As we approach and move through the 10th anniversary of September 11th, our media has such an opportunity to help. To help every single one of us and to help our families, communities, and country. But the media won’t fulfill that potential if they only address the experience people had on September 11, 2001 and the experiences they’ve had individually and communally in our world since that day.
There are some very responsible media people who have done courageous investigations filled with integrity.
But I haven’t seen, heard, or read any of them talk about the inner war on terror. . . and its roots. What a huge service the media could do for us all if it would help us understand this.
As children, our painful feelings are far more intense than we can bear, especially if we don’t have parents who can help us with those feelings (because nobody helped them with theirs). So we find ways to get away from those feelings and bury them deep in our psyches.
One of those feelings is fear . . . at it’s most intense extreme, terror. So we bury the terror without even being aware we are doing so. It’s a reflex. But the terror doesn’t go away.
It lays inside us all the way through our lives, waiting to be triggered. And we find ways to defend ourselves against it. We may eat. We may think a lot. We may become very shy and withdrawn. We may become outgoing and develop the ability to befriend everyone. We may lash out and bully people. All to defend ourselves against feeling that terror . . . the very terror we have buried. All to defend ourselves against being in a position where we might once again be terrified . . . feeling not only the new terror but the terror from long ago, too.
This occurs in our individual lives. Children whose terror is awakened by bullies may become bullies to defend themselves against terror – current and past. Parents whose buried fear is triggered somehow by their children may become abusive parents. Perhaps their child is scared, triggering their own fear. Perhaps they can’t make their child do something, triggering their feeling out of control and hence their own terror. The parent yells, screams, hits, puts their child in his or her room all alone and locks the door. Very possibly the way the parent was treated as a child. This is abuse … no matter how the parent may try to justify the abuse legally, religiously, or any other way.
In other words, abusive parents terrorize their children as a way to defend against their own terror from long ago in their childhoods.
How is this any different than what we in the US did after 9/11. In order to defend against our terror – both the terror of 9/11 and the terror that lived within each of us from previous years all the way back to our childhoods – we created terror. We engaged in things that started a domino effect – wars, killing, torture, lying, fighting abroad and here at home . . . all to defend against terror. We created terror to defend against terror.
This is exactly what happens with individuals who defend themselves against something . . . for example, their terror. The defense eventually creates the very thing we defend against. Since 9/11 as a country, we did communally exactly what individuals do in their lives. We defended against our terror – old and new – and ended up creating terror. When individuals do it in their lives, it affects them, their families, their places of work, and everyplace else they touch. And when we did it communally, it affected our whole world. And because the media didn’t understand this – about themselves or about us communally – they fanned the flames of the defenses and they fanned the flames of the terror.
But now, in addition to some of the very responsible current day investigations and reports, the media has a chance to do something different. To teach us what is happening beneath the surface, within us. And to help us do something different in our lives and the life of our world.
If we can know that yes! there are frightening things in life, but build our capacity to feel the fear without acting out on it. . . to distinguish the fear today from the fear still alive inside us from long ago . . . it will help us begin to make healthy, wise, safer choices in the face of fear today.
If only we had known this on September 11, 2001.
The media could help us know it on September 11, 2011 . . . for that day and for our future.
© Judith Barr, 2011.