Dignity, trauma and Mandela consciousness  (edited)

A. Personal and collective trauma 

Collective and individual trauma are intertwined and they both inform and define social structures and contexts. Educational, medical, law and justice, and so on, contexts and structures are embedded in a collective trauma field, but they also carry the power to heal, restore and contribute to the creation of a new narrative and a paradigm of power with and not power over. Also, through creating discourses and spaces for the healing and integration of collective trauma to take place we can normalize, release and heal individual trauma. Through healing the personal we create shifts in the collective.

More ideas from the Collective Trauma Online Summit

The law has the power to wound and oppress, but also heal and restore

Restorative justice releases trauma energy at an individual and communal level

Corruption is a form of violence that deprives people form a dignified life. Justice systems have the power to create shifts and restore

Silence can be a stabilizing force during dictatorships and can become a protection mechanism in oppressive regimes or cultural environments

Thought systems and practices of separation break down the community web

Separation between men and women is reinforced because it can play out in all classes, groups, contexts, everywhere on the planet

Structures of domination and wounding are visited upon us when we are disconnected, disembodied and distracted

Collective trauma creates collective suppression and unintegrated trauma becomes the enemy, the feared, the Other

We need to take ownership of our own unchecked or unconscious prejudices and fears or aversive racism. Dr Richard Schwartz suggests we focus on the ‘racist or prejudiced part’ (inner child energy) and listen to what it has to say. It is probably a younger protector part inside us, and so, we could explore when and where it got its racism from to unburden and integrate this part of our psyche, so that it does not drive our actions and feelings towards others.

B. Dignity and Mandela consciousness

I have been making references to dignity over the past few posts because it is highly linked to both big T and small t traumas of all sorts. And actually, brain scans produced by researchers at UCLA, suggest that physical wounds and dignity wounds light up the same areas of the area of our brain called the limbic system (https://www.ikedacenter.org/thinkers-themes/themes/dignity/hicks)

Also, even though our dignity is of inherent worth it is also vulnerable and because humiliation and shame is involved dignity wounds tend to remain hidden. Wounds that remain hidden create disempowerment and a sense of helplessness. Dr Donna Hicks suggests we develop Mandela consciousness, which means we need to do what Nelson Mandela did while incarcerated for 27 years in Robben Island prison, and that is to acknowledge that dignity is inborn, within our control, cannot be stripped from us, but requires our honoring our own and others’ inborn sense of worth.

‘People can try to harm it, as the guards at Robben Island did, but as Mandela proved so vividly, no one can destroy our dignity without our consent. Most of us, thankfully, will never face such circumstances, but we all can benefit from attention to nurturing resilience in ourselves and others. In fact, said Hicks, it is nothing less than our responsibility to care for our own dignity and that of others….. ’ (https://www.ikedacenter.org/thinkers-themes/themes/dignity/hicks)


Adults in the Room

Today’s post is related to Adults in the Room, a recent French and Greek film that I watched a few days ago, directed by Costas Gavras and based on Yiannis Varoufakis’ book with the same title about his battle with Europe’s deep establishment, In January 2015 Varoufakis became the finance minister of Greece, a deeply indebted country, in the midst of a clash with its creditors, who happened to be Europe’s most powerful institutions.

The film proved an interesting and rich experience for me, firstly, because it was a captivating political thriller. Secondly, having watched the unrolling of these events through the media, and also, their far reaching consequences on the economy and political developments in the country, as a Greek citizen, the film grasped my attention. But what also got my attention were the secondary themes and representation of dynamics through images. One such theme was  character assassination through miring a person’s reputation, harassment and distortion of truths or lies that takes place when the person stands up or against a certain status quo of interests or beliefs and practices. I found that Donna Hicks’ ten elements of dignity, presented in the previous post, were relevant themes in this story, especially, those of: Safety that involves not only protection from physical harm, but also, allows freedom of expression without retribution, and Accountability and taking responsibility for our actions and the repercussions of decisions on others whether at an individual, national or global level.

Another theme thread is how we all often find ourselves at the mercy of inhumane circumstances, fear based dynamics  and power over paradigms, where we try to survive the best we can or act within the confines of the structures and contexts we find ourselves in, but also, the unresolved issues and complexes in our psyche. Varoufakis writes ‘beneath the specific events that I experienced, I recognised a universal story – the story of what happens when human beings find themselves at the mercy of cruel circumstances that have been generated by an inhuman, mostly unseen network of power relations. This is why there are no ‘goodies’ or ‘baddies’ in this book. Instead, it is populated by people doing their best, as they understand it, under conditions not of their choosing. Each of the persons I encountered and write about in these pages believed they were acting appropriately, but, taken together, their acts produced misfortune on a continental scale. Is this not the stuff of authentic tragedy? Is this not what makes the tragedies of Sophocles and Shakespeare resonate with us today……….?

The film also made visible the fragility of democracy and how breaches in the rights of freedom of expression, disrespect of others’ dignity, prejudice, arrogance and power over paradigms can slowly but steadily erode it. Finally, the title Adults in the Room in itself is another interesting metaphor maybe of how often during our daily lives and during moments of negotiation or conflict we function from younger, exiled in subterranean rooms, parts of ourselves, and this holds truth for everyone on this planet whether they are simple civilians or people who run the world.

Continued from previous post…….                                                                                          

“If you believe your dignity is anchored deeply inside of you, you can endure just about anything.” – Donna Hicks

  1. Very briefly on the physiology of trauma

Somatic bottom up approaches are essential when dealing with trauma because trauma impacts our physiology

Our trauma response system is an evolutionary compelling force with survival value

When we ‘perceive’ danger we opt for flee or fight, but when this is not possible we have another biological choice – our vagal circuit leads to freeze and shut down responses automatically

Neuroception is our human capacity to detect safety and risk or danger in the environment without cognitive awareness

We have a nervous system that allows us to participate in other people’s nervous systems for better and for worse

Our bodies require co-regulation, but we live in a world where many people have lost their capacity to co regulate with each other because they don’t feel safe enough

Our physiological states shift with cues of trauma and this can script our expression and interpretation of others

Prosodic voices can soothe our physiology

  1. Trauma and dignity

“No power on this earth can destroy the thirst for hunah dignity”  Nelson Mandela

Dignity can be defined as our inborn sense of value and worth, which cannot be stripped from us, but it can be wounded, abused and violated

Dr Donna Hicks’ 10 essential elements of dignity in brief:

Acceptance of other people’s identity and authentic selves without prejudice and bias always assuming that others have integrity

Inclusion; fostering a sense of belonging for all

Safety that involves both physical safety and protection from humiliation and allows freedom of expression without retribution

Acknowledgement: attention and responding to people’s concerns, feelings and experiences

Recognition: validate people for their talents, hard work, thoughtfulness, and help

Fairness: treat people justly, with equality and without discrimination or injustice, honoring their dignity

Benefit of the Doubt: treat people as trustworthy. Start with the premise that others have good motives and are acting with integrity

Understanding: believe that what others think matters

Independence: encourage people to act on their own behalf so that they feel in control of their lives and experience a sense of hope and possibility

Accountability: take responsibility for your actions