Transforming Trauma Episode 026: Cultural Traumatization and Collective Awakening with Dr. Laurence Heller and Thomas Hübl
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“Our global future of healing… is in these kind of collaborative fields that we will bring these powers together and learn from each other — help each other to see the things that we are still not seeing ourselves and be a kind of a global healing force.” ~Thomas Hübl
In this episode of Transforming Trauma, Dr. Laurence Heller, the Creator of the NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM) is joined by Thomas Hubl, a teacher, author, and founder of the Academy of Inner Science and the Pocket Project. Thomas’ work combines somatic awareness practices, advanced meditative practices, and transformational processes that address both individual and collective trauma. Larry and Thomas discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the similarities between individual and collective trauma responses, and how their work overlaps in seeking to transform complex trauma through therapeutic, collective, and spiritual pathways.
Thomas begins the conversation by sharing his own experience of quarantine, how it has affected him personally and in the work that he does. He discusses the shock and fear that were stirred by this need to adapt quickly, and the importance of supporting self-regulation, co-regulation, and group coherence in these transitions. Thomas’ organization found new ways to support his team in co-regulation by offering a space to discuss the difficulties of living in social isolation. Similarly, the NARM Training Institute adapted by moving online and launched the first NARM Online Basics Training, allowing over 130 students to connect to NARM teachings.
The two agree that it’s very important to understand on both individual and community scales the way trauma impacts us all. This brings the conversation to the ways that individual trauma responses take place within the larger context, or network, of the collective experience. Thomas discusses the cultural fragmentation that is happening in our collective experience through emerging themes of polarization and racism, and how this mirrors the individual psyche’s fragmentation in response to trauma. The two reflect on how though this polarization has always been there, it is also being exposed in a new way. Dr. Heller reinforces that though there is something “peeling back,” right now on a collective level that is exposing painful beliefs and polarization, there is also widespread, international interest in learning about trauma. Both Dr. Heller and Thomas have experienced a growing feeling that there is a “global community interest in healing.”
Thomas touches on the themes in his upcoming book on healing collective trauma, and his desire to create a deeper dialogue between what he calls the ‘scientific approach’ to healing trauma and a more mystical approach. His work supports the healing of European communities that were involved in WWII and the Holocaust, and focuses on “how the individual healing happens in a wider collective container.” This wider container is the focus of his work, and similar to the NARM perspective, he seeks to understand the root of the trauma rather than the symptoms (which can take the form of racism, political differences, economics, etc) on the surface of the collective experience.
Both Dr. Heller and Thomas have worked with groups of people that come with “big scars,” or profound forms of collective trauma, such as the Palestinians and Israelis, Protestants and Catholics in Ireland, and the decedents of both Holocaust survivors and Nazi officers. They discuss the energy that forms in the larger container of these experiences, something that Thomas calls the “collective field,” and Dr. Heller names as a “heart space,” that opens up and supports the healing of everyone in the room. Dr. Heller’s NARM approach focuses more on individual healing while taking in and acknowledging the larger context, while Thomas’ work focuses on the collective experience but acknowledges and works toward individual healing as well.
The two teachers uncover their mutual interests in the energetic fields of communities that have been through traumatic experiences, such as war or exploitation, and in exploring the “cultural architecture” in communities that can store trauma and unconscious collective material. Again and again, they uncover the mirroring between the way that individuals store and deal with trauma and the ways that communities do. This mirroring includes the numbness/denial of painful experiences, patterns of tension and collapse, fragmentation, and movements of the whole system toward healing or toward maladaptive ways of surviving. They both agree that though there is something really connecting about working within one’s own culture, it can also be difficult to have a true broader perspective. They share with each other their experiences of the impact and value of what unfolds when working together across cultures. Together they come to the vision that “That’s going to be our global future of healing, that… we will bring these powers together and learn from each other, help each other, to see the things that we are still not seeing ourselves.”
This episode concludes with Dr. Heller’s thoughts on the ways that a spiritual or mystical perspective can help us to understand narcissism, proposing the idea that narcissism begins the moment we begin to perceive our disconnection from the larger source (what some may call God or the universe, etc). Thomas reflects back this idea that we are always, on the deepest level, connected, but that we forget, or bury, the connection, and start to believe in an egoic sense that we have to get something from the environment. Larry and Thomas end by sharing their experiences of giving and receiving becoming the same thing through their teaching, and the circular way in which their hearts are both offered and filled by connection with themselves and others.
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Thomas Hübl is a teacher, author and founder of the Academy of Inner Science. Thomas’ work combines somatic awareness practices, advanced meditative practices, and transformational processes that address both individual and collective trauma, opening the potential for growth and healing. Thomas has worked with tens of thousands of people worldwide through workshops, multi-year training programs and online courses.
He is also the founder of the nonprofit Pocket Project, which aims to increase awareness and understanding of collective trauma and reduce its effects. Thomas’ forthcoming book on healing collective trauma will be published in 2020.