The Effects of Collective Trauma
Is our society sick? …[Gabor Mate, MD, writes in The Myth of Normal that normal mental health is a myth because our society is not healthy.] Has our society been sick for hundreds, if not thousands of years? [“Today’s culture stresses the body, burdens the immune system, and undermines emotional balance. Nearly 70 percent of Americans are on at least one prescription drug; more than half take two,” writes Mate.]
… A multitude of factors [contribute to this sickness]…Our society is built on a worldview of competition, separation, and dominance – all further instilling [these behaviors and identities] into cultures that aren’t well-equipped to process trauma.
Collective Trauma: What is it?
Trauma can be a word that has different meanings and thus people can become confused by the idea of ‘collective trauma.’
In one sense, you could say that “blunt force trauma to the head” is a harsh hit to the head. A trauma surgeon might even be involved in helping to heal a person this type of trauma happens to.
But trauma can also be defined as what happens to a person’s physiology when their nervous system becomes dysregulated through life’s experiences. Chronic stress, chronic illness, poor mental health, trouble connecting with ourselves or others, etc. All of these symptoms are often a result of ‘trauma’ and how it shapes the nervous system and thus behavior.
Difficult life events, violence, accidents, and developmental experiences where our basic human needs are not met repeatedly can result in trauma, especially if these experiences are not integrated.
‘Collective trauma’ is the idea of expanding an individual’s trauma into a collective environment where it interacts with others’ individual trauma.
Further, collective trauma can include the unhealed effects of historical tragedies and events that our ancestors experienced but did not process and integrate. This trauma can be passed on cellularly, through story, and behavior.
Grudges or hatred toward other nations or people that are held long after the events that caused them are an example of collective trauma being passed on.
Government propaganda and narratives about how “bad” enemy nations are can often be the result of prior events now expressing as trauma… Our current society suggests we should continue acting out in our trauma. Fight over political positions, make fun of others, create more division, and believe that those who don’t agree with us are ‘commies’ or ‘stupid.’
… I don’t think our current society can exist in the way it does unless the masses [remain] traumatized to some degree.
Overcoming Collective Trauma
… I personally find it incomplete to examine the state of our world without acknowledging the trauma we all hold to some extent…I do not believe us to be collectively ‘healthy.’
This is why, since 2009, my work has focused on the invitation to embrace personal transformation and healing if we wish to create a better world.
Simply, I believe we need to heal our individual and collective trauma to create a better world…. The corruption, greed, and dominance [behavior so prevalent now happens as a result of collective and individual trauma. Addressing and healing this will create a better world.] [To be truly free is not just about eliminating borders and freedom of travel. It’s being free within our minds and being and free from the shadow aspects of ourselves that relate to personal and collective trauma.]
Excerpted from: Joe Martino (author), The Pulse, a newsletter from Collective Evolution, March 28, 2023.