Tikkun Winter 2019 (34.1) - Page 27

SPECIAL : BEYOND PATRIARCHY privileged, just as the world of ideas is favored over the physical body—and all that pertains to the “messy” earthly realms. The denigration and repression of the em- bodied, sensual side of life do of course come back to bite. We see the return of the repressed today in a multitude of forms—Catholic priests charged with pedophilia, rabbis and gurus exposed in seducing their students, sexual assaults occurring in every workplace, and of course, Mother Nature reeling from the imbal- ances that humankind has wrought upon her. With every whistle blow, we pray that finally the rules of the game may be changing. And then we witness the backlash: the indignant (self-righteous?) defense of Kavanaugh, #Him- Too, and further denials of female voices. Nev- ertheless, women persist. II. UNDERSTANDING THE LEGACY OF FEAR After decades of inquiry, I finally understand my own patriarchal upbringing in terms of the fear that fueled it. In those first decades after World War II, we Jews were far from knowing just how traumatized we were, and farther yet from understanding the far-reaching conse- quences of what we had gone through. At some fundamental level, we were still in shock, still running for our lives. Stopping to feel the pain of what had befallen us was out of the ques- tion; the pain was too great. It seemed that even the simplest conversation was breath- less, the tenor and tempo of every interaction bristled with a frenzy that I now understand as hyperarousal, one of the residues of extreme trauma. Perhaps that hyperarousal paid off. In the Mid- west where I grew up, my Orthodox parents and their friends built an entire Jewish world in a matter of years—Hebrew schools, syna- gogues, yeshivas, Jewish community centers, VOL. 34, NO. 1 We can uncover wisdom by viewing the body as a map of the interior psyche. free loan funds, hospitals, and old-folks homes, as we called them back then. Breakneck speed was normal. (Bodies? They were more like lampposts that supported and teleported our brains.) All that frenzied activity can be seen as a positive byproduct of our trauma. But every coin has its flipside. The urgent pro- ductivity and do-or-die stance of post-Holo- caust Jewry in both the diaspora and in Israel, evolved into a rigid, almost fanatic absorption into a Jewish identity that might best be un- derstood as hyper-nationalism. Rough and un- compromising, tribal security became the uber ales value. And in such a trenchant mental space, messy feelings had no place. Empathy? That was for weaklings who would surely lose the ongoing war of our survival. I now understand the loss of compassion for the other as another byproduct of trauma: emotional numbing, also called dissociation. © 2019 TIKKUN MAGAZINE 27