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This Boricua Psychologist Wants Latinas To Understand The Different Types Of Trauma

Dr. Lydiana Garcia is a bilingual and bicultural (Puerto Rican) licensed psychologist in Los Angeles. She is also the creator and founder of The Beyond Resilience Life podcast which focuses on overcoming trauma and life adversities in order to live a beyond resilient life. Follow her on Instagram @lydianagarcia.

The word trauma originates from the Greek and means “wound” (Online Etymology Dictionary). Although the term was used for only physical injuries, nowadays it is also used to refer to other injuries; such as emotional, psychological, spiritual, etc.

There are many definitions of trauma, but I really like Elaine Miller-Karas, LCSW (Miller-Karas, 2015) definition:

It is an individual’s perception of an event as threatening to oneself or others

Something considered traumatic for one person, may not be “traumatic” for another. This applies to family members, loved ones, friends and in the general population.

One important fact is that trauma happens in the body, as the body created a response to a perceived threat and responded to it.

Depending on how the body interprets the imminence of the threat, then the body either has a mobilized (for example: fight or flee) or immobilized (freeze) response. The trauma responses can happen for perceived threats to our physical safety, our personality or “self,” to our loved ones, what we care about, our beliefs and our dreams.

There are many reactions associated with experiencing trauma.

Some of the most common reactions are the repetitive recollection of the traumatic experience through dreams, thoughts, images and sensations as if the person were back in that time; avoiding consciously thinking about the trauma. Others react to trauma by going to places or spending time with people that remind them of what happened. The heightened sense of needing to be in alert for another possible similar situation (hypervigilance) is also common. And being easily startled, irritability, poor concentration, fear, difficulties falling and/or staying asleep are also common symptoms.

Some people experience a shift in perspective about themselves.

Amnesia, feeling numb, feeling out of the body, or as if the world is not real; depressive symptoms like sadness, hopelessness and some even experience suicidal ideations; interpersonal difficulties including having difficulties relating to others, not feeling close to people, fear of abandonment are also sentiments that people feel when they are dealing with trauma.

The literature on trauma has made reference to different types of trauma including “small-t,” “Large-T,” and “C-Trauma.” These refer to the events or situations that can result in trauma. “Large-T” refers to the typical events most people associate the word trauma with, for example: natural disasters, war-related violence, sexual assault, child abuse, car accidents, and near-death experiences. “Small-t” refers to events that the majority might not consider it traumatic, but the individual did. Some examples of “small-t” include medical procedures, ending a relationship, and moving. “C-Trauma” refers to cumulative trauma that can result from systemic oppression, racism, micro-aggressions, poverty, colonialism and other similar experiences. When someone has experienced several types of traumas, or for a long period of time, this can also be considered complex trauma. Another type of trauma that can be relevant to mention in developmental trauma; this refers to the traumas that happened in childhood and tend to have a significant impact in our attachments; our ability to relate to others and feel safe.

Generational trauma then refers to trauma that has been transmitted from generation to generation.

This refers to the recipients of this trauma, as the “inheritors.” Think of this as a kind of second-hand story that has been invisible, often unacknowledged, but detrimental to our ability to be whole.

Generational trauma can be passed down through our genes (epigenetics), in the womb (during pregnancy), and through psychological and social aspects. One of the ways it is transmitted epigenetically is when a child is raised in the same environment as their ancestors from generation to generation, triggering a reformation of the gene; therefore, creating epigenetic imprinting (Sullivan, 2013).

In your earliest biological form, as an unfertilized egg, you already shared a cellular environment with your mother and grandmother. When your grandmother was five months pregnant with your mother, the precursor cell of the egg you developed from was already present in your mother’s ovaries (Wolynn, 2016).

This means that what your grandmother and mother experienced during pregnancy can be passed down to you. Your inception can also be similarly traced in your paternal line.

The psychological aspects referenced previously refers to the effect trauma can have in an individual that can affect raising a child, not only behavioral but also in terms of psychological factors like emotion tolerance and management, relationships, and beliefs. For example, a mother that experienced complex trauma in her childhood; including her caregivers neglecting her needs and not offering physical affection, might be triggered by having a child on her own that is crying and needs to be changed or fed, and can react by becoming very overwhelmed and anxious about it or the opposite, repeat the pattern. 

The oppression and injustices that many minorities groups experienced can continue to impact the following generations.

