle the person across from you is dealing with at that moment. We allow things to build up, with no outlet to vent it, and look what we see? I struggle with getting parents to listen to their kids. A recent Time magazine survey says that 82% of parents of children 10-14 are proud of their children. Only 52% of those kids stated they thought their parents were proud of them? There is a communication problem here and listening is a big part of it. If you want to write a book about the impact of trauma on young men, let me know. Your hair will curl. We need to stop defining people by one interaction or one reaction to something on any given day. Look at the whole body of work. That day was just a bad day for them. We all have them. That is what makes us human. It doesn’t come down to race, it comes down to human decency. Keep fighting the good fight Jane. You keep me sane.

    Comment by Tim Lankerd | July 10, 2016 | Reply

    • Tim
      I believe every single thing that you said. This is your wheelhouse and you are doing such good work. We still seem to have the crazy idea in this country that if you praise or appreciate someone, you will ‘spoil’ them. And yet, we all know how great it feels to be praised and appreciated. How many people complain the most about that aspect of their jobs? That they aren’t “appreciated”? We’re still about tough love in our culture. Even though people bitch and complain about the ‘every kid gets a trophy’ mentality, they aren’t picking up what it means. It means tell your kid they’re good. Tell them that you love them and are proud of them. All of the time, not just when they win something.
      By this same token, we have to remember that there are millions of kids out there who NEVER hear this. And when society tells a black kid that he’s a suspect, that he’s bad, that he’s not as good as a white and when he sees that there is so much unfairness in how blacks are treated, what do we expect?
      And then there’s our incredibly punitive prison system….it goes so deep and it’s so complex and we have to stop always punishing for every minor transgression.
      Tim, we’ve got a long way to go….

      Comment by janelondon | July 10, 2016 | Reply

  4. Sweetie, thought you might enjoy this post from Jane London

    Comment by Stacey Loos | July 10, 2016 | Reply

  5. […] Jane London looks at the role life trauma plays in shaping us for the worse, and encourages us all to be agents of healing in the lives around us. Read We HAVE to love […]

    Pingback by Recommended reading | Down the Road | July 16, 2016 | Reply

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