Opening Words from Sun. March 20 by Rebecca Mackelprang

My name is Becca. My pronouns are she/her/hers. I moved to St. Louis a little less than two years ago to attend grad school for social work and decided to stick around. I currently work as a behavioral health intake therapist at a hospital. I heard about the ethical society from a podcast and decided to check it out. Since I left the faith I grew up in, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of a secular community and really respect what the Ethical Society stands for in the greater St. Louis Region.

I’ll be giving today’s opening words. The theme this month is about learning from our past. I wanted to apply that to learning from past trauma. People don’t think about this a lot, but the vast majority of people have experienced some form of trauma. As a social worker, most of my clients fall into this category.

Trauma creates a unique response. In some it manifests as shame, withdrawing from others, or feeling numb. I think it is important to remember that these responses once served the purpose of protecting us from our traumas in some way, and that they tend to remain long after the trauma itself. Trauma is not our fault, but it is our responsibility.

In the past two years, we as a society have experienced the collective trauma of a global pandemic that has led to isolation, fear, and loss for many, if not all of us. We are not the same today as we were in February of 2020. And that’s okay. We all have some healing to do. But let’s not forget to give ourselves grace and remember that seemingly self-imposed barriers to healing once had a purpose.

Embracing self-compassion is how we move forward. I would also like to encourage each of you to extend grace to others as we work through the process of healing together. Assume best intentions. Try to engage with empathy. Be forgiving insomuch as it is beneficial for you and your relationships. And extend these same graces to yourself. This can sometimes be the hardest part. It might even require *gasp* therapy. I know, it’s a radical thought coming from a mental health professional. And it’s definitely much easier said than done.

The process of learning self-compassion requires unlearning the things we heard and internalized as children that led us to hating ourselves in the first place. It can take years, and progress is not linear. There may be setbacks along the way. But it means being able to show up for ourselves and out loved ones fully, and healing from our trauma is the best way to break the inter generational transmission of trauma that is so prevalent in our community and others. And when’s a better time to start than now?

Thank you.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.