Healing Traumas of Power and Place
I recently received two emails that triggered some reflection in me. One was from my Ubiquity colleague Dr. Will Taegel, Dean of the Wisdom School, who carries deep indigenous knowing as well as modern scientific perspectives. The other was from an Irish woman Anne Marie who had listened to this interview I gave about my upcoming book called The Pain and the Promise.
Will wrote to us about his perspective on the US Thanksgiving celebration. Here are some of his words:
I will follow the lead of the United American Indians of New England who in 1970 reframed this holiday to include a Day of Mourning. I will utilize Saturday as a day of fasting and mourning for the policy of extermination directed toward American Indians by the United States government. Over 600 formal treaties were broken along the trail of tears and dashed USA integrity. To this day we harbor a terrible national secret of systematic extermination, a denial that grinds at our innards. Until we face this secret our nation will continue as dysfunctional.
When I read it first it resonated with me as I recognized his perspective but it didn’t move me beyond that. A couple of days later I received the mail from Anne Marie. Here is an extract:
I have pondered today about why I was so stuck with my pain and come to the possibility that it is because, with access to racial memory, I am indigenous in my Ancestral lineage back to Neolithic times, colonised and then post modern. The colonised journey in the middle annihilated the indigenous self belief and the trust in what had gone before, and even with those parts restored the interface with the post modern is terrifying. A stranger in a strange land.
I worked with Joanna Macey 13 years ago at Findhorn in a Deep time workshop. We did the Truth Circle accessing the power where the pain is and that is when I was opened to it. Joanna moved on to an evening of celebration and lifting of spirits afterwards. I and two others could not lift. We were all three, women and the other two were South American Indian and Australian part aborigine. I am Irish.
[After listening to your interview] I feel healed just because another human being knows it too and can face the pain of the split and it’s consequences. It feels a joy now to go on and release it. Do you mind if I say thanks in Irish; Go raibh mile maith agut – just because it means there are a thousand goodnesses with you.
Her mail touched something deep in me. As I contemplated my reaction, I began to get a sense of where it was coming from. As primarily an Englishman (I also have ⅛ Irish and ⅛ Scottish blood), I have had to deal with what it means to embrace the identity of a nation that has created much suffering for others in the past – the colonial violence overseas as well as the oppression closer to home in Scotland and Ireland. I worked through much of this with my Irish friend Gavan and during my MSc in Human Ecology in Edinburgh many years back. In that period I found my peace by identifying with those movements in England that had resisted the enclosures and disempowerment – such as the Levellers, Quakers and Diggers – and by my commitment to work for a just and sustainable world today.
So what was touching me in Anne Marie’s mail? As I probed, I found that what moved me most was her words of thanks in Irish. It felt like something systemic was being healed in me through that. That set off a thought process.
The thought that started to form was the following: could it be that peoples who damage other peoples’ relationship to their land, their collective identity and core sense of belonging also have their own foundational belonging-system repressed which in turn is what enables them to continue to undermine that of others? (This relates to the “purple” energy dynamic, for other Spiral Dynamics geeks).
You see how this relates to Will’s points now. The implications would be that the oppressor nations are so damaged in their foundational energetic of belonging, which is what provides rest and relaxation in the embrace of the Mother, that they flee into a restless ungrounded pursuit to fill a deep hole in their own sense of themselves. That pursuit involves the ruthless exploitation of the external world around them in a desperate quest to quench a thirst that ultimately can only be satisfied through a healing of their own internal collective cultural trauma, in relationship with the place which is their natural home. Anne Marie, in a follow-up mail, wrote “That is what made them so frightening, there were no natural limits to what they would or could do. They were not in their bodies and their hearts were frozen.”
I have seen this reciprocal dynamic demonstrated explicitly at individual level during one of Lynne McTaggart’s events. She had a Russian scientist with her who was able to show the energy fields of two people on screens. When one person got angry at the other you saw the anger energy leave one person and hit the other, shaking their energy bodies. At the same time you saw how the same negative effect took place in the fields of the person expressing the anger. You literally do to yourself what you do to the other.
It is the “great” nations that have built empires and repressed native peoples in the process (e.g. England-Ireland, USA-native Americans, China-Tibet) who seem to have most lost touch with nature and the basic principles of life and are fueling our collective planetary demise. These nations and peoples – and there are many more than I have mentioned – need to acknowledge our past oppressive roles, apologize, and ask what we can do to heal any pain. At the same time we need to reconnect to the land that hosts us and ask for support in our own collective healing. For by harming others at their roots we have been made rootless and restless ourselves – a numbness that has allowed us to wreak the havoc that we have on this planet that is our home. Now we need to heal our relationship to those we oppressed and to that we repressed in ourselves, to be able to navigate our uncertain future with dignity, integrity and grace.
Books that helped me on this journey: The World Turned Upside Down, by Christopher Hill; The Progressive Patriot, by Billy Bragg