Pain vs. Trauma in Healing & Racial Justice

Hey! It’s been a minute since my last post. Since then, I’ve gotten married and started to prepare to move to West Africa where my husband is from. I am also working on the next phase of Justice For All Everyday while continuing to work with clients. So much good stuff! And, my brain is still always a-buzzing. Here’s something I’ve been pondering over the last few weeks...

Recently in a team coaching session I expressed that I believe emotions are different that fragility...that racial justice and healing requires room for everyone to emote. It is where, when, why, how, and from whom these emotions come that can lead to fragility. And fragility is not welcome in racial justice and healing.

So I’ve been thinking more about how to frame fragility. In order to understand fragility I think we have to understand the difference between pain and trauma. These are my conceptions of pain and trauma. These are not text book or dictionary definitions. They are based on my experience and thinking which, if I do say so myself, are just as valuable than a text book or dictionary. So I think of pain as: discomfort, frustration, confusion even, that is temporary, experienced in the moment, or short term. It can seem pressing and important NOW (and in that very moment it just may well be). It matters, and, it is narrow in focus. When it comes to racial justice, white peoples’ experiences are often influenced by this temporal pain. This is what fragility is based in.

Trauma, on the other hand: the long term and lasting impact of repeated/many painful experiences often caused by systemic -isms. Trauma is deep and bigger picture. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous & People of Color) experiences are often influenced by (racial) trauma. BIPOCs (and all of us with intersectional identities) often have to navigate pain and trauma simultaneously. For now, just inviting y’all to sit with these ideas with me. What do you think?


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