For thousands of years the severe challenges of life have produced widespread trauma through: wars, disease, infant mortality, inequality, mistreatment of women and children and destructive religious ideas. All of these over the years have left humanity with deep emotional, psychological and spiritual wounds.
We have not healed these wounds. They are passed down from generation to generation. The wounds, in fact, have just increased the amount of trauma that we inflict on one another and the planet. They are now manifesting in ways that can destroy our species and others: nuclear proliferation, extreme inequality, climate change and now Covid-19.
Over the years. in my Toronto therapy practice, I have encountered many people who suffer the wounds of this collective trauma. They have symptoms of depression, anxiety issues,addictive behaviours and relationship problems, to name a few. I consider them to be the conscious ones. They feel the pain that is all around them. Others often feel the pain, but they don’t take the next step. They don’t look inside. Why not?
‘The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are’
This is the title of a book written by Alan Watts, a spiritual philosopher who wrote and spoke about how we are estranged from ourselves and the universe. Looking inside can fee threatening because:
1/ If we look inside we then have to take responsibility for our lives. It is easier to blame others.
2/ If we look inside we may see how much our families hurt us with their own trauma. This threatens many people and goes against the 5th commandment.
3/ If we look inside we might see how much we are connected to others and the universe. This can threaten our sense of individual identity.
4/ If we look inside then we can be faced with the sense of our own meaning and the meaning of life. This can be overwhelming
5/ Finally, if we honestly look inside, we will feel the trauma that we carry. And this can make people feel crazy.
Looking Inside and Facing Trauma
1/ Be patient – It’s not easy to see something you have avoided all your life. It can feel empty, confusing, frightening and a threat to your sense of self.
2/ Learn ways to ‘step back’ – Mindfulness meditation and journalling can allow you to step back from yourself and become a witness to who you are.
3/ Be aware of your feelings and sensations in your body. You will often learn more this way than trying to think your way out of your problems.
4/ Find an inner ally. It can be a real person you know or know of, a fictional character, an animal, nature or any symbol you can turn to that can give you comfort.
5/ Above all be kind to yourself. Facing trauma can be very painful and upsetting. An attitude of grace and kindness and self love is essential.
It is up to each one of us to confront the trauma we have inherited from previous generations.
“You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour” Hopi Elders