Updated: Oct 27, 2020
These are unprecedented times as we live through a global pandemic. Our lives have changed and our future is uncertain as we do not yet know the economic implications of the pandemic. Long submerged systemic issues of racism and economic inequality are emerging, resulting in more awareness and potential for change, but also violence and conflict. What is the impact of all of this on us individually, and collectively?
Trauma refers to the impact of a tumultuous incident on a person. The word “trauma” is derived from the Greek language, meaning “wound"- there are injuries that occur with trauma. Collective trauma is the reactions shared by a group of people who experience a cataclysmic event.
If we look closely at what happens to a person individually when they experience trauma, we see that it affects their nervous system, their brain functioning, and their body processes. Trauma creates numbness within us, and we become more disconnected from ourselves and others. We can become more fearful and hyper-vigilant, looking out for danger and seeing it everywhere. With trauma we may become more emotionally reactive, getting irritated or angry more readily.
If we extend the symptoms of individual trauma to a collective group or society, the impact can be far-reaching. Think again about the upheaval and violence taking place in the US right now. Could that be related to the impact of collective trauma? And could it be further contributing to collective trauma?
The global pandemic has, for me and for others I’ve talked to, provided pause to reflect on what is really important in this life. Should we continue to pursue “fame and fortune” or are the basics like family, connection with others, and the health of our planet more important? The heightened awareness that we have right now about systemic inequalities may be an opportunity to really address those inequalities. This could lead to changes in mindset, education, relationships, and government policies.
Healing Collective Trauma
In order to fully embrace the opportunities that can come out of the shifts that are happening with the global pandemic, we need to start with the healing process. Thomas Hübl, an author, spiritual teacher, and founder of the Academy of Inner Science, has been leading large groups, even thousands of people, through healing of collective trauma. He suggests we should start with our own healing first and that this individual work will contribute to the healing of collective trauma.
For Hübl, the healing of trauma both individually and collectively has similar ingredients. It is about bringing together the fragmented parts within ourselves and within the collective, what he calls “cohesion” It’s about having someone to witness the impact of the trauma on you, to truly be present with you. And it’s about feeling connection with others, to counteract the isolation and disconnection we experience through trauma. Healing collective trauma is about connecting with others, listening and being present, all in a safe space.
We are naturally resilient. It is in our DNA. At an individual and collective level, we can connect and heal, We can create systemic change that will make our societies better places to live in for all of us.
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