January 6, 2021
This past year has presented all of us with multiple challenges on many levels. The whole world is in the process of change, loss and transformation. This process is not easy as you all know. I feel lucky to have been a part of the processes you are all working with as you evolve personally, spiritually, professionally and relationally.
At times we might think that our personal healing and growth is inconsequential to the larger whole, but I am discovering more and more the ways that our personal transformation positively impacts not only our current lives but also the lives around us, those that will come beyond us and the society as a whole.
Trauma works on many levels; it impacts us personally and intersubjectively, but it also has repercussions intergenerationally and collectively. We often focus on our personal and intergenerational family trauma, however, our personal and family traumas are embedded in wider societal structures that contribute to the perpetuation of trauma by one to another. Whether these structures are from pandemics, wars, genocide, at the governmental or legal level, the level of economics, the level of social norms, relational structures or come from historical experiences of oppression, we are all swimming in a world where we are touched by trauma at some level.
When we do our personal, couple, group or family work we are impacting not only our selves and our relatives, but the colleagues we interact with, our workplaces, our neighbourhoods and schools, our communities, the generations we are raising and the generations that are to come as well as the way our societies are shaped. Our neurobiology is structured by the things we focus our attention on; it impacts how we treat ourselves and the kinds of relationships that are available to us; the energy we can put into our work, our calling or our actions. If we are focused on healing ourselves, we will have more light to share with others. We will break free from generations that have assumed that trauma symptoms expressed individually and societally are the norm. We will send different ripples through the world when we are filled with love, calm, courage and compassion rather than consumed by fear, anger and grief.
Thomas Hubl, a renowned spiritual teacher who integrates the core insights of wisdom traditions with the discoveries of contemporary science, has reminded me of how important the healing work we engage in is. Here are some of his thoughts on how personal healing impacts the larger collective and historical traumas that sometimes feel too big for any one person to tackle.
“We carry the record of our darkest experiences in our bones and skin and teeth, in our families, communities, and societies. As we explore the subject of the human shadow and its longing for integration and release, we will look to medicine and mysticism, sages and scientists. The points of pain that we feel in our individual and collective bodies were left by accumulating traumas, but the call so many of us hear is an invitation toward collective healing, the ultimate hero’s journey.
If we accept the call, we are likely to encounter the dark. But if we survive the dark, our eyes will have opened and we will be infinitely and indescribably changed. “ (From, “Healing Collective Trauma” p. 11)
Living through a pandemic has a significant impact on the survival part of the brain. Because we don’t fully understand the threat that this pandemic presents us, or where it will take us, we are unable to rationally gauge the level of threat. This means that our autonomic nervous system takes over more often resulting in more frequent states of fear, aggression, depression, anxiety or paralysis. Because the pandemic is impacting everyone, this a world wide experience of collective trauma. So many people finding themselves in these psychological states more than ever.
I appreciate the work you have all engaged in over the past year as you have navigated the “new normal”, having the courage to examine your shadows even as the pandemic looms. This work has been to become less fragmented, more whole; to tune in to your own intuition and to set your boundaries from there; to let go of attachments so that you can be more present to yourselves and the others who need you; to have the courage to share your vulnerabilities and truths in an effort to be more congruent; to take your healing into your own hands and be responsible to it. Your personal work impacts not only you but also the collective; as you soothe your autonomic nervous system you can engage with the world from a more grounded vantage point. When we change in the direction of more clarity, more congruence, more truth, we not only change ourselves, we change each other, the story, the future and the form our society takes.
When there is a shadow, there must also be a light. As we look forward to a new year, may you all continue to have the courage to shine a light into the dark places that we all try to avoid. As you embrace all that you are, you embrace all that is. This difficult act contains the power to heal not only the self but the collective too. Thanks for doing this hard work.
With much love and gratitude,