Communities that have been torn to shreds by civil wars, gang violence, genocide, femicide and other atrocity traumas have often been at the mercy of an inhumane faction within their own community be they of opposite genders, members of the same family, radicalized groups within a religion or tribe. This kind of collective trauma, one that happens within and by the hands of one’s own trusted community members has the most damaging, long-term effects on that society and its future. Shattered to its core, the community expresses hopelessness, rage, self-abuse, and destructive decision-making only to pass this on to the next generation and the next. It is both the victims and the communities themselves that are calling out for repair.
The latest findings in neuroscience hold the brightest torch for transforming the turmoil within shattered communities. By shifting the fear center of the brain, the amygdala, a nervous system born of or perpetually stuck in a “fight” response can be restored to its flexible and more reasonable functioning. This is also true of a community’s collective nervous system. The premise is, as a tipping point number of individuals and key authority figures in the community are restored to greater nervous system functioning find relief from debilitating symptoms and take part in community re-building projects that repair trust, it’s possible for the community to turn away from gangs, violence, femicide and the destruction of its resources. Collective health, environmental stewardship of its resources, and social harmony weave a new collective body from the inside outward, one naturally attuned to future hopes and a vibrant legacy.
AST Model® Empowering Peace… Needs Assessment, Program Design & Training
Transforming collective trauma ultimately is about restoring peace, harmony, sustainability, and hope for the future. It calls for a three point approach: assessing the community’s needs, designing a custom, somatic-based program that includes cultural sensitivity and indigenous people’s wisdom, and the training of local stakeholders.
The recipe is simple; genuine local buy-in is key to making an on-the-ground, needs assessment, and simple-to-implement nervous system-based approach work. It requires the training of and the monitoring by local community stakeholders’ such as educators, police, counselors, social workers, first aid responders, clergy, tribal leaders, sports coaches, politicians, entertainers, celebrities and other local role models.
Transforming collective trauma on a group, tribal, regional or national level takes combined efforts. Resolving the ravages of civil war conflict, systemic gang violence, gender violence and atrocity trauma is often thought of as something separate from community recovery; it is not. The accompaniment of community-building projects focused on art, music, dance, theatre, collective narrative-making, and nonviolent communication skills are important complements to the nervous-system based recovery process; but, they are in no way substitutes for the body’s intelligence to restore itself.
Community-building projects can re-stitch societies back together, as does economic opportunities creation and proper policing. It is believed, however, that nervous system re-regulation that allows all other efforts to take hold and be fruitful in the long-term. The premise is that without proper nervous system re-regulation, a community is left recycling its trauma; thereby, robbing today’s and tomorrow’s generations of peace.