The Impact of Collective Trauma. I recently saw a post online that said something along the lines of, “It’s getting pretty exhausting living through a historical event every 6 minutes,” and it really hit home. Between COVID, social unrest, political turmoil, natural disasters, an attack on the Capitol, and the ever-changing landscape of day-to-day living, we have entered into what some clinicians refer to as collective trauma.
Collective trauma occurs when any major, catastrophic event impacts all or almost all members of society while leaving a lasting impact on cultural and societal norms. Some previous examples include events like the Great Depression, the Holocaust, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina. Aydin (2017) defines trauma as an event that “violates the familiar ideas and expectations about the world of an individual or society, plunging them into a state of extreme confusion and uncertainty.” That statement very neatly sums up the past 11 months for all of us to varying degrees.
Going through these events en masse can lead to higher rates of depression, anxiety, stress, and distress. It can lead to existential questions about the world, our system’s safety, and, worse of all, each other. Being in constant flight-or-flight can lead to an us-vs-them mentality as our brains try to figure out who/what is safe now. It feels safer to be with people who agree with us because we’re already grappling with confusion and increased mental and emotional burdens on a day-to-day basis.
But we have seen the fruit that this division brings – anger, rage, hostility, isolation, broken relationships. Divided homes, fractured communities, and a self-perpetuating cycle keep us from the one thing we all need: each other.
We are designed to be in a community with each other. Our diversity of backgrounds, thoughts, and personalities creates a rich tapestry that grows, enhances, and sometimes frustrates us. We are meant to go through this together. We are more than the sum of our political opinions and beliefs about the pandemic. We are all people, and we are all hurting as we go through this challenging time.
Turning towards each other and seeing our similarities more than our differences may seem like a platitude as we face genuine, meaningful crises. But it is the magnitude of the crises that means we need each other now more than ever. Seeking common ground, approaching each other first to understand, and starting each conversation with love matters as we move through these traumatizing times. Resilience comes from relationships, not isolation. Resilience is formed through connection, not division. Resilience emerges when we work together, remembering our shared bonds, not when we seek to destroy the “other.”
As we continue to long to return to what we understand as normal, remember that healing in relationships is possible. We at Family Renewal Counseling are passionate about healing relationships and would love to walk with you as we seek to get through this together.