Light is found in the darkest of places.
The October 25th massacre and maiming of 31 innocent members of the Lewiston, Maine community registers in the hearts and souls across Maine and the World.
In the aftermath of the mass trauma event, the shock and growing compassion among citizens raise awareness about each person lost and directly affected, as well as the entire community and beyond.
Such tragedies have the potential of spreading dis-ease; the idea that certain thoughts, emotions, or psychological states can spread from person to person, affecting individuals and systems in a way similar to how a physical infection might spread.
Such a tragedy casts a shadow, yet, society has a way of surging forth, sparking light in the midst of darkness. When we experience violence in community, we also see humanity rise. We see it in social media, community response support, acts of love and vigils. Once the shock and crisis has been attended, the tendency to stay awake dims.
How can we preserve the flame of humanity as the world succumbs to slumber?
We find ourselves at this crossroads repeatedly, witnessing a recurring pattern of lapsing into a collective state of dormancy. This phenomenon is evident today in the escalating levels of isolation, anxiety, widespread trauma, drug dependency, and the alarming disruptions caused by climate change.
The repetition of collective and mass trauma in the evolution of civilization is unmistakable. With the silencing of the suppression, of shame and guilt of the persecutors, along with the oppression and violence, of the persecuted has culminated into fragmentations of human and ecological endangerment. Yet this “silence” continues to emerge through the cracks of social, cultural, political, ecological, and economic fragmentations in exposing what humanity has been carrying through generations.
Emotional reactions experienced currently are normal within these abnormal times.
It is in our communal witnessing that collective trauma integration occurs, giving us communal space and energy to reimagine. Inherently social beings, humans draw strength from their interconnectedness with each other and the natural world. Recognizing this interdependence as a valuable resource enriches the groundwork for accessing healing. Engaging in this process requires not just a willingness to prepare for the journey but also a dedication to navigate through the unspoken, unveiling the hidden significance within our most challenging life experiences.
Embarking on the path of healing from collective grief and trauma demands a profound courage to confront and embrace the pain we bear together—a willingness to sit in introspection and lend an ear to others, acknowledging that pain is an universal aspect of the human experience.
Having the opportunity to share and witness each other's truths connects us within the collective, fostering a sense of belonging. This journey towards unity, grounded in a peace-based worldview, is crucial for steering away from violent and destructive paths. Embracing a peace-driven, compassionate, and inclusive perspective ensures that trust and safety prevail.
Establishing cultures of healing support involves highlighting the importance of redefining oneself within the community, rediscovering the value of collective support, and recognizing the shared responsibility for well-being.
St. Thomas, B., Sheffield, M. & Johnson, P. (2024). Collective Healing and Human Suffering: Energizing systemic change through collective healing action. Cognella:San Diego.