Finally, it must be noted that information regarding our bodily functions does not arrive helter-skelter in our brains. As we have noted, the carnival that is playing out on our backburners operates in both a chaotic and orderly manner. While writing about why Descartes made a mistake in separating mind from body, Antonio Damasio (2005) (a noted neurobiologist) points out that we have installed an integrated (and integrative) somatic template in the lower regions of our brain.
This template not only monitors our bodily functions but also constantly sets a general tone regarding how we are “feeling” at any point in time. This general feeling, in turns, profoundly (though subtly, tacitly and often unconsciously) influences all other ways in which we are perceiving and acting in the world. It seems that the somatic template is one of our most important and least often appreciated experts on which we rely on a daily basis in our life. We might look to the meteorological expert on T.V. to inform us of the upcoming external weather, but we rely on our internal somatic template expert to inform us of our current (and probable or potential) internal weather.
The meal being cooked on the back burner is usually savory and richly textured. If we believe that there is a social or even a collective unconscious, then we are likely to find that our culinary fare has been cooking a long time and is flavored with many exotic spices from another era and other cultures. Yet, this is not always the case. Our repast can be bitter of taste and often quite difficult to digest. This is the case if our own personal history and heritage is filled with trauma and abuse.
Resmaa Menakem (2017) writes about this in his remarkable and disturbing account of his grandmother’s hands. As a young man, Resmaa asks his mother why his grandmother’s hands were cripped and deeply callused. His mother told of his grandmother’s life as a young Black woman picking cotton in the American South. The sharply edged boles of the cotton had ravaged her hands. His mother also pointed out that Resmaas’s grandmother finds it hard to walk. Once again as a child she suffered from physical trauma. Without the funds to buy shoes, she walks barefooted in the cotton fields.
Extending this story of trauma, Menakem writes about the transmission of physical trauma from one generation to the next generation. He also suggests that the trauma is transmitted to those who inflicted the trauma—and even to those who are seeking to block (or treat) this abuse. Given this potential transmission, we might ask if the somatic template among these victims, perpetrators, preventors and healers of trauma is bent (or even broken). Are those who are impacted directly or indirectly by trauma constantly (or even periodically) reminded of the trauma—and does this influence the nature and source of internal expertise that they seek and absorb? Do we see through a glass darkly when this glass has been smudged and even warped with trauma?