Women & Gender-based Trauma

Lab Cycle Oct 2020 - July 2021 Report


Hilorie Baer, Kosha Joubert, Bee James


Jo Hardy, Neema Namadamu, Krijnie Beyen




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 brought to the common space.

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?
  • Can we collectively create a coherent ‘we-space’ and a process of witnessing that leads to an understanding, and eventually, integration 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 often a tension and distrust 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 was beyond the scope of this lab) 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, and how they are interlinked.

2. Meeting the Collective Trauma Landscape
We explored our ‘intersubjective memory’, with each woman collecting historic information regarding women’s experiences in various societies 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 try to notice whether we are being triggered, and acknowledge this as an invitation to work on our own personal trauma integration. However, most of us are not yet trained in the ability to host both within us (the personal) and outside us (the collective), let alone simultaneously and 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 first our female, and then both male and female ancestry, we recognized that the generation before us were perhaps not given such opportunities to process gender-based traumas. As such, we acknowledged that we are also doing this work on behalf of former generations. 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 of trauma-fueled patterning. 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 in order to better stay in spaces that lay 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, with a sense of joy, lightness and celebration, from the darkness we had touched on before. We acknowledged that we had been able to grow our awareness and our hosting of previously unconscious pain points and signposts of trauma. We also 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, and had begun to digest chunks of previously indigestible energy. Integration occurs not through effort, but through presence, ‘being with’ and compassion. What emerged was a sense of reconnecting to and strengthening of 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 neared the end of our journey in this round of the labs, we experienced 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. 
  • We continue to long for more precision around what we really touch when we speak of ‘collective trauma’.
  • 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 this process? 
  • 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 this work and journey. 


  • 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 that arose in our lab process, together with trying 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.
  • 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 fury 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.


  • 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.
  • Importance of 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 about 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 dilemmas? What characterises those moments when 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 to 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 but not quite sure how we got there.


Our Lab Team

admin-ajax (5) 2

Hilorie Baer

kosha - circle headshot

Kosha Anja Joubert

Bee James1 (1)

Bee James

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