A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand
I remember being fascinated, in my 7th grade classroom, looking at a map of the history of the rise and fall of empires. Greek in green for a short narrow strip, Roman in red in a much longer and fatter strip, various empires trading dominance and sometimes disappearance down through the eras of Western history. The British empire a nice solid yellow, medium size but very wide. (“The sun never sets on the British Empire.”)
And it dawned on me, so clearly at 12 years old…that the American empire would some day fade away, too.
I was so delighted with myself to understand this: our natural place in the inexorable flow of time and history. But when I enthusiastically shared my new “aha!” with my homeroom teacher, she immediately scolded me for even thinking such an “unpatriotic” thought. How dare I?
I was in 7th grade in Peoria, Illinois, the heart of the heart land. And my teacher’s response was the truth of the day. Illinois is also the land of Lincoln and, in 7th grade, we were learning the history of the state of Illinois and life of Abraham Lincoln and his role as U.S. President during the Civil War and his determination to end slavery and save the Union. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
I’m not much more of a political animal now than I was in the seventh grade (though hopefully I’ve kept my capacity to understand that even the most powerful of empires do rise and fall). My life work has evolved to the intersection of psychotherapy, neuroscience, and Buddhist practice, culminating in a rather relentless focus on resilience. (Including how people survive the rise and fall of their empires.)
[P.S. While I was writing this post last week I was also participating in the Women, Trauma, and Mental Health online conference sponsored by PESI-UK, and heard pioneering trauma researcher Judith Herman speak about the necessity of a “moral community” for surviving trauma. Learning how the fundamentals of relationships of mutuality are exactly the same for democracy as they are for therapy: that each person (client, therapist, citizen) is respected, has a voice, can relate to others through mutual consent. In both paradigms, power and responsibility must be shared and there is a deep commitment to fairness. Good to know.]
The United States is now more greatly divided within itself than at any time since the Civil War. [Here’s a link to the East-West Coast blue state/heartland-South red state voting in the 2020 elections.] And indeed, many of the “isms” that now divide the country are carry-overs from that Civil War – of states’ rights and white privilege over federal law and the rights of everyone to vote, to have freedom of opportunity, to “breathe free.”
My need to learn to ask the right questions post-election continues as I expand my understanding of resilience as not only bouncing back – returning to “normal” for individual clients – but bouncing forward – creating the new normal for an entire society beyond the personal self, when the old normal – pre-COVID-19 global lockdown, pre-images of murders of black youth going viral, pre-lifetime union factory job being outsourced overseas – is nowhere to be found.
Beginning next week, I am once again taking a “sabbatical sort-of” – less frequent postings and winding down the webinar teaching for the year – to focus on creating a new online course for January 2021 on cultivating the resilience mindset, part of the growing Resilience 2.0 library. The sabbatical sort-of is another deep dive into what researchers and clinicians are discovering about how communities and cultures, as well as individuals, survive trauma and support the thriving and well-being of all of its members, all of humanity.
In the spirit of…
It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts. – Harry S. Truman
Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know. – Daniel J. Boorstin
It is, in fact, part of the function of education to help us escape, not from our own time – for we are bound by that – but from the intellectual and emotional limitations of our time. – T.S. Eliot