Our Collective Trauma

There’s a conversation we, as a society, are completely avoiding and the ramifications of such a silence are shredding the fabrics of our shared experience on this planet.

I’m talking about the collective trauma of the pandemic and the fact that we all, every single person on this planet, experienced (and are still experiencing) the direct pain of intense trauma. The pain from this trauma, when left unaddressed and ignored, causes us to lash out in unpredictable and destructive manners.

Group trauma is passed along in ways that impact the entire group. Group trauma can lead to distorted thinking, which often manifests as internalized oppression, as people try to maintain some sense of misplaced control over the circumstances of their oppression. In addition, trauma from long-stranding oppression can leave the group huddled together in a form of stagnated solidarity. When anyone tries to move beyond the place of suffering that the group has occupied, they are attacked by the group and brought back down (Mitchell 56).

When layered a top a large population of people already traumatized from the long term impacts of climate crisis and the kleptocracy-capitalism hybrid many of us are navigating along with massive inequality and economic disruption, it’s no wonder why massive portions of the population are clinging to disinformation that makes them feel empowered over their own lives. It’s no wonder that identity politics have now reached full scale destruction.

Stop the Bans protest in Wilmington, NC 2019.
Stop the Bans protest in Wilmington, NC 2019.

As a society, we’re succumbing to weaponized algorithms willingly as a means of escape and as a way to feel a sense of solidarity by supporting conspiracies that restore a feeling of agency through a collective enemy that is responsible for the individual’s pain. Mass conspiracies thrive in such an environment of group trauma by providing a means of mutual belief and connection.

At a very young age, we are taught in western society to ignore our pain and muscle through. We’re taught that pain is weakness and that to feel and express emotions is not something that strong, independent people do. We’re taught that to survive in this world we must “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” and suffer through whatever pain or trauma has been thrown at us over the span of our lifetimes. We are taught to internalize the oppressor’s systems of control and blame ourselves for the inequalities baked into our societal fabrics.

At a very young age we are taught to accept the means of oppression baked into our social structures and to never question the means or motives of the oppressor. We accept the consumption based economy and the patriarchal laws as reality, something we must accept and can not change or push back upon. We believe the narrative of war and destruction as a necessary reality to protect our existence on this planet.

Stop the Bans protest in Wilmington, NC 2019.
Stop the Bans protest in Wilmington, NC 2019.

But here we stand. Bound together by a collective trauma, unaware of the manifestation of pain from that trauma and trying to navigate a system designed to oppress all of us into the acceptance of consumption and destruction as inevitable.

Our societal programming has brought us to a precipice of destruction and if we do not recognize, explore and accept our individual pain and our neighbor’s pain as valid and help one another process this global experience, we will never move past the destruction and step into healing.

What if we chose to no longer participate in such oppression or weaponized algorithms? What if we all stop, look around and acknowledge the trauma? What if we all lean into those quiet moments of fear and explore the emotion that is behind the fear itself? What if we take a time out and just feel the impacts of losing 700k countrymen and millions of global citizens? What if we unplug from the weaponized algorithms, go out into our communities and simply talk to one another?

The courage to feel pain is something that most of us are never taught. Instead, we learn to distract ourselves from it, insulate, and deflect. The irony is that pain cannot be avoided. When we attempt to avoid our pain, it hunts us down, becoming increasingly stealthy in its machinations...It disrupts our lives, torments our minds, and destroys our relationships (Mitchell 65).

What if we turn to the wisdom of the indigenous peoples and incorporate their methods of community and healing into our systems now? What if we made healing the planet AND our communities a top priority rather than continuing to destroy our home in the name of economic growth?

Stop the Bans protests in Wilmington, NC 2019.
Stop the Bans protests in Wilmington, NC 2019.

What if we embraced our pain and began a journey to healing? Are we even capable of such a thing? Can we turn to the wisdom of ancient tribal communities who lived harmoniously with nature on this planet and employ their approach of balancing the masculine and feminine to restore our ability to survive on this planet and navigate the collective trauma of our present and the coming chaos of our immediate future?

I believe we’re rapidly moving past the question of “can we?” We are now facing the reality that “we must.”

We must process our collective trauma. We must hold space for our communities to heal. We must embrace sacred wisdom. We must balance the masculine with the feminine so our planet can heal. And survive.

Work Cited

Mitchell, Sherri L, and Larry Dossey. Sacred Instructions : Sacred Instructions : Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change / Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change. North Atlantic Books, 2018.

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