virginia McIntyre cannot remember a time in her life when a Supreme Being, butterflies, and Vincent Van Gogh were not present in her life. A decorated veteran of the armed forces, researcher, celebrated educator in our public schools, professor in local community colleges, counselor, and artist; Virginia has strived to improve the quality of life for all people but especially our most vulnerable populations. Virginia is an award-winning lifelong artist and developer of high-risk urban children and youth programming. As ordained clergy in a service order that is inclusive of all paths to the God of All Names, Virginia leads holistic and spiritual workshops across the country. Virginia claims her life would have been drastically different if she wasn’t blessed with the instruction of meditation and breathwork practice upon her separation from the military. She has been labeled a social activist, and community organizer, and has been in the streets and lobbyist for various social causes but above all for the equality of women and black, red, brown, and yellow people in our society. Ms. McIntyre earned a Master of Science Degree in Creativity and Change Leadership, a Bachelor of Science in Education with post-graduate studies in counseling, and credentials in trauma, ACE, mindfulness, CBT, DBT, and more.
Many who have endured trauma suffer from anxiety. The good news, however, is that anxiety treatment is effective in most cases, and some very simple practices can keep anxiety at bay in the future. Anxiety can manifest with a mild case of the jitters to a terror so great we are afraid to leave our own homes. Following are a few strategies to assist with anxiety. There is no universal tool for dealing with anxiety as we are unique beings. Try several tools to discover what works best for you. Many techniques mentioned will reduce stress and strife immediately.
The first and most simple and direct way to calm anxiety is something we do every day. Breathing is our instrument to calm. Our breath is our instrument. Problems arise t when we are anxious because we automatically breathe in a way that can make our anxiety worse. Practice belly breathing. Breathe slowly and deeply so that our belly expands with each breath we take and contracts when we exhale. When we are anxious, we tend to talk to ourselves in negative ways. Negative messages fuel our anxiety, which increases catastrophic thoughts. Anxiety is very often a future-oriented condition. We worry about what might happen. The “what if” can never be answered at the moment and thus causes anxiety.
Mindfulness activities have been proven to decrease anxiety. Practice mindfulness while walking by using your senses to focus on your surroundings. Guided meditation is helpful while you simply observe your thoughts. Give music your undivided attention. Use your non–dominant hand to draw a picture. Close your eyes while keeping your pencil on the paper and draw your portrait. This 54321 exercises will help you be in the moment. Discover 5 items you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 objects you can hear, 2 items you can smell, and 1 item you can taste. Name the items and intentionally observe them.
These practices can reliably reduce your anxiety, but it does take practice and focus. Counseling for anxiety can also be helpful if symptoms are more severe or longstanding. Joining a meditation group, physical exercise, or taking classes in Tai Chi, Yoga, or Qi Gong can help decrease anxiety too. Next edition we will tackle yet another symptom of trauma: depression.
No human is free from trauma. Whether you experience it directly, observe it happening now, or on television; we’ve all greeted trauma in one form or another. As discussed in previous editions on this topic; there remains a lot of variability in how one responds or reacts to such an event. Everyone is most capable of addressing and thus healing trauma from a calm and controlled stance. When in a state of crisis or traumatic memory, we are highly emotional and charged and are at risk of experiencing a blank mind. When this occurs, take your time and practice getting in touch with your breath to relieve your overwhelm. No human is free from trauma.
Whether you experience it directly, observe it happening now, or on television; we’ve all greeted trauma in one form or another. Hope resides in the reality that healing and recovery are possible! As discussed in previous editions on this topic; there remains a lot of variability in how one responds or reacts to such an event. Everyone is most capable of addressing and thus healing trauma from a calm and controlled stance. When in a state of crisis or traumatic memory, we are highly emotional and charged and are at risk of experiencing a blank mind. When this occurs, take your time and practice getting in touch with your breathing to relieve your overwhelm. Focusing on heart-filled thoughts and escapades will lead you to the road of healing.
Without a doubt healing from trauma can cause strong adverse emotions, painful flashbacks, and an array of uncomfortable symptoms. These moments are coaching you to take a break from this endeavor, by taking a walk, meditating, or talking to someone you trust. Perhaps one would benefit from working with a professional mental health counselor. These moments are signals that an alteration in how you should proceed is warranted. Trust that you are in the best position to mark your pace in this work. Note that our thoughts, behavior patterns, and symptoms will be changed with time. Take a break of course but keep returning to heal your soul and life. Keep working with those exercises and strategies that help you in moving through pain and return ’you’ to yourself.
There is a widespread impact of trauma on our bodies, mental health, and ‘our’ brains. Trauma changes lives. Healing begins when we ignite the endeavors to heal. Next edition we will tackle a common symptom of traumatic injury: anxiety.
This remains a Holy Time across the oceans of this world and involves a vast number of wisdom traditions.
Regardless of the wisdom tradition, children across the continents are wide-eyed with awe-struck hearts filled with hope for love, peace, and compassion entrenched in safety and warm embraces to echo the bells cocooned in valleys, across mountainsides, swimming in rivers, roaming our forests, hung on cows, lakes, alive in hills, stampeding the plains, harvested in fields, bending meadows, moist jungles, whispering winds, and desolate deserts.
Yet, there are ever still children enveloped in fear, paralyzed with every pounding at the door, flinching with every ka-boom, yelping with the pellets sounding of rapid-fire, bombs exploding next door on their neighbors and families, machetes hacking at their little legs as they sleep, mothers and fathers to never be seen again, dying the excruciatingly painful death of starvation and dehydration as resources are stolen as they drop from the air or arrive via ship and war-ravaged mothers, nurse, from empty bosoms the last glimmer of all that once glittered, perhaps not dancing in their lifetime, or noteworthy, nor reported across our technological devices.
Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart Ph.D. (2005) introduced the term “historical trauma” to describe this specific trauma that Indigenous folks, including Taino and Latino people, experienced in the United States. She defined it as “cumulative emotional and psychological wounding across generations including one’s lifespan.” While historical trauma is the result of centuries of colonization and abuses, Brave Heart highlighted the effects of the separation of families and forced assimilation of the boarding school experience.
This is not about conquering and conquering. I find this time of year ideal for such a reckoning. Yes, we all stand on the shoulders of giants, and yes, we all stand on the shoulders of masked marauders. Please review previous editions, outlining generalized trauma and inter-generational if needed. Historical trauma is multigenerational trauma experienced by a specific cultural, racial, or ethnic group.
It is related to major events that oppressed a particular group of people because of their status as oppressed, such as slavery, the Holocaust, forced migration, and the violent colonization of our Indigenous brothers and sisters. Research indicates that race-based discrimination is detrimental to the mental and physical health of African Americans and all hues involved! Please join us next for coping skills that may help you navigate this life!
DEALING WITH TRAUMA, Part 2
In the last edition of this column, I promised tools and strategies on how to manage and heal from trauma. Reflecting on how trauma has pervaded across communities and families has prompted me to alter my course of prose to further educate and thus place us all in a better place to deal with trauma in our lives, workplaces, schools, and families. There is indeed individual trauma but also scientists have agreed that generational, intergenerational, and historical trauma exists, and the effects can be devastating to not only those afflicted but our society. Consideration for this serious vein of research has prompted this education on how trauma affects us first with the strategies to manage trauma symptoms to follow.
Science reveals that trauma can be passed down from one trauma survivor to another. It can affect descendants more than one generation apart. It can also be referred to as transgenerational or multigenerational trauma. People experiencing intergenerational trauma may experience symptoms, reactions, patterns, and emotional and psychological effects from trauma experienced by previous generations. These previous generations are not limited to just parents and grandparents. They experience trauma symptoms and trauma responses from events that did not occur to them; rather, the response is inherited genetically
Those affected by intergenerational trauma might experience symptoms like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including anxiety, hypervigilance, stress reactions, and mood disorders. However, because the individual did not directly experience the trauma themselves, they will not experience flashbacks or intrusive memories. Stress responses are linked to more physical complaints, intergenerational trauma can also manifest as medical issues including heart disease, stroke, or early death.
If our parents or grandparents experienced trauma, their DNA coded itself to have a survival response that helped them get through those events, which then passed down through generations. This “survival mode” remains encoded and passed down for multiple generations in the absence of additional trauma.
Some genes are dormant when we are born but activate based on our environment. When we experience trauma, our DNA responds by activating genes to help us survive stressful circumstances. These genes stay activated to assist us in future dangerous situations. We then pass these genes onto our offspring to prepare them for possible traumatic events. When genes are primed for stressful or traumatic events, they respond with greater resilience to those events, but this constant state of anticipating danger is stressful. The trade-off of being constantly prepared to keep us safe increases our body’s stress levels and impacts our mental and physical health over time.
DEALING WITH TRAUMA, Part 1
Trauma can cause difficulties in functioning. Trauma results when extraordinary shocking, distressful, and frightening situations and events dislodge our sense of feeling safe and cause us to endure feelings of helplessness. In other words, our worlds are shattered, and our normal coping strategies no longer work and uplift us. Our disturbing memories replay repeatedly, and traumatized individuals suffer as they attempt to control these images and thoughts. Effects can become evident in anxiety, startle responses, feeling numb, addiction, substance abuse, nightmares, feeling disconnected from others and severe trust issues towards other people, relationship concerns, knee-jerk violent reactions, and isolation. Our past experiences cannot be changed. However, we can heal from them and evolve into a new, yet altered, and often improved version of ourselves. Healing from trauma is possible.
Trauma may enter us through horrific, challenging experiences, and negative emotions. A troubling echo of an agonizing moment can plague us in what feels like an irreversible way. Witnessing, watching, hearing, and personal experiences can be traumatic. Trauma is not based on individual subjective emotions tied to an event, but on the intensity of negative emotions swirling around and felt by the person who endured the experience. We are all unique creations; thus, identical experiences can have different effects on different people. The depth of trauma may be at one level for you, but not for everyone.
We all identify accidents, injuries, violent attacks, partner violence, medical surgeries, rape, natural disasters, combat in war, emotional and physical abuse as well as living in a high-crime community where enduring threats are continuous or life-threatening illnesses as causes of trauma. Other causes of trauma are not readily recognized in our society. When a loved one passes on, we can be traumatized. Relationships ending that we have invested much into can be trauma-inducing. Enduring humiliation, deliberate cruelty, and severe disappointing experiences are also sources of trauma. Nor do we have to have a front-row seat to trauma to be adversely impacted by it. Exposure to massacres, and childhood abuse including those falling under the umbrella of adverse childhood experiences (ACE), terrorist attacks, airplane crashes, and other new channels of exposure to people being harmed on social media, our phones, and our TVs can tax our nervous systems.
While healing ignites when an individual accepts what has happened and ventures to recover, regaining a sense of safety may take weeks or years. Healing from trauma is not a cookie-cutter adventure. Investing in healing modalities that feel right will bring an individual to a better place after enduring trauma. After all, we are all indeed limitless! I suggest we all invest in ourselves and practice self-awareness and self-care. The sky is the limit! Please read the next edition for some tried and true strategies and tools to try out when healing from any type of traumatic event.
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