Want to come to a trauma conference with me?

I acknowledge that a Collective Trauma Summit doesn’t sound like a barrel of fun.

But, last August, I found myself tuning in to an online summit on “trauma” and it was the most game-changing and mind-blowing experience.

I’ve been trying to understand the mess our world is in, and finally, here was an explanation. And a path out.

Thomas Hubl’s thesis is that we are living in a net of unresolved trauma… not “trauma” in the sense that we might think of it (ie a car accident or an assault), but downstream from all kinds of things that people were not able to resolve, and had to just push down and push through, in order to survive. This unresolved trauma gets crystallized and passed down from body to body, in our genes… and it also informs the systems we live in. And one result is that we see a lot of numbness or hyper activation around us, all the time. A lot less calm, creativity, responsiveness, imagination, capacity.

Hubl says, “Trauma has been going for thousands of years, which is part of what makes it hard to see. To cope with trauma that is normalized, we have to fragment ourselves, and it makes it really hard to deal with… It makes it hard to even know what’s healthy. We grow up in the ‘fragmented field’ thinking the world with the cracks, is the world. Not realizing the wholeness that is possible. Built into our looking and speaking and sensing and the numbness is the collective trauma. It’s like a net that covers us all. Do your individual work, but start an awareness process that our collective society is partly built on healthy structures and partly on traumatized ones, like frozen bricks. Trauma is frozen energy that cannot move. We can’t respond differently to climate change, because part of our society is frozen. We try to create a pressure and the pressure only has a backlash, because the frozenness doesn’t want to move. It’s scared. It’s stressed. A skilled trauma therapist sees the symptoms in a traumatized person but knows there’s something deeper that creates them. And It think we need the same for parts of our societies, organizations, for our cultures. There are symptoms and then a deeper source that creates those symptoms…”

The things I learned from last year’s talks:

  • from Dr Gabor Mate, we affect one another. Literally. It’s biology. 

“If I were to speak to you right now, even in this conversation across thousands of miles on the airwaves, if I were to speak to you, frown, raise my voice, speak in a hostile way, that would immediately change your physiology. It wouldn’t just change your emotions on a subjective level. Your heart rate would change. Your muscles would be in a different stae. Your nervous system would alter. Which means that our interactions help determine our physiology. Daniel Segal talks about interpersonal neurobiology and I just take that a step further and talk about interpersonal biology – our biologiy is shaped by our relatiobshiops. If that is true on an individual level, you and I on a personal level, it’s also true on a social level. That means when I look at the health of individuals, you can’t help them from the health of societies, because everything that you interact with, helps shape your physiology, and in turn, you have an impact on the physiology of others.”

  • from Dr Katharine Wilkinson, this kickass prof and scientist and co-author of All We Can Save, who is vocal about the need to “feminize climate leadership”

“Science has very clearly given us this task of rapid and radical transformation this decade. What I think sometimes gets left out of the climate conversation is that the climate crisis is a leadership crisis. If we need to be undertaking societal transformation then we also need to be leading from a more transformative transformational place and space. It’s very clear that status quo leadership is not getting the job done on climate.  For a long time, the public voices around climate have been very white, very male, it’s often been very science-engineering policy-centric, the discourse. And so what’s been really exciting to me is to see the way, certainly leadership that is more charactersicially feminine and more committedly feminist, is not limited to people of any gender. But what we’re seeing is that women are bringing that kind of leadership in droves. That looks like a few things: it looks to me like a commitment to making change, rather than being in charge. Dealing with the ego and hierarchy and control, so we come in a posture and rhythm that allows for genuinely linking arms, following, where wise leadership emerges, passing the mic, shine theory, all of that. … and the last piece that we’re seeing is a commitment to building community and a recognition that building community is a necessary foundation for building a better world. This is not a story of heroes. It’s a sory of collectives. If we’re successful. It will be a story of we, and not I..” 

  • and Thomas, who offers things that are pretty dense/philosophical, but amazing perspective: 

“The coherence of my own inner world, or a group, is basically the resource that can help host or heal the integration of a system. Relation is actually the core remedy, because many traumatizing situations happen in inappropriate relational circumstances, or hurt the relational fabric. So our capacity to relate is one of the core elements of healing. Relation is one of the remedies for trauma. Retraction and isolation is one of the symptoms…. I have seen, over the last 18 years, in so many workshops and processes, dealing with collective trauma, moments, when one person spoke, and hundreds of people were completely there. That is very powerful. When I come with a real intention, that I feel that I’m part of life, and i want to take care of the health of life, and the health of the base of life, and when the group creates a coming together with safety, (safety to be vulnerable and open up and relate to one another, to show ourselves,) real listening (willingness to participate in each other’s experience, to feel in), Attunement (presence and seeing is the same, seeing is presence and presence sees what is now), there’s a moment when that coherence level is so high that the collective jumps into a much stronger level of presence… that’s the real emergence of the collective witness. The collective becomes aware of itself, and gets a bigger perspective, than us just listening to each other. It’s a healing power, that degree of presence, when we bring together the fuel in all the different people…  The emergence of the super coherence when a group is connected enough, is part of the next level of human evolution.”

Say what?!?!?

If this feels like an interesting lens to you, check out the 2021 Collective Trauma Summit, which is free, and taking place online from September 19 – 28.

If you’re interested in the nervous system, healing, resilience, meditation, climate change, racial justice, climate justice, poetry, change-making, how to effect rapid change to save the world, or just trying to make sense of why things seem so crazy right now, this might serve up some wisdom.


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