Dealing with Collective Traumatic Experiences

By: Rev. Jeanne Hanson, Executive Director

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Listening to the news today we are bombarded by so many heartbreaking images of human suffering – the 13 million refugees displaced by war, African-American men killed by police officers, police officers killed by an African-American man, natural disasters that destroy villages – the list goes on. We absorb these things emotionally and empathetically and deal with them individually through deepening our understanding of the issues, saying prayers for those involved and becoming aware of our own reactions to events. We also deal with them collectively by talking with those we trust, gathering in places of worship and seeking out groups that are committed to building community and solving problems. These steps move us towards a more responsive and less reactive society.

It is a similar process when dealing with personal trauma. There is an increased awareness of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a component of depression, anxiety, uncontrolled rage and addictions. We do our best with the skills we know to deal with an experience that gets lodged in our psyche in such a way that pain, fear and reactions are triggered by certain events – sometimes unconsciously. Until we learn coping skills like meditation, prayer, yoga, deep breathing and visualization, or until we have a professional take us through a technique like EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprogramming) we continue to be locked in a cycle of reactionary fear.

The power of EMDR is that it helps to connect the synapses of our brains so that the creative, problem-solving parts can access the deep-seated experiences of trauma that resist logical, rational solutions. This is accomplished through eye movements and/or pulsars that leverage the wisdom of the mind-body connection. Together they help heal the deep wounds of the past.

Our society needs some massive EMDR treatments to help us process past and present trauma. Perhaps by implementing the skills of de-escalation, civil discourse, trust-building and cooperation, we will be able to access the indivisible truth of our humanity.

If you’re dealing with trauma and would like to talk with a professional therapist, please call 847-382-HOPE (4673) extension 316. Samaritan Counseling Center addresses emotional, mental, behavioral and psychological challenges of all kinds.