Patriarchy and PTSD

Patriarchy, (Capitalism) and PTSD Symptoms

I believe that the roots of patriarchy can be traced to trauma based responses (TBRs). I believe the roots of oppression can be traced back to trauma based responses (TBRs).  The dynamic of oppression can easily be seen as a primitive and brutal attempt to regain power and control over life.  As mentioned in other places, regaining a sense of power and control is the first need a person has after experiencing trauma. People are compelled to find ways to feel in control again, it’s not a choice. The ways in which we try to achieve a sense of power and control are varied.

It is my hope that unpacking the impact of Cultural PTSD on the phenomenon of patriarchy and capitalism will be the subject of many books in the future, but let’s start with my short description of how people with pervasive mental illnesses see other humans.

“…They have real difficulties seeing others with any depth, that is, as fully human.  They tend to see others as instruments or tools that are there to meet their needs rather than full humans with as many wishes and desires that they themselves possess.”

Okay, Captain Obvious here: Patriarchy has traditionally seen women as less than human, women were seen as property across dozens of our surviving cultures for decades.  Some men still have difficulty seeing women as fully human.  Some of these men will densely defend their continued objectification of women without- ever- really- understanding- what- the- fuss- is- about.

Racism, xenophobia, homophobia, these are just variations on the same theme – the inability to see others as full humans keeps people discounting others, including their lived experiences and their observations about how their lives are affected by cultural norms that lead to inequities in opportunities of all sorts.

they come from the same root system of a strongly held belief about the need for power and how power is wielded.  Patriarchy perceives of power in one way: it’s a hierarchy.  Power is only recognized as such (in the public sphere) when there is power over others (a.k.a. patriarchal thinking).  Power that is consolidated is valued in a patriarchal culture.  Collaboration is not valued, if people can’t see others as fully human why would they want to collaborate with them?

Hyper-competition and people sick from cultural level psychopathological assumptions and insecure with their own standings resort to knee jerk reactions to bolster their own selves at the expense of others. Competition for power, by any means necessary. These are the means by which a sick culture is transmitted. Personality disorders on a culture wide scale. There are a couple of basic jumping off points, please feel free to take it from here all you wonderful people who get what I mean.


Capitalism is an economic system that uses workers as instruments to make money. Workers are simply the means for making little pieces of paper for the owners.  In other words, our main mechanism for conducting our lives, a central piece of our lives is -by definition- a system that does not care about people. Even should that not be a convincing argument for a manifestation of Cultural PTSD, it’s still a pretty bad reality. Despite peoples’ most basic needs and innate desires for love and belonging, companionship and contribution, the thing that most adults pursue for the majority of each day are these little pieces of paper to buy safety, security, status, and fun. Okay, so we need some system for that, I’ll grant you that.  The real problem is about 70% of American workers are not engaged in the many hours of work they are doing. They are numbly trying to get through the day. Numbness, feeling removed from life, feeling half alive…these are common complaints of people with PTSD. Certainly, there are other factors at work. Work environments often create situations that cause people to become disengaged, but the reason I think the widespread disengagement from working life is a trauma response is our continued inability to resolve this disengagement on a widespread basis. Despite the incredible advances we’ve made technologically, on the whole our work lives are actually becoming more dissatisfying. Workers feel helpless, people keep pointing upwards or outwards, but very little changes.  People feel squeezed tighter and tighter, and we feel helpless to make changes.  These are more complaints commonly voiced by people with PTSD- feeling helpless, feeling very pressured.  In the past, work WAS necessary for survival, but now? If you are among the lucky that are not disengaged from your work, please do not dismiss my descriptions as hyperbole. Millions of people are dissatisfied with their work, the thing they spend the majority of their waking lives doing.  This is a problem.

Capitalism assumes there will be scarcity, assumes greed is a given, assumes that limitless accumulation of wealth (which theoretically produces higher and higher levels of security and safety) is a good thing. These are all items we can trace back to trauma responses. Certainly this is an oversimplification, but the basic dynamics of desperately clinging to the rat race despite it literally destroying the planet and our qualities of life have at least some of their roots in unconscious cultural assumptions driving decisions about trauma repeating itself.