Collective Trauma & It’s Manifestations
Events that cause prolonged harm to the vulnerable groups, such as what we see as the atrocities,discrimination, violence against people of color, certain ethnic groups, gender, race, caste, region, and more. Events of natural calamities such as famines, droughts. Man-made disasters such as wars, mass migrations, partitions of nations, and more. These events leave an imprint in the collective memory/group conscience and gets passed in from one generation to another. This phenomenon is now understood through epigenetics.
People down the generations can experience this collective memory as inter-generational trauma and it can manifest in forms of intense and ever present feelings of shame, unstoppable anger and rage to the detriment of oneself and others, a innate sense of injustice and wrongness and feeling victimized often. Such violence can also show up in extreme forms of disassociation and clinical psychiatric disorders where the personality splits. It also shows through various other forms of mental illnesses, a complete disconnect with a group (can be one’s own family, nation, group, caste etc). This also manifests in the body through chronic illnesses, for example unresolved migraines, autoimmune disorders, stomach digestive issues to count a few symptoms.
Where do we begin?
Before we rush to band-aid the wounds with forgiveness, peace talks, heart-centered compassion, a deeper understanding. We need stop ourselves from unacknowledging the reality and gradually come to see the events as they were in their true sense however hard and difficult it feels.
The first step begins by turning back to look at the experiences of this trauma within oneself and the collective in a interconnected way, it comes by finding an expression for the collective to voice the unsaid, to let the anger/shame/fear/ to arise. To allow the unfolding of the knots that have frozen into unacknowledged grief, a draw towards dying. This takes a lot of vulnerability, rawness, strength and resource within oneself and one’s life.
Importance of Grief Work
This work to find a resolution in your heart goes through the experience of severed grief, to begin the thawing of the frozeness, the numbness of the body and the group conscience. I cannot stress anymore how important grief work is. Grief is an alive process that has been shunned in our current world paradigm. So it indeed is a deep call of the soul to re-member its broken fragments into the loving aliveness of the heart by including the lost process of grieving.
I am sharing a few examples from my work with different people using the Systemic Lens with possible resolutions.
In the case of mass migrations due to war, forced migrations of certain ethic groups, for example the migration during India-Pakistan partition on both the eastern and western sides. other examples can be the Vietnam War, the Holocaust, the continued displacement of people from Middle Eastern Countries like Syria.
A longing to connect, to belong takes one back to the lost connection with one’s ancestral motherland many times. The group or generation that had to leave everything behind to save their lives carried a deep unexpressed love for their land. This longing and sense of disconnection gets passed on through generations or lineages of the group until someone in the recent/current generation re-members this connection and moves through the process of acknowledging the pain, the deep love for the land and includes it in their heart.
Another instance, was the effects of slavery experienced by the Dalits, minority communities and its effect experienced in form of grave sense of injustice by the later generations, an every present anger and disassociation in the feelings.
This can be taken as controversial in nature, in this case 2 generations of the community/family went through forced slavery and a life of misery and contempt, oppression. The later generations got the opportunity to break away from this cycle due to the social reforms and took upon the task of working on the social and constitutional rights of the community and gained quiet a success and the next generation felt a deep disconnect as they always meet an angry father, a forever emotionally distant family members and found it hard to find a connection with their identities in the world. The Constellation revealed that the generation which suffered slavery where looked down upon by their own succeeding generation, the resolutions was in connecting with the past generations value of life, the worth of life, their personal sense of dignity that allowed them in the midst of all the structural violence and inhumanity to continue to live, laugh, pass on life and even love and protect each other. The seeing of the wholeness brought a sense of connection to the present generation and through that the possibility of the healing process of begin.
I have made my first attempt to write the experiences of working with people and connecting them to the larger issues that we face, in the hope that we begin to develop a more inclusive, balanced view of our world and find meaningful ways to live for humans, animals and all forms on this planet.
Do comment, share your insights, your own reflections or any question with me.
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