For example, the racism that Latinx encountered when they immigrated to the US continues to be present. Some might argue that is less due to their children being able to speak perfect English and attend school in the US, but these children are still being considered different and are mocked and ridiculed regardless of their US citizenship. Their caregivers, in an attempt to protect them from these injustices, tend to also promote values of family unity as a way to keep them safe, being afraid of the police and authority, and not trusting friends or outside-of-the-family people. These factors and more contribute to the passage of trauma experience and reactions from generation to generation.

Many people learn about generational trauma and initially might be shocked about it, but also feel somewhat hopeless in regard to all the things that are out of their control and continue to impact their daily lives. However, others might use this knowledge as part of the beginning of their healing journey by increasing the awareness of their bodies, recognizing what is theirs and what can be a result of generational trauma. Seeking help to process unhealed wounds is another way to take actions to reduce the transmission of trauma to their families and communities. The question is which path will you take?

Works Cited

Baack, G. A. (2017). The Inheritors; Moving Forward from Generational Trauma. Berkley, CA: She Writes Press.

Miller-Karas, E. (2015). Building Resilience To Trauma; The Trauma and Community Resilience Models. New York: Routledge.

Online Etymology Dictionary. (2019, July 26). https://www.etymonline.com/word/trauma. Retrieved from https://www.etymonline.com: https://www.etymonline.com/word/trauma

Sullivan, Shannon. Inheriting Racist Disparities in Health: Epigenetics and the

Transgenerational Effects of White Racism. Critical Philosophy of Race 1(2),

2013, pp. 190–218

Wolynn, M. (2016). It Didn’t Start With You; How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle. New York, New York: Penguin Books.

Hundreds Of Universities, Cities, And Businesses File Amicus Briefs Urging The Supreme Court To Defend DACA

Things That Matter

Hundreds Of Universities, Cities, And Businesses File Amicus Briefs Urging The Supreme Court To Defend DACA

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This week the Supreme Court went back into session, kicking off what’s expected to be one of the most divisive and controversial terms in recent history. Everything from LGBTQ and abortion rights, to yes, DACA, is on the docket, and America will get to see the impact of the addition of Trump-appointee Brett Kavanaugh.

Although judges are expected to be politically impartial, Kavanaugh’s contentious confirmation hearing after being accused of sexual assault, left him charging Democrats with unfairly going after his character.

Now, some experts are bracing for a possible “conservative revolution,” after the court overturned two precedents (a highly unusual move) last term, and President Donald Trump has successfully appointed 150 judges to lifetime seats on the bench (whoever told said your vote didn’t matter, lied.)

In its newly started session, the Supreme Court isn’t shying away from hot topic issues – including a decision that will decide the outcome of DACA once and for all.

President Donald Trump’s signature issue is immigration, and in November the court will consider his administration’s decision to phase out DACA, an Obama-era initiative that protects nearly 700,000 young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children from deportation. The eventual ruling will have a major impact on way or another in the presidential race.

At issue before the justices is not the legality of the program, but how the administration decided to phase it out.

Plaintiffs, including the University of California, a handful of states and DACA recipients argue that the phase out violated the Administrative Procedure Act, a federal law that governs how agencies can establish regulations. Lower courts agreed and issued nationwide injunctions that allowed renewals in the program to continue. The Trump administration appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, and at the time, the President predicted success: “We want to be in the Supreme Court on DACA,” he said.

Groups of all kinds are filing so-called Amicus briefs to the Suprme Court urging them to protect DACA.

More than 100 different cities from across the country, dozens of major colleges and universities, and some of the country’s largest companies all joined together to defend DACA.

The brief filed by some 165 educational institutions said: “These extraordinary young people should be cherished and celebrated, so that they can achieve their dreams and contribute to the fullest for our country. Banishing them once more to immigration limbo — a predicament they had no part in creating — is not merely cruel, but irrational.”

Even the Mexican government filed a brief with the court.

Mexico has had little legal recourse in it’s fight against Trump’s cruel and (as many consider) illegal policies targeting the migrant community. And a large part of the migrant community (including those attacked at the El Paso Massacre) are Mexican nationals. So the government has been eager to take a stand.

And with the upcoming legal battle regarding DACA, Mexico has staked its position in support of DREAMers by filing an Amicus brief with the court. The brief points out the commitment to human rights and the principles of dignity that should be afforded to all humans – regardless of their migration status.

Meanwhile, children advocates point out that eliminating the program would also harm more than a quarter million US-born children.

More than three dozen child advocacy organizations say White House officials failed to account for a quarter of a million children born in the U.S. whose parents are protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program when they repealed it in 2017.

