Blogging our way through time — recording our histories — recording our histories in the making — reading histories in the moment — What I found at the end of one of Dr. Bruce Perry’s articles (link below) makes me think about how new and different our perspectives on the passage of time and our places in it are today as we participate with advances in technology to record ourselves as a species in a new way.
“Learning the language of trauma and translating the verbal and non-verbal elements of this language will require many more years of investigation. Yet, as this investigation is underway, it is the task of all of us working with maltreated children [ME: and adult survivors] to educate our peers and the rest of society that this language exists…. To educate our society that traumatic events, like other experience, change the brain. Further, that the brain stores elements of the traumatic events as cognitive memory, motor memory, emotional memory and state memory, altering the functional capacity of the traumatized individual. And, in the end, by robbing the individual potential of millions of children each year, childhood trauma and neglect robs the potential of our families, our communities and our societies. (page 16)”
Info above and below is from this article: Memories of Fear: How the Brain Stores and Retrieves Physiologic States, Feelings, Behaviors and Thoughts from Traumatic Events by Bruce D. Perry, MD, PhD
Beginning at the end of page 16 Perry talks about trauma and history – and what is human history but what we remember of what happened? I am copying this portion of the text found at this link into this post – in part because it reminds me so much of what all bloggers are doing today – recording our history and our perspectives on history-in-the-making in the ongoing moments of the present.
“The memory of trauma is carried not only through the life of the individual by their neurobiology but it is carried in the life of a family through family myths, childrearing practices and belief systems. Major traumatic events in the history of a people or culture become memorialized, as well, and carried forward across generations in our literature, our laws and our very social structures.
“It is the unique property of living systems to carry forward elements of past experience – indeed, for all living systems, the present is contingent upon and a reflection of that past experience. In a very true sense, a body collective – a group – is a living, dynamic system. And, as the individual carries its own history forward using the apparatus of neurobiological mechanisms related to memory, each living group carries its memories forward in time. Yet living groups – families, clans, societies – carry this information forward using different mechanisms of recording and storage.
“Over the history of humankind, the methods for recording and storing the experiences of the group have evolved. In our distant past, humans living [in] groups passed experience from generation to generation using oral tradition – and sociocultural practices – language, arts, belief systems, rules, law – all were reflections of the past – and with each generation, modification, amendment, and alteration of the past ‘memory’ was modified by present experience. With the development of written language, information could be passed across generations more efficiently. Sociocultural advance occurred at an increased rate, made possible by more efficient ‘remembering’ of the lessons (good and bad) from the past. The ‘brain’ of humankind – the libraries of the world — kept ‘civilization’ alive through its darkest moments – and even if generation after generation during a given period in history did not take advantage of this ‘memory’ – the information was not lost to humankind.
“Later in history, again, with the introduction of the printing press, the past was more efficiently stored and passed on. Books became available for everyone. More people became literate. Information of all sorts – arts, science, social studies– was stored in books. Again, a tremendous advancement in human sociocultural evolution can be traced to this process – to literacy and widespread education. Information from the past – primarily cognitive information – enriched the present. The rate of creativity was accelerated; invention and innovation – new ideas, machines, products, processes – were facilitated by the more efficient sociocultural ‘memory’ allowed by books and literacy. Now, in the span of a lifetime, the accumulated and distilled experience of thousands of generations could be absorbed – and acted upon to create sociocultural advances.
And now, we are in the first generations of a new era of recording, storing and transmitting information – electronic media – tapes, photographs, videos, films – all immortalize the experiences of humankind. The electronic media allow a unique and
different form for the memory of an individual, family, community and society to pass from generation to generation.
“There is great hope for humankind in these advances. In the past, the inefficient methods of recording, storing and passing on the horror of war, rape, neglect, abuse, starvation, misogyny, slavery – allowed these lessons of living to be edited, modified, distorted and, with tragic consequences, forgotten. Only elements of the experience of war were passed across generations – the heroism of an individual, the success of the nation — and the emotional ‘memory’ of war – the hate, rage, death, loss – has been transformed, altered and, all too often, forgotten.
“Creative artists have always played the role of ‘emotional’ memory for a culture. In ways that standard recording of simple facts and figures cannot convey, a painting, poem, novel, or film can capture the emotional ‘memory’ of an experience. But in a society where access to and ‘artistic’ literacy is low, the emotional lessons of the past are easily lost. And when the last veteran of each distant war died, an element of the emotional ‘memory’ of that horror died as well. Unable to carry the emotional memory of war to the next generation – history could much more easily repeat itself – or more honestly, we could much more easily repeat history. But with documentary and creative film and video, which can convey both the fact and the emotion, maybe it will be harder for us to forget the past – and we, therefore, will be not so doomed to repeat it.
“Yet the ever present danger of recording, storing and passing on false images, false stories, false history can be equally destructive. The responsible use of film, video, electronic storage may allow us to use these advances to promote and pass on those qualities which create, sustain and grow our humanity and, over many generations, to leave behind those qualities which rob our humanity (racism, misogyny, factionalism).
Can we change our world to create fewer traumatic memories to carry into the next generations – fewer traumatic events to shape our children who will create our future social structures?
“How can we heal the scars of individual and group trauma that haunt us today? Can we ever make racism, misogyny, maltreatment of children – distant memories? There are solutions. These conditions are not the inevitable legacy of our past. When an individual becomes self-aware, there is the potential for insight. With insight comes the potential for altered behavior. With altered behavior comes the potential to diminish the transgenerational passage of dysfunctional or destructive ideas and practices.
“And so it must be for groups. As a society, we cannot develop true insight without self-awareness. Enduring socio-cultural changes in racism, misogyny and maltreatment of children cannot occur without institutional and cultural insight and the resulting altered institutional and cultural behavior. The challenge for our generation is to understand the dynamics and realities of our human living groups in a way that can result in group insight – which, inevitably, will lead to the understanding that we must change our institutionalized ignorance and maltreatment of children. (pages 16 – 18)”