Trauma Stewardship

The following are excerpts from the book Trauma Stewardship by Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky with Connie Burk:

"Ethical work cannot be sustained in an eroding environment that fails to support its workers."

"... when people perceive their organizations to be supportive, they experience lower levels of vicarious trauma." 

"Service rationing refers to the process that workers go through to bridge the everyday divide between the ideal of how they would work if they were free to function to the best of their ability and the reality of how they can work, given the numerous obstacles in their way."

"Our responses to trauma exposure can foster a defended, exclusive, and hopeless culture in the organizations we work for.  Think about how your workplace feels.  What's the energy level?  What's the vibe?  These qualities have nothing to do with the intensity of the work.  Instead, they have to do with the degree to which the organization's structures, policies, and attitudes support or impede the workers' efforts to fulfill the mission." 

"An organization's culture can become so steeped in notions of scarcity that it enforces policies radically incongruent with the original mission."

"We frequently see trauma exposure response manifest in our work in two other ways:  lack of accountability and unethical behavior."

"One example of systemic oppression is structural violence.  This concept was introduced in the 1970s by Johan Galtung, a pioneering Norwegian researcher in peace and conflict, and founder of the International Peace Research Institute.  He describes structural violence as:  a form of violence which corresponds with the systemic ways in which a given social structure or social institution kills people slowly by preventing them from meeting their basic needs.  Institutionalized elitism, ethnocentrism, classism, racism, sexism, adultism, nationalism, heterosexism and ageism are just some examples of structural violence."

"Caregiver stress is directly related to the way our society views the elderly and the people who care for them," elder-care expert Vitaliano says..."Today, caregiving is viewed largely as a burden in this country.  If it were viewed as more of a societal expectation and people were willing to offer more support, fewer caregivers would suffer in isolation, [Vitaliano] says. In turn, fewer elders and disabled people would experience abuse or neglect at the hands of caregiving individuals or institutions." 

"Many of our fields and places of work seem to function [] from a place of tremendous urgency.  This sense of urgency distracts many organizations from addressing how to best retain healthy, happy people who will continue to contribute to the betterment of the world."

"The deeper we sink into a culture of trauma, the less flexible and original our thinking becomes." 

"Only the person who is relaxed can create and to that mind, ideas flow like lightning." 

"When we contend with trauma exposure [] we often find ourselves craving more structure and less creativity.  We may resist change even when existing structures are out of date and detrimental to us personally and professionally."

"Taking sides can surface in workplace dynamics.  We may see it in the form of gossip, cliques, divisions among staff, and rigid expectations of workers."

"People who bear witness to a range of human experience may become increasingly inoculated to others' pain.  We may start being moved by each person's story, but over time it may take more and more intense or horrific expressions of suffering to deeply move us.  We may consider less extreme experiences of trauma as less real and therefore less deserving of our time and support.  Minimizing occurs when we trivialize a current situation by comparing it with another situation that we regard as more dire."

"Minimizing is not setting priorities in our work, it is the experience of losing our compassion and ability to empathize because we are comparing others' suffering or putting it into a hierarchy." 

"Often when individuals try to deal with their anger honestly, directly, and in a good-faith way, it can be so unnerving for those around them that they may be viewed as a bitch or labeled intimidating."

"The system is perfectly designed to produce the results it does - I keep hearing that quote.  The frustrating part for me is that when you have a system that is producing a lot of trauma, people focus on that trauma, and there's very little attention focused on the source.  What is this system that is churning out so many people who are suffering?  I know there are not infinite resources, but if we could put even 10 percent of our resources into what is generating trauma, then we could make a difference.  Otherwise, I think we're all going to just get overwhelmed.  I'm learning that it is incredibly hard to manifest all this in your own life.  There is a huge burden of responsibility on the individual to shift things, and of course that's true - the individual is the first place it starts.  Still, it's very, very hard to take responsibility for my own health when the systems and the culture around me are designed to provide minimal support for health." 

"While the rubble of the World Trade Center still smoldered, then-president George Bush implored us to go shopping as a testimony to our nation's resolve.  Not to grieve, not to be kind to each other, not to reflect deeply and humbly on the series of wounds and tragedies that preceded the hijackers' confoundingly violent and hopeless attacks, not to pitch in and make a difference in our own communities, but to shop.  While this comment has often been remarked upon, it remains a shining example of how distracted and numbed-out our culture and governance can become.  It also indicates how alienating it can be to work for social and environmental justice.  For many people, it can be crazy-making and lonely to see that there are tangible causes of suffering, but at the same time to be surrounded by people who are committed to obliterating any such awareness from their - and our - consciousness." 

"An important roles of the community we create around us is to refuse to collude with our harmful internal patterns."