We are contemporary witnesses. Because we feel we can respond.
On March 6, Thomas Hübl gathered over 6,000 people from around the world on a live event to explore how we can activate our collective immune system to meet the challenges of this moment. As a key aspect of this exploration, he mentioned the need to find personal, relational, and collective practices that enable us to remain awake witnesses, capable of responding as adult global citizens to a crisis that belongs to us all, and capable of learning what is needed for us to grow into a resilient global community, able to prevent future escalations of violence, and to take care of other crisis like climate change, as well as of our evolutionary challenges. The following lines summarize some of the pearls and principles he offered us in this talk.
You can also listen to the recording of the full talk here – with subtitles in German, Spanish, Russian, and Ukrainian – please click on the image:
PERSONAL PRACTICE: HOW DO I FEEL?
I woke up in the morning, I felt a very strange feeling in my body, I looked at the news, and I learned about the invasion of Ukraine. I felt a tremendous shock. It affected me very strongly, so I needed a practice in order to be with the inner experience that I was going through, in order not to suppress it, and to be able to digest it.
At the beginning of the talk, Thomas invited us to feel how this situation is affecting us physically, emotionally, and mentally. Whether we feel very triggered, numb, or indifferent, every experience is relevant. If we feel numb, or over-activated, there is nothing wrong with this. This just means that the current situation is resonating with my biographical experience, and/or the experience of my community and my ancestors which is still alive in me. We need to take this seriously, but without grounding in it. Instead of minimizing, judging, or denying our experience, we can find ways to stay present with it, to be able to process the indigested information that lies beyond the surface, and harvest the learning. In order to do this, we need practices and relational spaces that can help us, either to relate to our numbness, or to regulate the intensity of our experience.
For those of us who have roots in Germany or Austria, many of our grandfathers fought a terrible war in Russia and caused a lot of traumatization, so we are inherently connected to the situation right now. Within the collective unconscious, there is a large-scale trauma field that connects all of us. So the emotions, feelings, and even the shutdown and saying “this is too much for me” which is a very valid thing to say, is part of my current experience that I can bring awareness to.
At this moment when I see many people suffering I may think “what can I do?”, and this is very important, to see how we can support, but at the same time, we need to consider the inner experience we are going through and not seeing it as an obstacle in the way to act. Many people feel that the way we feel it’s in an obstacle in the way to taking action. But this is not true. Staying in relation to our experience, whatever it is, provides us with the exact resonance that is needed right now. It’s our learning edge. It’s our path to become active healing forces in the global crisis.
When we can create a personal space to be awake witnesses, we develop the capacity to put ourselves in the shoes of everyone connected to the situation.
Polarization arises from trauma, from experiences that we have not been able to integrate. The overwhelming experiences that we have lived in our lives or that our ancestors went through, are alive in us as fragmentation, as separation. In order to maintain our sense of integrity, human beings have developed the capacity to split, to shut down those parts of reality that are too much to be felt. But even if it’s hard, even if polarization is easier, with practice we can develop the capacity to take perspective, to bring space to our experience, and other people’s experience, and to enter a mutual space of collaboration and contribution.
We are contemporary witnesses. Because we feel we can respond.
The capacity to respond is an inner skill set. It’s a competence building. I can reflect, digest, and integrate my experience in order to feel more, in order to be more responsible towards my environment.
RELATIONAL PRACTICE: LISTENING AND SHARING
Having supportive relationships where we can speak about these things, either with friends or professional support, helps us to process what’s coming up in us. The power of real caring listening is very important in this time. Caring listening helps other people that we listen to regulate their nervous systems. Two nervous systems can co-regulate stress, they can take each other into a more relaxed state, so we can really move into problem-solving.
Human relation is one of the best remedies in strongly overwhelming or traumatizing situations. Listening and sharing are very powerful.
COLLECTIVE PRACTICE: STRENGTHENING OUR GLOBAL IMMUNE SYSTEM
It’s not yet mainstream knowledge how deep collective trauma sits in our society, and the huge need we have for collective restorative processes. What’s happening right now in Ukraine it’s like a red alarm bell. A war like this is something that built itself over many years. It built itself out of the collective numbness and absencing that lead up to various decisions that escalated the situation until what we see today. Now, since it’s so escalated, we have to take care of the more vital needs. At the same time, we have to put measures in place to deal with the collective trauma that leads up to it.
