We Are All Norwegian

Opening in a Painful World

The Norwegians display an enomous outpouring of grief and compassion as they begin healing from a national tragedy.

As with the Japanese tsunami in April, when something occurs as tragic and traumatizing as the Norwegian murders last week, I cannot remain silent about it in this blog.  For one thing, such events bring the world into a collective awareness and grief. Worldwide, most with access to the news share in the terror, the tragedy, and the helplessness. For a few days, we all place a flower, at least in our hearts, and we are all Norwegian.

And beyond sharing the collective grief, we also join much of humanity in pondering how it can be that a person’s thinking could become so twisted, apparently by hate, as to convince himself that causing others great pain and loss could be justified or could ever effectively further any political aim.

I’ll leave the psychological analysis to others. So far, we know very little about the history of the perpetrator. We do know that severe trauma at any age can close the heart and the mind to the normal human qualities of empathy and compassion.  It is those qualities, not laws and prisons, which prevent most of us from seriously contemplating such an act. Even if we are hurt and angry, even if we feel passionately about a cause, most of us can, to at least some degree, “feel” in our own bodies and our imaginations the pain another would suffer if we were to harm them.

That is a good thing.  It is a major part of what makes us human and allows us to live close to each other…and to love.

I’m certain that many of the survivors and parents are severely traumatized right now, or inconsolable with their losses.  It will take time and tears to recover and to salvage their lives after this tragedy. I hope and pray they get the support they need.

Hundreds of sites nationwide provide impromptu memorials for the expression of grief and condolences.

For the rest of us, there is a choice.

Such an act can trigger us to close our hearts further. We can react from the instincts of fight, flight, or freeze, saying, “Just as I thought and feared, the world is an ugly and dangerous place.  I must protect myself and those I love at all costs”.

Or, we can open our hearts further. We can choose to recognize that the choice of more self-protection and attempts to control others only leads one direction…towards more pain.  We can choose to notice that even a world with such pain is also filled with flowers and that it is only love which can ever bring us and our world any peace, healing, and safety. With the deepening of this understanding, we can take this tragedy as a reminder to re-dedicate ourselves to whatever practices and teachings help us to open further to loving ourselves and each other.

I think the video below shows that the Norwegians are trying to choose this second path. May we all be Norwegian.

Your comments, questions, and stories are welcome below. I will respond.

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Paul Chubbuck is a practicing psychotherapist in Fort Collins, CO, using Somatic Experiencing to help people release trauma, abuse, and loss. He may be reached at 970-493-2958 or through his website at www.releasingthepast.com.

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    • Piajansen

      Very beautiful Paul.Your choice of words and the video are so touching. It made me cry, thinking of the many Norwegians I have encountered during my travels there.