Trauma and Resilience in the Time of Coronavirus

Lab Cycle Oct 2020 - July 2021 Report


Nancy Hyatt & Teddy Frank           Senior Advisor: Ruby Mendenhall


Simon Courtney, Katherine Menton, Sophia Alexander




The coronavirus pandemic has been evolving since January 2020. It impacts us now and into the foreseeable future as we deal with massive disruptions to our economic, political, medical, educational, and social structures. It has challenged the fundamental ways in which we view ourselves, each other, and our countries.

In this Lab, we started out with a group of 24 participants and completed with 22 participants. We met for 11 group sessions from October 2020 – April 2021.

We explored the following questions:

  • What constitutes the historical background to the response to the coronavirus pandemic in your country?
  • How has Covid exposed the underlying trauma built into our social and cultural institutions?
  • How is collective and intergenerational trauma showing itself in this time of the Covid-19 crisis?
  • How can Covid teach us to use the resiliency of our ancestors as a current resource? 
  • How can Covid teach us to honor our ancestral trauma and consciously choose to “leave it at the altar”? 
  • Can coherent we-spaces and a process of witnessing collective and intergenerational trauma lead to an integration and eventual healing of collective trauma?

Stages of our process as a group:

1. Synchronising & Resourcing
We began with the “3-Sync” meditation as a ritual that started each of our Lab sessions. We created safety through clearly explaining the Lab purpose (research into collective trauma, not a support or process group). We then reviewed the process or “Arc of the Lab Journey” to help people understand our structure and process. We created space for personal sharing and commitment by asking people to share - in breakout triads - their intentions for joining the Lab. We then had a brief group “harvesting” to share intentions and build greater group coherence.

2. Meeting the Collective Trauma Landscape
We spent two sessions exploring the Historical Timeline of Pandemics. Members submitted brief accounts of one historical pandemic that spoke to them and presented it in the Lab. Members reflected on how past themes of “othering”, blaming, isolation and fear seemed to be recurrent themes throughout history and were especially relevant to our current context of the coronavirus pandemic.

3. Exploring Individual & Collective Conditioning
We deepened our exploration of how Covid has exposed the underlying trauma built into our social and cultural institutions. We reflected on how our cultural and social institutions have a profound influence on how Covid impacts our daily lives. Members deeply shared the impact of Covid on their lives, their families, their wellbeing and their awareness of how it is being handled in their country. Great compassion was expressed for the inequity with which Covid affects the most vulnerable of our population based on this “cultural architecture”.

4. Listening to Ancestral Roots & Voices from the Field
We spent a full session exploring the resiliency of our ancestors and how this informs and resources us as we deal with Covid. We then spent a full session exploring ancestral trauma and how this has impacted us in dealing with Covid. Members expressed sadness, guilt, rage, loss, and grief along with hope, gratitude, joy and connection. These sessions culminated in a touching ritual where each person stated one ancestral resource they take with them and one element of their ancestral trauma which they are now prepared to honor and leave behind at the altar. They were invited to create a talisman of their Ancestral Resource which many people later shared with the group.

5. Integrating & Restoring
Participants spoke of feeling supported and connected to the group members and to “Thomas’ [Hübl’s] Field” and how this deep sense of “being held” allowed them to experience deeper awareness and healing of their personal trauma and of the collective trauma. Members also referenced the skills and practices that they learned, the sharing within the group, the 3-sync meditation, the poetry and creative arts expressions, and the quality of holding from the Facilitation Team as resources enabling their healing and awareness.

6. Transforming & Meta-learning
Deep sharing from members spoke to their increased understanding and awareness of collective trauma and the subtle ways in which participation in the Lab enhanced their own capacity for connection and self-healing. This was expressed through their reflections of how instead of collapsing into grief, rage and sadness, or numbing themselves, they felt an enhanced sense of compassion for themselves and others. Many spoke of small actions they now wished to take to contribute to the greater collective healing of the Covid trauma.
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Moments of Challenge

Various members expressed feelings of frustration or dissatisfaction that we were not going deep enough. Others objected to the survey. As facilitators, allowing these feelings to be expressed and witnessed without judging, correcting, or attempting to “fix” anything, while still noticing and not acting on our own defensive reactions, were powerful learnings. Members expressed gratitude for this form of “holding” and the permission it gave to express divergent views or strong feelings, allowing for a greater sense of safety which led to more authentic and vulnerable sharing and connection.


Members graciously shared their poetry, artwork and personal stories in the service of connecting, learning and sharing. This alone presented many small and deeply felt moments of grace throughout the sessions. A few moments in particular stand out: 

  • One member actively presenced her ancestor, Julian of Norwich, a  Christian mystic, by bringing a profound energetic healing of “all will be well” in response to the expression of deep grief by members.  
  • Another member then shared a song which became our “anthem” written specifically about Julian.
  • Another member evoked hope and healing with the potent image of a mystical “Jackhammer” for healing collective trauma to get to the “living waters” underneath. This evoked rich reflections and contemplations on the tools and capacities, and on what might be our “Jackhammer” that we use to engage in collective trauma healing?



Two elements created a turning point in accessing the dark waters of trauma. The first was conscious facilitator self-disclosure about how the pandemic exposed the social inequities which deeply affected her. This sharing created greater vulnerability, authenticity and sharing amongst the group of how they are affected and/or participate in these inequities. The second key insight emerged from the two sessions on the Ancestors which were very profound in helping members access and release aspects of deeply held trauma and thereby open up to greater resiliency. This allowed the collective group to hold and presence intense grief and grace, held in equal measure as healing forces.

Our Lab Team

Teddy Frank (1)

Teddy Frank

Nancy Hyatt (1)

Nancy Hyatt

Ruby Mendenhall (2)

Dr. Ruby Mendenhall
Expert Advisor

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