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Our Collective Trauma & Our Collective Healing in 3 Stages

By Dr. Michelle Golland As a Clinical Psychologist it is clear to me that America has been through a 4-year trauma filled experience due to the malignant narcissism of Donald Trump.  As we now face another trigger to our trauma due to Trump being acquitted of his involvement in the horrific terrorism, we all witnessed on […]

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By Dr. Michelle Golland

As a Clinical Psychologist it is clear to me that America has been through a 4-year trauma filled experience due to the malignant narcissism of Donald Trump.  As we now face another trigger to our trauma due to Trump being acquitted of his involvement in the horrific terrorism, we all witnessed on January 6, 2021.  My Hope is not to focus just on this trauma but to begin the conversation of how we actually can heal as a nation.  It is only through our collective healing and understanding that I believe we can again thrive and evolve as the amazingly beautiful multi-racial democracy we all wish to see reflected in our politics and within our communities.

3 Stages of Trauma Healing

            Safety Phase: This is a foundational phase that without it is nearly impossible to heal from our collective trauma. It involves 2 parts for us humans: Safety Within and Safety in The World.  

Safety Within is critical because we need to establish a baseline of self-care and making efforts to take care of your physical as well as emotional safety.  We must understand that for many of us the trauma is experienced by hyperarousal as well as intrusive reactions and thoughts.  So, whether your experience of our trauma of the past 4-years is most activated by, Covid 19 and the mass death or the Kavanagh hearings, the #MeToo movement, the abhorrent treatment of immigrant families being separated at our border, or the continual gas-lighting at the hands of our past president you must tend to those open internal wounds.  

The Safety in The World phase directly involves President Joe Biden because when Nazi flags and white nationals are marching in the USA capital building and our political leaders were just minutes away from being murdered what we need is assurance of our personal safety as well as those we have elected in free and fair elections.  The healing actions and words of comfort and care by our new president Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will be crucial to our collective recovery.   We need to literally see the results of their policies to feel safe again in the United States of America.  We need accountability and acknowledgment of the awful racist and hate filled truth we have witnessed and continue to be bombarded with by the arrogance of the GOP. 

            Remember & Mourning Phase: This is the phase which includes putting literal words to our trauma and forging meaning out of the trauma.   This phase allows for the unfolding and exploring the mourning and the losses associated with the trauma while providing space to grieve and express our emotions collectively as a country and as individual households and communities.  To continue into this second phase of healing, we must  keep experiencing the safety and stability while processing the enormous losses of life due to Covid for example.  The point is not to “re-experience” the trauma nor to not have any emotions about the trauma experience but to safely create space to mourn, grieve and begin to make meaning of it. 

            Reconnection & Integration Phase: In this 3rd stage of healing and recovery, our mission as individuals and as a nation is to recognize the impact of our collective trauma experienced at the hands of a malignant narcissist president.   Together we must find ways to concretely take steps toward empowerment and self-determination informed by the meaning we have gained through processing our trauma as a country.  We must create a new defining sense of a new and evolved America.  A new future born out of the abuse we have all suffered together.  Even Donald Trump and his presidency needs to be integrated into our collective conscious in a healing, helpful and hopeful manner.  The story hope and a renewal of our core values and our ability to reach for our better angels is the task of this 3rd phase.  

My hope is as we continue to heal and build back a better America that we will never forget the death and destruction that has been perpetrated by those in power and their enablers.  So, let us all begin to heal by taking action to create more peace, understanding and to also hold those accountable for the darkest of times in our country.  Our countries successful resolution of this collective trauma will be one of the most powerful testaments to the resiliency of America and the citizens of the United States of America.  What can you personally do?  Join an organization working toward racial justice, fight for the ERA, fight for a living wage, run for the school board, join a group in your church or synagogue to help those who lost loved ones to Covid 19.  Together we can make each other safe, process our pain and rise as the multi-racial democracy we continually dream of creating… It can only BE if we together as Americans RISE collectively. 

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