War & Its Impact on Families and Communities
Lab Cycle Oct 2020 - July 2021 Report
Patrick Dougherty & Jens Riese
William Aal, Manda Johnson & Christine Arau
We started out with a group of 26 participants and completed with 21 participants. We met for 15 group sessions from November 19 2020 – June 17 2021, with an extra session for resourcing competencies for those who wanted to join. In this lab, we focused on War & Its Impact on Families and Communities. We invited, explored, held and started to integrate collective trauma related to both “doing harm” and “being harmed”. We expected to have both personal and transgenerational trauma present in participants, and were prepared to treat this as an opening into the collective impact of war. We invited specific family, community and national examples of the manifestation of collective trauma, trusting the emergence of what is ripe through a strengthening group coherence. We also explored how war is both a cause as well as a symptom of collective trauma, and looked at what it takes to break the perpetuation of war.
We explored the following questions:
- What constitutes the historical background to war as it manifests as collective trauma today?
- How does the trauma of war influence the construction of identity (e.g. “victim” and “perpetrator”) and the process of ‘othering’, e.g. between former war opponents and those groups that are labeled as having done harm vs. having been harmed?
- How does the trauma of war influence the development of cultural architecture governing the current relationships between nations, ethnic groups, communities, generations within those, and families?
- How does our use of language reflect and reinforce the consequences of this trauma?
- What are the blind spots of this trauma that culture turns its back on (e.g. “collateral damage” of war; the war trauma and shame carried by those labelled “perpetrators”, etc.)?
- How does this trauma show itself in times of crisis (e.g. Covid-19, inter-country conflict, climate emergencies)?
- Can we collectively create a coherent ‘we-space’ and a process of witnessing that leads to an integration and eventual healing of this trauma?
Stages of our process as a group:
1. Synchronising & Resourcing
2. Meeting the Collective Trauma Landscape
3. Exploring Individual & Collective Conditioning
4. Listening to Ancestral Roots & Voices from the Field
5. Integrating & Restoring
6. Transforming & Meta-learning
Moments of Challenge
- Early recognition that everyone needed to be adequately resourced with competence for self-regulation and group coherence. We slowed down to develop these competencies together.
- Preparing the timeline was time-consuming and emotionally heavy, particularly for the facilitators. Again we needed to slow down, and it became apparent that everyone had been waiting for this opportunity for a lifetime and even for generations.
- Team conflict that needed commitment and sufficient dedicated time.
MOMENTS OF GRACE
- Initial co-creation of a group poem
- The blessing of Jen’s son to deliver a beautifully crafted timeline
- Dozens of moments in participants’ sharings, depth, truthfulness, and reverence within the group, and so much care which grew into extraordinary connection
- Finding home and companions to explore this territory brought relief, tears and delight
- Men’s and women’s circles with the other gender listening
- Deep inner healing, piece by piece, individually and ancestrally, as we traversed the material, with so much benefit and integration
- Our coherence building worked really well alongside the careful selection of participants
- Bi-weekly meetings adds coherence and integrity to the process
- 20-25 is a good number of participants, allowing intimacy to develop between everyone
- CTIP emerged naturally and works really well for historical trauma
- Gender mix in co-facilitation is important
- Valuable to include trainees, giving them more of a role
- It would have been necessary to dedicate more time and space to offer a deliberate invitation for anger, which in our Lab ended up not being expressed
- The Facilitator Team needs to understand the importance of, and be available to, processing whatever arises with the knowing that this is the work of the Lab showing up in us individually, often with information that is important to include as a team.