Ever had something really traumatic happen? Ever lived through the death of a close relative? Your thoughts become jumbled, disoriented. Large swaths of your mental computer become unavailable for you to use. Sometimes it takes a long time to get it back. Sometimes it never comes back.
For some people, who have been through years of crisis and neglect, every day is full of just this kind of short-circuit. Suffering may not always cause trauma, but unresolved trauma and PTSD is pretty much guaranteed to cause suffering.
When we talk about the poor in this country, one phrase you hear a lot is “they’re poor because they don’t make good decisions.” This is, of course, a gross oversimplification — they’re often poor for the sole reason that they don’t have good opportunities. But even when given good opportunities, it’s true that many people who grow up in chaos become traumatized, and repeat patterns in ways they don’t even understand.
When helping people, it is important to look at what methods have been most successful in clearing trauma. Otherwise, gifts and assistance might not help, because the person is too traumatized — in other words, too stuck in repeated patterns of crisis and reaction — to respond effectively.