Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Hope, Consciousness and Healing Collective Trauma

March 7th, 2021 · dealing feelings, healing collective trauma

Healing collective trauma is a matter of particular importance as we move through and beyond the COVID-19 crisis. Hope and increased awareness will play decisive roles in this healing.

During the era of COVID, people have gotten used to (and fed up with) quite a number of buzzwords. I will certainly never forget the significant number of my clients who have said to me, “If I hear one more reference in the press or on the media to COVID as ‘the new normal’, I’m going to scream!” Fair enough: I understand how they feel. It might be easy to see the term “collective trauma” as just another such shallow buzzword, but there are very good psychotherapeutic reasons for regarding it as much more than that.

What Is Collective Trauma?

A collective trauma is a traumatic event that is shared by a group of people. This can be a small group, like a family, or the occupants of a vehicle, or it can be big enough to take in a whole society. As social worker and psychology lecturer Amy Morin asserts,

Traumatic events that affect groups may include things like a plane crash, natural disaster, mass shootings, famines, [or] war…. Well-known collective traumas include… slavery, the Holocaust, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the September 11 terrorist attacks. We are currently experiencing an ongoing collective trauma through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amy Morin, LCSW in Very Well Mind

It might seem that COVID doesn’t have anywhere near the impact on us that the other events Morin lists had on those who were affected. However, if we really examine the kinds and amounts of change that COVID and the associated disruptions have brought to our work, schooling, social gatherings, travel, key social rituals and so much more, it’s clear that we’re dealing with a formidably impactful collective trauma.

A lot of trauma experiences are individual. A life-threatening illness may affect only one person, for instance. Traumatic experiences differ greatly in their effects. Two very similar traumatic experiences may affect two people very differently, with one person emerging virtually unscathed, while another has his or her life fundamentally changed.

Trauma may negatively impact our ability to handle stress. Or, it may make it difficult to enjoy things that were once quite pleasurable. It’s common enough for people who experience trauma to feel that their lives have lost meaning, or, alternately, that questions of meaning or spirituality have become front and center for them.

These effects of trauma may be experienced by individuals, or they may be experienced throughout an entire group or even a whole society. In this age of modern media, people don’t need to experience events first-hand to be traumatized by them. Trauma can be transmitted through radio, television, or social media.

How Can We Begin Healing Collective Trauma?

As a society, we’re experiencing collective trauma from our society’s experience with COVID. If there is strong evidence to support that conclusion—and I would suggest that there is—how can we begin to find our way to some kind of healing?

One of the most important steps in healing collective trauma around COVID is for each of us to acknowledge that it exists, and to acknowledge the impact of this trauma on our own lives. Many of us have encountered some degree of trauma as a result of COVID, and it’s very important for us to honestly acknowledge that.

This acknowledgement, that COVID has hurt us, has cost us, has traumatized us, is a centrally important thing of which we need to be aware. It can be a very hard thing to look at, to acknowledge the damage that has been done, but as C.G. Jung would tell us, there is something vitally important in this consciousness. Difficult and painful as it is, it is the first step to hope and renewal.

There are some famous lines in Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem”, a song which essentially celebrates the acceptance of the way things are when they’re broken. As Cohen puts it.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in [Boldface mine]

Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

Paradoxically, it’s only when we can find the undesirable crack, that we can start to see the light that streams through it. In the case of our COVID trauma, this means that we can only find our way to the seeds of hope by first of all acknowledging the depth of our wound.

Moving Beyond Collective Trauma

Acknowledging our trauma can be an important step in feeling better about it. Although individuals will naturally wish that the event never occurred, they can also acknowledge the resourcefulness, strength and resilience in themselves which has carried them through the experience to this point, and will enable them to get to the end of it.

Positive things may also occur on the collective level from acknowledging our trauma. People who acknowledge trauma, and share its impact can feel a sense of deep connection and solidarity with one another. They can even feel less psychological pain and anxiety as a result of carrying it together with others. Through supporting each other, they may come together on shared goals and even find a sense of shared meaning.

Finding ways of healing collective trauma starts with our own journey, and with acknowledging on an individual level that we have experienced trauma. Jungian depth psychotherapy can be an excellent supportive place to start this journey of healing.

With very best wishes for your journey towards wholeness.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2021 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Dealing with Feelings: Some Depth Psychotherapy Reflections

November 7th, 2016 · dealing feelings

Dealing with feelings is complex and demanding, especially for those of us who are naturally much more at home dealing with rational thinking.

dealing feelings

Yet, even for the most dyed-in-the-wool “thinking type”, there will come times when we absolutely must deal with our feelings, if we are to make any kind of meaningful sense of our lives.

Feelings Are Facts!

Here’s a point that C.G. Jung was always making: there can be no dispute that, if a person is in the grips of a feeling, that’s a real thing.

The feeling may not be a reality in the external word, like a sushi roll or a subway train, but make no mistake — it’s real and really effects the person that has it, and possibly other people as well.

We’re Socialized to Mask Our Feelings

As noted Chicago psychotherapist Joyce Marter suggests, in modern culture, we’re socialized to cover up our feelings.

We frequently get the message that we have to cover up our feelings in order to behave “appropriately” in social environments, or to act professionally, or, we are told, to avoid conflict and to make relationships work properly for us.

Certainly, it’s true that we often have to control our feeling in social settings.  But does that mean that we’re not supposed to feel them?  From a depth psychotherapy perspective, that seems not only wrong, but psychologically impossible.

Your Feelings are There to Help You

Feelings exist not to give us trouble, but to serve incredibly vital psychological functions.

We need to listen to our feelings, to understand them.  If we do not, our unacknowledged feelings are going to trip us up at every turn.  This becomes particularly true at times like major life transitions.

Our feeling states can very often lead our more rational mind to a better understanding of situations that we are in, and their true impact upon us.  We need the feeling parts of ourselves!

dealing feelings

Dealing with Feelings: You Don’t Have to Act; But You Do Need to Process

If we want to stay connected to inner and outer reality, we really have no alternative but to pay attention to our feeling states.  Sometimes, it can be very hard to easily identify what we’re feeling.

You don’t have to act on your feelings, or even verbalize them to others.  But it can be extremely valuable to acknowledge them, and to know what they are.

There are a range of ways we can begin to get closer to our feelings.

Journaling or therapeutic letters.  Sometimes it can be very useful to write about what we are going through emotionally, or even just our ordinary daily lives.  This can take the form of a journal entry, or of a letter written to someone who has evoked strong feelings in us, (which we may or may NOT decide to send to them.)  Sometimes showing such writings to a trusted therapist can be of a great deal of help in processing feelings.

Identifying emotions.  Sometimes we recognize that we don’t even have the right vocabulary to really identify what it is that we’re feeling.  There are tools, such as feeling charts that we can use.  Here’s a simple one  — but still very useful.

Using art to identify feelings (and intuitions!).  Painting, clay, drawing, making music … these are all natural forms of human expression, and they can all help greatly in getting us down and in touch with our feelings.

Depth psychotherapy can be extremely helpful in processing emotions, often in conjunction with one of the above approaches.

For all of us, but particularly for thinking oriented people, the journey towards wholeness is going to take us through the territory of processing our feelings.  It might be good territory to go through with the help of a trusted therapist.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

 PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike ©  Wrote ; Ann 

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