Tuesday, October 22, 2013

It's a Mitzva to Talk About Trauma

Yetziat Mitzrayim, the Exodus from Egypt, is our model of trauma survival as individuals and as a nation.

Bechol dor v'dor..."In every generation one must see himself as having left Egypt."  

Trauma, if we are to leave it in the past and if we are to learn from it, must be out in the open.  It must be exposed, talked about, processed, and understood...
We are commanded to remember the Exodus, Yetziat Mitzrayim, and talk about it every single day.

Not a day can go by where we can afford to forget what happened to us.

Forty years of wandering in a desert of recovery, must not be kept a secret.
God wants us to talk about it.  Even if talking exposes our family's mistakes and embarrasses us.  For example, Moshe hit the rock and didn't talk to it...We can learn from this to talk to even the most stubborn and hard among us.

Don't hit the rock.
Talk to it. 
Engage in a dialogue. 
Violence is not the way to go.

 If we don't remember, acknowledge, and talk about our traumas we are doomed to repeat them.

  Traumatized people who keep their past a secret are likely to repeat history.  We tend to deny, minimize, rationalize, forget...and then repeat.

We are commanded by the Torah, to own our trauma, to own our recovery, to own our past.  We are commanded to acknowledge just Who it is who walks us out of an abusive situation, into the desert of therapy, where we begin to recover.

Therapy is messy.
Lonely as a desert.
Therapy after trauma takes a long time.
As a nation it took us forty years.

Recovery is full of mistakes, and acting out, and consequences.  We complained, we whined, we wanted to go back to Mitzrayim, because at least it was familiar.
At least there, we knew what to expect.
In Mitzrayim, among our abusers, we had an identity.  We were slaves. Victims.  In the aftermath we rejected truth and worshiped a golden calf.  A fantasy God.  We denied and ignored reality.

 As trauma victims leaving Mitzrayim we struggled to make sense of what happened to us.  We forgot, and we still forget, that we are being held by God.  We deny that our every need was, and still is, being cared for.

God understood, and understands that trauma survivors are needy, immature, and confused.  We are struggling for a sense of identity.  Who are we, if not victims?  What happened to us?  Was it really so bad?  Maybe abuse was better than this lonely and confusing desert of recovery.

Surviving, and getting to Israel took a lot longer than we thought it would.

We are commanded by God to never forget that we were slaves.  We were victims of trauma.
And to know that now we are survivors.

We survived the years in the dessert, as difficult as they were.
We did eventually get to Eretz Yisrael.
It was not without struggle and tremendous loss.
 Many didn't make it.

We are commanded to acknowledge our survival, and to know with our entire being, that it was indeed miraculous.
 And that it had nothing to do with us.
Alone we never could have left.

Without God we could never have survived.  It was God who took us out, who saved us, and loved us unconditionally as we healed as a nation, wandering in the lonely desert for forty years.

It is God, in every generation who takes us out of abusive situations, who loves us unconditionally, in spite of our mistakes, and who holds us, and provides for our every need as we wander for years on end in the confusing, hot, and lonely desert of recovery.

Trauma and Survival must never be kept a secret.

 Talking about Trauma is the secret of our survival as individuals and as a nation.

Then, now, and always.


  1. Genendy, that was so beautiful! I love your analogy between the abusive situation we suffered in Mitzvayim at the hands of the Egyptians, and H-Shem taking us out of that situation.

    Please keep writing - your words have a healing power.

  2. amazing to connect these 2 scenarios helping those who need to heal. You are so brave and I look forward to reading all your posts.