Collective Trauma and the Stories of our Ancestors

by | Jul 1, 2021 | Integrative Care, Integrative Medicine

Collective trauma may well be our birthright. 

We can carry trauma as a collective as well as individuals. We can pass it on when we don’t metabolize, dissolve, and process it. Dealing with it is not about avoidance or living in a state of denial, because we can obviously distract ourselves. But the trauma still lives in us. Even when we are in a state of denial, the trauma lives with and within us somewhere. 

What if we accept disruption, devastation, and suffering as a natural part of being human? Think of earthquakes, floods, and volcanoes. Disasters shape culture. They shape livelihood. And enduring change is within our living tissue. Our ancestors have survived trauma. Humans are similar to other species in that those who do not or cannot adapt will simply become extinct.

We all go through collective trauma. We’ve done this before. Our ancestors have done it before. It may not be something we discuss at the dinner table or unravel in our exchanges with family, but it lives within us. 

Our ancestors were able to do really tremendous things like survive famine, war, ethnic cleansing, and slavery. If they were able to do that, there is reason to feel that you too can make it through. It’s about agency. When you know that you come from somewhere, that gives us meaning. It becomes the story, the context, that inspires us to survive. 

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