One Crazy Night!

Posted on March 16, 2018

One Crazy Night!

Only when the Indiana Hoosiers were playing in the Championship game of the NCAA tournament (yes, it has been a while) had I felt this nervous for something to start as I did for Oprah’s 60 Minute segment on trauma-informed care. My wife was working on a class for her work, so I was recording both 60 Minutes and Oprah’s appearance on the Van Jones’ Show. Mindful deep breathing and my goal never to watch another commercial allowed me to regulate myself during this delay.

So, I got on social media to check out the buzz about Oprah and my heart sunk when I read,

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a best-selling author on trauma whose research has attracted a worldwide following, has been fired from his job over allegations that he bullied and denigrated employees at his renowned Trauma Center. (Boston Globe)

The article goes on to report that he got removed for his “alleged mistreatment of female employees” and that he is suing the Brookline Center (which he founded 35 years ago) and its parent organization for 2.5 million saying they are “trying to steal donations.”

I was shocked. Here is a man that I would put firmly on my Mount Rushmore of trauma heroes. His work not only influenced my trainings and clinical practice, but it also resonated with me in my personal healing journey. Seeing a man, I always admired as a healer in the role of an abuser was devastating.

About then, my wife finished her project, and we were ready for Oprah. We started out with her Van Jones interview where she again spoke from her heart about trauma-informed care and how she was going to put her fame and fortune behind the movement. Go, Oprah! I never thought Oprah would compete for my Mount Rushmore of trauma heroes, but in just a couple of days, she was working her way up there!

Then we switched over to 60 Minutes. The first episode was on how immigrants were dying in semi-trailers in attempts to reach parts of the country where they could find work. Not only was this episode filled with the trauma of the journey, it also clearly showed the trauma in which these people were trying to escape by coming to the United States and the death they faced if deported back to their home countries.

The second story was an interview with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. It is hard to comment on this interview because I’m not sure she knows anything about education or her and the Trump Administration’s policy positions. The devastating admission that she only visits successful schools and has never visited a struggling one to figure out why they are falling short disgusted me more than shocked me! She not only came off as uninformed, but many of her answers also seemed to support the bigotry and racism of the policies of this administration when it comes to the education of children who are minorities or live in poverty.

Oprah save me! Here I thought the latest episode of Homeland was going to be the most disturbing part of my evening.

Her 60 Minutes segment was well produced and hit the high points of trauma-informed care, especially in such a short time. Dr. Bruce Perry (another Mount Rushmore trauma hero) was everything we expect from Dr. Perry. I believe the segment served as an excellent introduction to the millions who heard about our work for the first time.

What a week! My Sunday demonstrated one thing so powerfully. Our country needs some trauma healing right now. Our heroes are falling, our government officials are grossly incompetent if not outright racist, and the news is so crazy that the reality in Homeland seems comforting in some odd way! Millions of people now know about our work which will create so many opportunities for more in-depth conversations about trauma and social issues. Despite all the crazy, we show up to help people heal, we advocate for sensible change, and speak for those who might not have found their voice yet. Knowing that helps me sleep at night.

6 responses to “One Crazy Night!”

  1. Amy Grassette says:

    You’re a kind and amazing man my friend.
    So blessed to know you and your work and know that you do this work out of love and understanding.

  2. Shelley McKittrick says:

    I rarely watch 60 Minutes, and I didn’t know that Oprah was doing the piece on Sunday. But I was watching TV with my 94 year old dad and it came on. I heard the intro and stayed put! I also witnessed the horror and trauma of the immigrants and their often deadly attempts to reach a safer place on this planet with so many barriers thrown at them. I too watched Betsy DeVos and tried not to gag. Then came Oprah.

    Not only was her piece well-done, it was so very effective for a 13 minute piece! For the past year and a half I have been unfaltering in moving my community’s understanding of trauma as it related to homelessness. For the years before that, I was instrumental (with your awesome help my friend!) in transforming homeless services from to a low-barrier, harm-reduction, trauma-informed, housing first model.In 13 minutes, Oprah gave us a way to effectively open the hearts and minds of folks who haven’t quite “gotten it” yet.

    I came to work the next morning and sang the praises of the piece at a leadership/management meeting. Then I got the link and sent it out to City Council and the leadership team and asked them to watch it and pass it on,

    Between her Golden Globes Time’s Up speech and 60 minutes, I am in awe of how this woman has managed to build a relationship with Americans that gives her a platform to enact and drive social change so effectively. Thank you Oprah.

    • Matthew Bennett says:

      Yes! Watching the ripples from all this is amazing! So many great people like you have created fertile ground for this increased awareness to grow and make community change!

  3. Charme Robarts says:

    Oh Matt, just reading this got my heart racing and I had to take some deep breaths. Yes the administration makes me wonder with Frodo, “what kind of story have we fallen into?” But as you said, we just get up and try again the next day.

    Keep up your good work.

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