Collective trauma has been described as a “cataclysmic event that shatters the basic fabric of society”. The term collective trauma refers to the psychological reactions to a traumatic event that affect an entire society.
When we look back on the past two years, trauma might not be the first thought that crosses our mind. Yet, we when examine the emotional distress, isolation, fear and anxiety we have all navigated, the trauma experienced during the Black Summer bushfires, the COVID-19 pandemic, and now with the floods and Ukrainian invasion can be likened to that of world wars and terrorist attacks.
Some people have lost loved ones to the coronavirus and been unable to attend funerals, while others have lost homes, been separated from family members for years, locked out of schools and locked in their homes for months, experienced severe financial stress and ruin, and illness themselves.
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We have all experienced a sense of powerlessness.
In fact, the pandemic and what's happening around the world right now has been a masterclass in it - we’ve all quickly learned that we’re not in control of our lives.
Our lives have been in disarray. The constant hurdling over the past two years has been mentally exhausting and overwhelming.
It’s unsettling for most people, particularly those of us who revel in being the masters of our own destiny.
New words and phrases have also entered our vocabulary.
We’ve been told that we’re living in ‘unprecedented times’. But when will these times end, we ask? We’ve been told to ‘pivot’. And finally to ‘stay positive’. Unfortunately, these soundbites, which all are designed to keep us moving forward, can add to our feelings of angst and powerlessness.
When collective trauma isn’t processed and addressed as a society, or is even suppressed, the collective group doesn’t heal.
The effects of unresolved collective trauma can be devastating for the individual, their family and the wider community, leading to ongoing mental health problems.
The individual trauma that we each experience can linger for years, festering under the surface and causing a build up of stress and anxiety. Like many other traumatic historical events, the COVID-19 pandemic and other current world events could also develop into intergenerational trauma, where parents pass down their trauma to their children.