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Neurohumanities: Trauma-Informed Networks

January 2023

“How do we build more trauma-informed networks?”

Our facilitator paused, and we took in the question.

It was another virtual learning circle. Our months-long learning experience was evolving into our own small network of trauma-informed movement and embodiment facilitators. Together we studied the human nervous system, physiology, stress and trauma, social systems, and personal integrity.

Foundational to trauma-informed networks is the understanding and acceptance that, while we can be harmed by interacting with our environments, the most damaging harm is inter-species betrayal. Interpersonal trauma is often the most debilitating and far-reaching, with consequences on individual bodies and group behavior. Trauma-informed networks must be built with the commitment to repair all fractures as they occur.

I shared a bit with the circle about my recent foray into in computer science, as I learn Python, and my early observations about the possible impact of trauma-informed programming and design. They were fascinated. Conceptually taking a supportive, compassionate, somatic-based yoga environment to a technological viewpoint was intriguing.

Humanities as a viewpoint has always fascinated me because it’s multidisciplinary. While western academics have picked apart and separated aspects of our human experience, life (particularly neuroscience) has a way of showing that everything is interconnected. Our human experience as reflected through our knowledge, beliefs, law, tools, art, and curiosity adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

What would it look like to live in a world built on the understanding that all is inherently connected? And a commitment to care for that whole?

Our group went on to discuss the fascinating comparisons between the internet—a network of devices, information, and knowledge—and our human nervous systems. Transportation. Collaboration. Translation. Input. Output. Broken and lost links. Repair. Restoration.

Of all the possible applications Carew and Ramaswami suggest, I find Cultural Memory the most intriguing. What a beautiful expression of epigenetic transfer of information. Cultural memory in other mammals is often expressed in terms of foraging and migration patterns, adaptation, and social structure. Perhaps ours as humans are a massive encyclopedia of art, expression, emotions, group experiences, group survival stories, and hope. Cultural memory as identity is a massive field in which a combined perspective of neuroscience and humanities could potentially mark the next massive shift in human evolution, as we seek to understand ourselves more completely.

As our group wrapped up for the day, we acknowledged that there are no easy answers and that trusting relationships—which allow for restoration—are essential and built slowly, over time. As to networks of information, I think studies of humanities could potentially allow for healing as a connecting web bringing various knowledge systems into a whole.

Article source: Thomas J. Carew, Mani Ramaswami, The Neurohumanities: An Emerging Partnership for Exploring the Human Experience, Neuron, Volume 108, Issue 4, 2020, Pages 590-593, ISSN 0896-6273, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2020.10.019. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0896627320308151)

“The body is the shore on the ocean of being.” –Sufi (anonymous)