South Africa is still a deeply traumatised country as we live through the after-effects of our apartheid history and into the modern era. New generations of South Africans have been born into broken or toxic family environments where the trauma of our history perpetuates through poverty government corruption and many inherited and maladaptive interpersonal behaviours.
While the climate of racism, poverty and political corruption appears to be the most blameworthy symptoms of South Africa’s dividing problems, the underlying presence of deeply embedded past trauma cannot be ignored.
Distorted memories of our past and expectations of future remedy or lack thereof, compounds these issues by perpetuating old toxic behaviours with new toxic behaviours. The “us and them” conundrum simply get passed on to the next generation of young South Africans in a newly distorted format.
This race-based trauma cycle is ingrained into so many aspects of South African life that we have become numb to its presence. In cognitive dissonance, we simply ignore the markers that are inherent from many perspectives. The bottom line is that if we don’t start addressing the aftereffects of apartheids trauma, our country will remain stuck in a dysfunctional loop of racism, blame, corruption, persecution and poverty waiting for the ticking timebombs to explode.
By being South African you are a survivor of societal “complex trauma”. All of our upbringing in society “adverse childhood experiences” around racism, either through direct experience of racism or in the aftermath of racial retribution or in the wake of reverse racism or reverse discrimination.
Our response to racism is indicative of not acknowledging or understanding that the condition is generational.
Children naturally “pick up” the viewpoints of their parents and society and they inherit many of their traits, flaws and behaviours which can be either good or bad. When these childhood experiences are “bad”, “flawed” or “traumatic” many of the foundations of healthy emotional wellbeing can be disrupted and this disruption can carry on into their adult life.
The developing mind in childhood learns “coping strategies” to handle abnormally stressful environments in which it is raised. These coping strategies become the go-to programming when they are under stress. Traumatic experiences get stuck in subconscious memory loops that can continue to re-play into adolescence and adulthood as a person reaches an age where they are able to actively participate with the world.
This especially true in racist views in whichever format they play a role in the prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.
Without stopping the cycle, each generation of individuals may indirectly experience yet another version of the original trauma (albeit through different life scenarios and circumstances). Behaviours are modelled and relearned by the next generation much like the ladder experiment where intergenerational behaviours are transferred down to the next generation.
Read more about stress, ACES and complex trauma here.
South Africas Inherent Trauma
The average South African is raised in a climate of racial fear that is compounded by many present adverse living conditions. Even if they have not directly experienced our apartheid history the after-effects are severe enough to severely cloud political viewpoints. The climate of payback, blame and retribution continue to echo through the media and into our homes and the trauma perpetuates itself through our societies many ills.
The bottom line is that
- If you want to deal with substance use disorders, you will have to deal with the trauma
- If you want to deal with poverty & inequality, you will have to deal with the trauma
- If you want to deal with criminality, you will have to deal with the trauma
- If you want to deal with domestic abuse, you will have to deal with the trauma
- If you want to deal with toxic family dynamics or codependency issues, you will have to deal with the trauma
- If you want to deal with sexual abuse, you will have to deal with the trauma
- If you want to deal with child abuse, abandonment, neglect and all manner of inter-generational issues, you will have to deal with the trauma
Our countries horrific domestic violence, crime, rape, substance use and child abuse statistics bear testimony to the depth of the issues. Yet as a society and personally, we very rarely look at addressing the underlying circumstances that lead people to these points in their lives. It’s so easy to blame people for things never having to take into account what actually happened to bring then to that point.
Dealing with trauma is not about forgiveness, blame, retribution or conviction it is about stepping back and finding out what is really going on and what we can do as ordinary citizens to mindfully repair the damage created by our upbringing and successively toxic political governance?
We need to unlearn the brainwashed nonsense fed to us by our politicians, parents, peers and society and take responsibility by acting with unified integrity that exists within us all as human beings. As a society, we have fundamentally lost role models with absolute integrity and as a society, we have to change that starting inside our own homes.
More about trauma from Recovery Direct in South Africa
Learn more about Recovery Direct’s trauma-based programme and the unique process we use for admissions and care to expedite your recovery. This programme was put into practice by one of Cape Town’s leading trauma counselling professionals with specific understanding of addiction based disorders and complex childhood trauma.
Most of this website focus on aspects of trauma and substance use and all treatment services are geared at dealing with resolving the underlying trauma in patients. The centre is founded on treating trauma from a wide range of angles including sexual abuse, abandonment, neglect and a wide range of topics that adversely affect personality development.
The bottom line is that trauma can be treated. Trauma is NOT a life sentence and with the right focus of therapy, we are able to fundamentally clear the slate and get you back into living a healthy life again.