Many people say history lies in the past. I would say no. Integrated history is presence. Each one of us is made of thousands of years of integrated history. Integrated history is presence, but unintegrated history, history that was too much to experience, too painful, that has been split off and postponed – today we call it trauma – that history is the past. That history creates separation. That history creates us versus them. The unintegrated history that is deeply embedded in many processes in our society is not alive, but is affecting us now in the form of cyclical conflicts.
When we look at society we can discern 2 different kinds of processes:
- Emergent, relational, creative, innovative, and warm processes. Processes where we feel connected, related, where we feel with one another.
- Non-emergent, repetitive, non-related, distant, and cold processes that are predictable, and that happen cyclically. Recurrent wars, conflicts, collective patterns.
I believe we have to stop calling this as one society. Huge parts of our societies are living in the past. Recurrent processes are living in the past. We need a much higher discernment of these 2 kinds of processes, so we know how to take care.
Since we grew up in such a traumatized society, we have normalized trauma. For us, repetitive conflicts are “normal”. That’s why we have to create a much higher recognition that this is not how life is. This is how life is when it’s hurt. Once we name the real thing, we can also take care of the real thing.
In order to take care of the parts of society that live in the past, we need to create collective healing environments to integrate our undigested experiences. What does it mean to integrate experiences? It means learning. Ethical learning. In the trauma layer of the entire Europe there are many many pearls of ethical learning that are still frozen. Huge ethical relational wounds like the holocaust, haven’t been restored yet. By melting the trauma layers we eventually come to the restoration of the relation. We come to the place of the original transgression. We have to integrate the original transgression and harvest this pearl as post-traumatic learning. Otherwise, if we don’t take care of the frozen pearls of ethical learning that we still didn’t harvest, we don’t know how to deal with artificial intelligence, we don’t know how to deal with nuclear weapons, we don’t know how to deal with genetic engineering, because we don’t have the ethical refinement that we need for the current innovative process.
Collective trauma healing starts with the experiences that come up in us when we see the current situation, when we feel the current situation. When the collective trauma in us gets activated we need collective spaces to integrate it. If not, we are going to suppress it, as numbness and indifference, or act out of it. In both cases we favor the current conflict. If we learn to integrate both the dormant and active trauma layers in us, we take our shares out of the collective trauma field.
Trauma creates absence, numbness, indifference. This means I can’t feel you, or I can feel you partially. In the absence, the escalation or recurrence of conflict is building itself, and this leads to explosive conflicts. Therefore it is imperative that we design collective integration processes for our collective wounds. We need to learn from each other, in order to create integration, to create resilient cultures that can participate in the collective collaboration needed at this moment.
Our global immune system is the resonance capacity in every one of us, and the capacity to deal with our reactive aspects that are the residues of personal, ancestral, and collective trauma alive in us.
The global immune system is where we all feel called to contribute, until maybe one day, the entire world will stand up when we see a conflict somewhere in the world and respond. The more of us responding, the more power we have, on one hand, to practically take care of a conflict, but also to not even let it come there, because we break down the cycles of recurrence before they become manifest.
We are all part of this crisis. It’s not just happening over there. We are all part of the current situation. As contemporary witnesses, we can create a collective resonance field where we presence and feel what’s our own experience, and because we feel, we can respond.
We all have the chance to harvest the power first to come together and solve this situation as one world, but while we do this, and after, to have a drastic change in how we relate to the residue of old wounds and the restoration that didn’t happen yet. This is our calling. We are living in a time when we need and we can create more resilient cultures through integration processes.
FROM SCARCITY TO GENEROSITY
Trauma is based on scarcity. In trauma, there is always a lack of something. That’s why in crisis we need generosity. If in crisis the solution is hard to see, we can see at least see the next step. We can take the next step, and then see the next step, and like this, we create a path. So we need responsibility, generosity, and the next step.
So what is the next step in the current crisis for you?
What can you do or contribute as your next step?
Whatever is in your field of influence, it doesn’t matter how small is the step, or how big it is, we all can give something. Together we are an orchestra. Through giving we are creating collective coherence. Hospitality, generosity, and participation become remedies in times of crisis.
Thanks for reading and feeling with us.
Thomas Hübl, edited by Giselle Charbonnier