Trauma, loss and a shift in consciousness

Author: Jeannet Weurman

These are unprecedented times. There have been large scale pandemics before, but perhaps we have never been this connected and aware of the unfolding picture globally.

The challenges are enormous, and many of us want to ensure something good will come from these times – such as, here, the visioning of a new and more caring Europe.

As we build our future, we want to place citizens and residents at the centre. The European Green Card and the proposals for a new European healthcare system are great examples of developments which would bring benefits to many. 

We are sharing our stories of how these times are bringing us together in supportive communities. Through the European Citizens’ Conference, we are helping to vision and build a new Europe from the bottom up.

Ervin Laszlo, on the basis of his understanding of quantum physics, says the evolution of the universe is in the direction of greater coherence and increasing complexity of systems.

A reliance on cooperation rather than competition, and a move to greater awareness of ‘oneness’, ‘awakening’ and freedom of expression, fit well with a more integrated, compassionate, flexible and accountable Europe.

And yet … Albert Einstein once warned that no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

A deep shift in consciousness does not happen overnight, and there are opposing currents.

One of these may be the impact of trauma and loss on us all. The factors that created a space for movements like New Europeans and Co-Creating Europe to emerge, can also overwhelm us, making us more anxious and resistant to change. 

It can fuel xenophobia and protectionist nationalism.

There is also the impact of Covid-19, which is facing us with death on a massive scale.

Our lives have been put on hold as we've become more physically isolated. The virus has robbed us of core aspects of our lives for an unknown length of time.

Time we will never get back. 

This will be sending shockwaves through our individual and collective psyches - resonating, perhaps, not only on the level of our personal lived experience, but with unconscious memories of generations past.

But were we not already living with much insecurity, trauma and loss?

Many of us feel the world as we knew it was disintegrating even before Covid. 

I’m thinking of ecological crises, exhaustion of the world’s resources, witnessing the impact of attrocities and wars, the breakdown of social institutions, increasing poverty and inequality, and the scapegoating of those that seem 'different from us’.

Politically, we are starting to question where power lies - how well democracy is working and whether our governments are acting in line with the ideals they say they stand for.

Even the European Union has appeared to let us down, as Ursula von der Leyen had to apologize for the slow response to Italy’s need for support in the face of the Corona crisis.

We have been living in the face of escalating challenges for some time. 

When our usual ways of coping are overwhelmed, we become traumatised. 

We all carry elements of personal trauma. Events such as those we are living through, can add further layers to this.

Even without a ‘big event’, our ability to find a place for our experiences can be overwhelmed by many smaller ones. Some say our individual trauma can resonate with trauma held in the collective unconscious, making it even harder to deal with. 

We may not realise we are not coping well, until we start experiencing symptoms such as depression, anxiety, problems sleeping, dependency on substances or alcohol, or even Post Traumatic Stress.

As we struggle with memories or feelings that are too big to manage, we may push them out of awareness. We may deny the emotional impact of what has happened or even forget it happened at all.

But such experiences stay with us.

They find a home in our unconscious or ‘Shadow’, and we end up on guard against them re-surfacing into our conscious awareness. We can do that without realising it, for instance by distracting ourselves or by believing the causes for our inner distress lie in aspects of the world around us.

This can have dangerous consequences, such as mindless consumerism, aggression, scapegoating, and looking to ‘authorities’ to keep us safe.

The way authoritarian leaders are being elected in countries around the world may be an example of how people are looking to restore a sense of inner security. As long as we are unaware of the pain, fear, rage and shame held in our Shadow, it will undermine balanced, wise decision making.

It seems we cannot go into the project of building a new Europe naively.

Perhaps in visioning a new Europe we have to consider human nature - whether we are essentially competitive and driven by self-interest, or cooperative and empathic. Maybe both are true, depending on how we relate to our inner and outer worlds.

In my last blog I included a link to a presentation which offers one way of understanding human nature and the issues we face. It draws together the ideas of people like Carl Jung, Ervin Laszlo, Stan Grof, Maria Papaspyrou and Christopher Bache.

For these authors, the crises we are facing are facets of one greater, psycho-spiritual one. As well as cognitive intelligence, we need emotional and spiritual intelligence for real sustained change to happen.

The shift in consciousness we so badly need to bring sustainable change, involves opening up to those aspects of our being we have hidden away. This will allow a deepening awareness of our true nature and the nature of reality.

Even when deeply repressed pain surfaces in a chaotic and unmanageable way, it offers an opportunity for eventual integration and healing. Stan and Christina Grof called such times a 'spiritual emergency' and organisations like the Spiritual Emergence Network have been set up to support people through this. 

There are many techniques that can help us open up to these deep levels in a more measured and manageable way, such as dreamwork, meditation, breathwork, shamanism and the use of psychedelics.

Of course bringing these two together – the outward focus of political activism and the inward focus of psycho-spiritual work - is not easy.

They can feel far apart – the practical and the metaphysical – and maybe the way we have traditionally ‘done’ politics and a fear of ‘bringing in’ religion, which has so often been a divisive force, work against us doing this.

However hard, we have to find a way, or risk the social and political changes we make being only superficial ones.

Taoists have a phrase, Wu Wei, meaning ‘effortless action’ - a way of being that springs naturally from inner balance and stillness.

From this place we stand a better chance of making wise decisions about our future, about how we want to live together and what kind of Europe we want to see.

It seems the crises we face offer both risk and opportunity.

There is a danger that we will avoid dealing with the psychological impact of the trauma and loss we face, and that we will repeat the mistakes of the past.

At the same time, the distress of living through the massive challenges and crises we face, could result in a shift in our understanding, and a ‘reboot’ of our institutions and the ways we live.

This is our challenge.

If we can consciously and lovingly allow ourselves to fully experience what lies in our Shadow, we can integrate and transform it, so it will no longer drive us.

Then the passion of our action and the wisdom of our decision making will flow from that inner place of silence – from Wu Wei.

The new political structures we create will mirror that – they will be fluid, open and responsive, held within the trust of our communities. They will be truly accountable and open to the influence of all members of society.

These are the questions I invite you to consider. Does any of the above ring true to you?

If it does, can you think of ways for us, as we engage in the politics of building a new Europe, to build in the processes that will guide us to act wisely?  

Jeannet Weurman

About the Author

Jeannet Weurman

Jeannet Weurman has worked as a social worker, counsellor and community development worker. She is a Dutch national living in Cambridge, UK.

View all articles
Jeannet Weurman

About the Author

Jeannet Weurman

Jeannet Weurman has worked as a social worker, counsellor and community development worker. She is a Dutch national living in Cambridge, UK.

View all articles

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