Women & Gender-based Trauma

Lab Cycle Oct 2020 - July 2021 Report

Facilitators

Hilorie Baer, Kosha Joubert, Bee James

Trainees

Jo Hardy, Neema Namadamu, Krijnie Beyen

LANGUAGE

English

Description

In this Lab we researched the collective trauma that emerges from female gender identity, gender injustice and sexual & domestic abuse. This first lab cycle was for those identifying as  women only. We aimed to ‘presence’ how gender-based trauma shapes our worldviews and institutions, our ways of being and ‘othering’. How do we participate either in the integration or in the perpetuation of this trauma? And what are the ingredients that might make it possible for us to heal together? We explored these questions through the specific perspectives and experiences that participants bring.

We started out with a group of 63 participants and completed with 49 participants. We met for 11 group sessions from October 2020 – June 2021 and triads were formed after our fourth session.

We explored the following questions:

  • What constitutes the historical background of gender identity?
  • What constitutes the historical background to relationships between women and men?
  • What constitutes the historical background to gender-based injustice, sexual abuse and domestic abuse?
  • How does gender-based trauma influence the construction of our identity as women?
  • How does gender-based trauma influence the development of our worldviews and our role in societies?
  • How does our use of language reflect and reinforce the consequences of this trauma?
  • How does gender-based trauma show itself in times of crisis (e.g. Covid-19, 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?
  • What are the ingredients that help to make this possible?

Stages of our process as a group:

1. Synchronising & Resourcing
It seemed deceptively easy to build coherence and safety amongst us, as we were all women and ‘victims’ of this trauma. But underneath the loveliness of being together as women, a more hidden aspect of fragility and fragmentation within our field was palpable, pointing to a history of systemic abuse that involves all genders. As women we are seemingly not ‘perpetrators’ and yet there is this energy between women, between mothers and daughters. Many of us came with experiences of gender-based trauma from our own personal histories, and we surfaced the question of how to balance our ongoing personal healing (which the space of the lab did not provide directly for) with our collective exploration. Which level of inner awareness and healing is a prerequisite before embarking on such a journey of collective trauma integration? How can we assess, in ourselves and others, whether we are ready to meet the intensity of collective trauma? Over time, we experienced the entanglement of the individual and collective healing process. This is not an either... or…, but a both... and… process..
2. Meeting the Collective Trauma Landscape
We explored our ‘intersubjective memory’, with each woman collecting facts and bringing them to the table, as a tool to help us describe and relate to the landscape of this collective trauma. Reading our historic timeline together was intense beyond measure. We consciously practiced to be with the atmosphere of the collective field ‘through’ the facts and to witness the intensity of emotions as well as numbness within ourselves. We realised that our group would have benefitted from more time for resourcing, relating, self-regulation and co-regulation before touching the collective trauma field together. We experienced shakiness, a sense of heaviness and fragmentation both individually and in the collective as a whole.
3. Exploring Individual & Collective Conditioning
When we touch collective trauma fields, our personal trauma may be touched, too, sometimes coming forward in places that we were not yet aware of and that were ‘absent’ before. Ideally, when this happens, we would bring the ability to notice: I am being triggered, and this is an invitation to work on my integration. But most of us are not yet trained in the ability to host both within us, the personal and the collective, in such a way that we can consciously distinguish and recognise their interplay. We explored what had come up for each of us, personally, and how this touched on experiences of gender-based trauma we had in our families, lives and societies as women. The authenticity of personal sharing in triads and the compassionate group space helped us to grow a progressively deeper sense of safety and belonging, while increasing our capacity to stay present to one another during moments of intensity.
4. Listening to Ancestral Roots & Voices from the Field
As we explored our female, and then both male and female ancestry, we recognized that the generation before us did not have the opportunity to process much. We acknowledged that we are doing this work for former generations, too. And whatever we integrate, we can see the immediate effect on the next generation. Our children and grandchildren gain more potential and freedom for integration, rather than repetition. We worked through the body, with music, art and dance and accessed archetypal layers and voices of grief, fury, loss and exhaustion within the collective feminine of our field. We slowed down to become able to stay beyond our comfort zones, while noticing how strong the impulse was to flee to ‘lighter’ and seemingly more harmonious topics.
5. Integrating & Restoring
This phase unfolded naturally from the darkness we had touched on before, with a sense of joy, lightness and celebration. We acknowledged that we had been able to grow our awareness and our hosting of previously unconscious pain points and signposts of trauma. And we realised that we were, in moments, able to create a relational field, a seemingly stable enough nervous system, either within ourselves, with another person or within our group, so that we had begun to digest chunks of energy. Integration occurs, not through effort, but through presence, being with and compassion. What emerged was a sense of reconnecting to and strengthening our unique voices as women and a deep interest in the roles we have to play.
6. Transforming & Meta-learning
When we loosen the ice, and chunks of it begin to melt, the energy that arises becomes free potential. We looked with fresh eyes at our wishes and dreams and our calling to fully take our place, as women, in society. As we near the end of our journey in this round of the labs, we experience a growing warmth, relaxation and freedom of expression in our group.
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Moments of Challenge

