In the 80s my father, an expert on terrorism, spent a number of years tracking American white supremacist groups for the US Government. Even 30 years ago the heavily armed extremists militia white supremacist and neo-Nazi organizations in Idaho and Montana were viewed as a significant internal threat to many of our national interests.
I was too young to know the details of his work, but I remember how I felt when I came home from school in our Washington D.C. neighborhood, thousands of miles away from those people, and found an axe at our front door. Even then, these people were scary and their networks and tactics of fear extended far and wide.
Extremist white supremacist groups have persisted in the US certainly for most of the 20th century. It's a short leap from the terrorist KKK groups responsible for lynching and other unspeakable crimes, to white supremacist groups proliferating and organizing today. It's easy to forget the Oklahoma City bomber was a radicalized white supremacist who viewed government as the enemy. And of course, nearly every mass shooting in recent years has been a white male with ties to white nationalist groups. The roots of violent white nationalism are deep and wide. After the horrific terrorist act in New Zealand, it's certainly the right time to be looking more closely here at home. Could a New Zealand like attack happen here? Of course, it has over and over again.
When I wrote my book, Crossing the Thinnest Line two years ago, my thesis was that white Americans have never been asked to seriously confront our racism and the deep-seated biases that have been part of our identity as a nation since its founding. We reinforce a constant narrative that institutional racism is a thing of our past. That the Civil Right movement won. That we have moved on. WE have failed to come to terms with the fact that America remains deeply segregated. Since the 1990s, progress on school integration nationwide has reversed. Most Americans live in totally homogenous communities, cut off from real connections with or the opportunity to learn from people different from ourselves. Too few Americans have the tools or the experience to recognize their own biases. White Americans largely deny we even have them.
This denial and unwillingness to seriously face our demons, our lack of commitment to fostering serious dialogue and understanding is exactly the vacuum in which white supremacy has been able to persist and now fester. Aided and amplified by social media and the internet age, abetted and mainstreamed by the Trump doctrine of us versus them, legitimized by him and by Laura Ingram, Tucker Carlson and others who peddle the idea that difference is the enemy. It's easy to see New Zealand, or Pittsburgh or Charleston as far away. But those places are now everywhere. There is nowhere that this hate needs not be confronted.
This denial and unwillingness to seriously face our demons, our lack of commitment to fostering serious dialogue and understanding is exactly the vacuum in which white supremacy has been able to persist and now fester.
There is a real and imminent danger to all of us if we cannot have a serious national discussion about the cause of hate which is isolation, persistent segregation in schools, universities, businesses and faith-based organizations who run from rather than engage in the real work of building deeper understanding across lines of difference. All of our institutions need to seriously confront this existential threat. As we move toward becoming a minority majority nation how will we prepare to capitalize on this diversity to be the great social and economic asset it truly is? Are we doomed to divide into entrenched camps of us and them? No. It is possible to show more Americans a path away from hate but it takes a willingness to be honest about how serious the problem is and commitment to fostering understanding and confronting the cancer of hate eating away at so many.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."