What is trauma?

Trauma is the inner response within an individual or a collective when facing a situation which is utterly overwhelming. The high level of stress overloads the capacity for an individual to stay related to the experience. As a result, the nervous system shuts down or disassociates from that part which has become overwhelmed in order to protect the rest of the organism and survive. As this occurs, the symptoms manifest as flight, fight, or freeze response in the body.

Where trauma is not integrated soon after the precipitating event, it remains stored in the nervous system and creates permanent and long-lasting after-effects within a person or, even, a culture. These manifest as a range of symptoms or ‘signposts’ that can be traced back to the original traumatic experiences.

The trauma response is an intelligent function that life developed over millions of years in order to protect the survival of individuals and collectives. As a protective function, it serves life. However, the parts of life or pockets of energy that have been split off can ultimately threaten the wellbeing of the entire system. In this way, trauma creates internal fragmentation that leads to the manifestation of external fragmentation and ultimately perpetuates itself.

Various forms of trauma have been studied, including:

  • Attachment trauma – through adverse childhood experiences (ACE) and traumatic attachment processes children develop defense patterns and trauma structures.
  • Shock trauma – through accidents or other significant traumatic situations shock trauma is created, leading to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • War trauma – for many soldiers, their overwhelming experiences in war situations lead to PTSD
  • Ancestral trauma – trauma incurred by the ancestors of a particular lineage
  • Intergenerational trauma – when trauma is left unintegrated the effects are passed on to the following generations
  • Historical trauma – the collective impact of trauma on culture through layers of history
  • Collective trauma – through large-scale natural or human-made disaster, trauma can be inflicted on entire communities or generations. Fresh trauma falls on old scars running through our collective psyche. We are all born into a collective web of trauma, as well as resilience, and from it, co-create our cultural environments.

Collective trauma is an invisible, yet formative ingredient for the structures that emerge in our cultures and societies, and that we tend to take for granted. Collective trauma inhibits our potential for the expression of collective intelligence.

The Pocket Project’s contribution to this area of study is multifold: to explore the experiential aspects of both individual and collective trauma, and to illuminate both the overlaps and the distinctions between the two. In interactive training, initiatives, and social impact projects, participants actively investigate these experiences within themselves, with one another, and within their collective fields to ultimately arrive at greater clarity and resolution around the both small and large events that shape their lives.

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