“These children are endangered not only by the actual detention and deportation of their parents, but also the looming fear of deportation,” the groups wrote in an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court last week. “The imminent threat of losing DACA protection places children at risk of losing parental nurturance, as well as losing income, food security, housing, access to health care, educational opportunities, and the sense of safety and security that is the foundation of healthy child development.”

Children’s health experts have been sounding the alarm on the impact of toxic stress inflicted on children impacted by the Trump administration’s immigration agenda. Studies have linked toxic stress to developmental issues with children’s brains and bodies and an increase in their risk of disorders ranging from diabetes to depression, heart disease, cancer, addiction and premature death.

DACA was created by an Obama executive order in 2012, and the Trump Administration announced in September 2017 it was officially ending the program.

When the Trump administration officially announced the end of the DACA program in September 2017, there were nearly 800,000 young immigrants around the country who benefited from it.

Three lawsuits challenging the termination of DACA filed in California, the District of Columbia and New York eventually led to courts prohibiting the government from phasing out the immigration program. Those lawsuits argued that ending the DACA program violated the rights of those covered by its benefits and ran counter to a federal law governing administrative agencies, according to SCOTUSblog. The Supreme Court consolidated those three lawsuits and will hear arguments on the DACA case on Nov. 12.

The justices will consider whether the court even has the authority to review the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA and, if so, whether the decision to end DACA is legal.

Predictably, President Trump has urged the court to strike down DACA.

As recently as Wednesday, President Trump said his predecessor had no authority to initiate the DACA program in the first place, and that if the Supreme Court overturns it, as it should, Congress would likely find a legislative solution to allowing DACA recipients to remain in the U.S.

“The Republicans and Democrats will have a DEAL to let them stay in our Country, in very short order,” he tweeted Wednesday. “It would actually benefit DACA, and be done the right way!”

A Newly Restored Version of The 90s ‘Selena’ Classic Film Starring Jennifer Lopez Is Coming To The Big Screen Again

Entertainment

A Newly Restored Version of The 90s ‘Selena’ Classic Film Starring Jennifer Lopez Is Coming To The Big Screen Again

Selena /Warner Bros.

Twenty-two years have passed since Latinas across the globe watched in awe as Jennifer Lopez took on the role of Tejano music icon Selena in the biopic of her life. The 1997 classic lovingly spotlighted the singer’s life and death years ago and, in the years since, has been a sort of cultural Latino touchstone for young girls who didn’t have the chance to grow up watching the singer herself.

Now, young Latinas who didn’t get to see the classic in the theaters during its original release will have a chance to do just that this weekend.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music has announced that it will screen a new digital print of the film in theaters this weekend.

Back in 1997, when the film was originally released, “Selena” spent fifteen weeks at the box office. It’s time in theaters proved that Latinos could not only direct films, but they could star in them as well while also drawing massive audiences to movie theater seats. At the time, the film marked a breakout moment for actress, singer, and dancer Jennifer Lopez.

If you’re in NYC this weekend and plan on attending the screening, here are some fun facts to remember while watching!

Fans of Selena protested when they learned Jennifer Lopez was playing Selena.

Selena /Warner Bros.

Selena’s fans began protesting the film once they learned that Jennifer Lopez was taking on the role of their beloved singer. Many thought that Lopez, a Puerto Rican from New York, was unfit to play the Mexican-American from Texas.

Six other women gave J.Lo a run for her money.

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Selena /Warner Bros.

Three women from the open call were selected and three other actresses including Salma Hayek and Bibi Gaytán were considered.

Jackie Guerra lied about her talents.

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Selena /Warner Bros.

Jackie Guera who played the role of Suzette, wanted the role so badly that she lied at her audition and said that she was an expert drummer. Suzette later gave her private lessons.

“Selena” almost became a victim of brownface.

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Selena /Warner Bros.

The film’s director had to fight to get Lopez the role of Selena. At the time, Warner Bros was considering a non-Latina actress to take on the role which would have been AWFUL.

Jennifer Lopez lip-synched

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Selena /Warner Bros.

Creators feared that fans would be upset if they saw Lopez singing the song on her own. So Lopez was coached to lip-synch instead.

Abraham Quintanilla didn’t want to show Selena’s murder.

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Selena /Warner Bros.

The film which came out just two years after Selena’s death was likely a very hard project for Abraham to work on. He didn’t want to show his daughter’s death but the film’s director convinced him it was necessary.

Constance Marie could be Jennifer Lopez’s sister.

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Selena /Warner Bros.

Lopez and Marie play mother and daughter in the movie. But in real life, Marie is only 4 years older than Jennifer Lopez.