  • Some in our team experienced a tension between involvement versus holding/hosting, especially around holding the tech of the zoom calls
  • Some in our team had a recurrent experience of not enough space-time – and would have liked more time for preparation and team-meetings, while others felt that the time allocated was already touching a limit. 
  • What do we really touch when we speak of collective trauma, we continue to long for precision
  • When touching on extremely abusive personal and collective histories, how do we stay related, while at the same time moving to the frequency of the observer, so that the experience can re-organise within a bigger picture? How do we evaluate that? 
  • We were a predominantly Western group of women, and painfully aware that this provided a challenge to our non-English speakers and a constriction to the extent to which we could see. There was gratitude for non-western perspectives, but also a sense of short-coming in terms of creating more space and time to listen more fully to these and a wish to continue.  

MOMENTS OF GRACE

  • In our lab we grew towards increased coherence and safety both through and leading to beauty and vulnerability in the sharings 
  • The growing experience of creativity in our lab process, trying out of other modalities and tapping into more expressiveness through dance, art, poetry and movement
  • The diversity of competencies in our team allowed for an emergence of co-creativity as time went on
  • Many of us experienced a deep space of extension as we entered ‘the dark lake’ through and with our ancestors, touching on grieving of lost children, grief and furry around ‘clipped wings’, a loss of land, home and life, and exhaustion in the feminine psyche. 
  • We followed a path of continuously dropping deeper together and ended in a space of mutual joy.

INSIGHTS

  • Pre-lab training in basic practices and competencies is very helpful
  • Clarity of articulation about the process of Collective trauma Integration and where we were on our journey by the team contributed to safety
  • Distinguishing between authentic precision and articulation in the moment versus philosophical words that come from a more mental level of being 
  • We would have loved even more space for meta-reflection, not about how people are feeling, but how the work is orienting to a movement from fragmentation to unification
  • For future labs, we would love to have a scribe who captures the actual themes as they arise: What is the shape of fragmentation? What are the archetypal themes that come up? What is the specific architecture of the field of collective wisdom? What are the dilemma’s? The moments where women feel betrayed by one another? 
  • Self-protective movements from a place of trauma are polarising – the capacity to feel when and how that process takes place, between us and in the world around, is key. Then we are not staying stuck in that framework, but relating to it 
  • Until we can be precise about when fragmentation happens, it seems to happen to us. We find ourselves within it not quite sure how we got there.

Our lab team

Visolela Namises

Visolela Rosa Namises

Advisory Board member of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) and former member of the Namibian Parliament from 1999-2005 and again from 2010-12, lives in Windhoek. Visolela spent time in solitary confinement under Apartheid and spoke up against the torture of South West African People Organisation (SWAPO) members in exile through founding ‘Breaking the Wall of Silence’ (BWS), an organisation for former SWAPO detainees. She is known as a social, gender equality and human rights activist. Visolela also founded ‘Women’s Solidarity Namibia’ in 1989 and is its current director. Visolela is a wisdom keeper of the traditional and herbal medicine of her Damara Culture. She is a graduate of the 2017-18 Pocket Project Training.

 

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Walter Mugove Nyika

Walter Mugove Nyika

Walter is a community development facilitator focused on building resilience and food sovereignty in African communities. His mission is to use life skills, land use design skills and passion for the environment to listen, encourage and share with everyone, especially children to be empowered to look after themselves and the environment for the common good. Over the last twenty years he has played a central role in developing the integrated land-use design (ILUD) process as a tool for green school design and the establishment of school food forests. He is an Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) facilitator and member of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) Africa Advisory Council. The focus of his work is based on valuing the young people as the custodians of the future and helping them to participate in building resilient communities.

 

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robin (1)

Robin Alfred

is an organisational consultant, facilitator, trainer and executive coach – and a Senior Programme Director for Olivier Mythodrama. Robin worked in criminal justice in London, before moving to the Findhorn ecovillage in Scotland in 1995 where he founded Open Circle Consultancy. He has extensive experience of leading and developing groups and individuals across all sectors – corporate, public, and third sector. His facilitation work is designed to cultivate the self-organizing principle in groups and individuals and to support the emergence of transformational fields. Robin is a registered facilitator for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Robin has been studying with Thomas Hübl for the past 12 years. He has served as a host and mentor for almost all of Thomas Hübl’s online courses, co-moderated two of the Celebrate Life Festivals and was a co-host of the 2019 and 2020 Online Summit on Collective Trauma.

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Kosha Anja Joubert

Kosha Anja Joubert

serves as CEO of the Pocket Project. She holds an MSc in Organisational Development, is an international facilitator, author, coach and consultant, and has worked extensively in the fields of sustainable development, curriculum development and intercultural collaboration. Kosha grew up in South Africa under Apartheid and has been dedicated to the healing of divides and collective trauma ever since. She has been learning with Thomas Hübl for 15 years. She has served as a host and mentor for almost all of Thomas Hübl’s online courses, co-moderated two of the Celebrate Life Festivals and was a co-host of the 2019 and 2020 Online Summit on Collective Trauma.

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