Definition of Collective Trauma and What it takes to Heal It
Collective Trauma can be understood as a catastrophic event or process that disarticulates the fundamental social fabric and the basic structures that our society has created to sustain its way of life.
There are many kinds of catastrophes that can bring about collective trauma. The COVID-19 pandemic that the world is experiencing since 2019 is one example, possibly the first one where collective trauma impacts the whole globe simultaneously. Our health systems, economic systems, global and local production chains, transport systems, both local and global, education systems, among others, have been severely disrupted, causing ripple effects in millions of individuals, families and communities worldwide.
Other instances of collective trauma include natural disaster events, such as hurricanes or earthquakes, or the impacts brought by longer processes, such as draughts or global warming. In all these, however, we human beings have the opportunity to reaffirm our belonging by coming together in solidarity to protect our communities and help those most affected. The challenge is to maintain the support and connection after the acute phase of the crisis is over.
The collective trauma events that are due to natural disasters do not leave the kind of scar that the collective trauma processes generated from humans subjecting or destroying other humans do. Wars, slavery, colonialism and other forms of dehumanization, where a group of people use, abuse and/or annihilate others disable the use of solidarity as a resource, and leave profound traces in the collective psyche of the people involved. This, left unresolved and unaddressed, keeps reemerging in subsequent generations and times.
The healing of these immense impacts requires that we distinguish a collective level of our identity and existence, and can most fruitfully be addressed collectively. A high level of field-coherence is needed in the group that undertakes such an endeavour, as well as a high level of emotional maturity and capacity to host discomfort and even disturbing emotions. A high level of compassion and understanding of and sensibility to subtle body energy and its movements are also very important resources, as well as a high level of spiritual practice. Collective trauma healing is a practice that needs to be undertaken with much care and can be very demanding, but the results in terms of growth and health for those who do engage with it can be invaluable.
Most often, before undertaking such a task, the participants need to do personal healing work, because the disruptive force of collective trauma could be highly disorganizing for people whose personal trauma has not healed enough for them to hold themselves together in the presence of this higher order disruption.
If you are interested in Collective Trauma work, please contact us for information on our courses, workshops and events.