Cultivating resilience means the ability to ‘bounce back’ from adversity, experienced as one-off and/or complex trauma over time and across generations. When we are able to access support and tools that enable us to begin to experience an embodied awareness of what this adversity and trauma feels like in our bodies, we start to develop resilience around it.
In recent years trauma is revealing itself more and more within our groups and community spaces. This often occurs in the absence of the understanding, skill and experience needed to hold and meet this in healthy ways that enable its transformative power to unfold.
This is happening at a great cost to both individual and collective wellbeing. What’s more, it is significantly undermining the effectiveness of our social and ecological change groups and movements, as well as our education, health and judiciary systems. As a result our ability to cultivate the regenerative cultures our collective future rests on is being seriously compromised.
Healthy cultures are trauma-informed in that they provide us with, and signpost us to support that enables this embodied awareness of what adversity and trauma feel like in our bodies, and how to develop ways of being and relating that enable this to be gently met and transformed. The culture of our groups, and society at large, therefore plays a big role in the degree to which we are able to cultivate this resilience in the face of adversity and trauma - be that within our families, schools, places of worship, work or play, or our legal and health care systems.
Trauma-informed approaches can enable the recognition and acknowledgement of cycles of trauma and interrupt them at individual and collective levels. The beauty of this is that many people then have the capacity to use their experiences of cultivating resilience in the face of trauma to work towards transforming the systems that created the initial adversity.
Cultural somatics and transforming trauma
"The most damaging patterns of our society are the hardest ones to name. This is because we have absorbed them into our bones, into our tissues, into our very neurophysiology. They shape the way we sense and feel the world at such a fundamental level, we’ve accepted them as “normal.” And yet, I believe that the profound disconnection many of us experience – the unnameable, pervasive pain of our times – and the social structures and systems we build from this place are far from normal.
I passionately believe in the transformational power of our body’s intelligence. We each have the potential to develop a way of relating to our body’s signals that generates interconnection in our personal and group cultures.
I define somatic safety as having the inner conditions required to integrate our full range of brain/body experience, to practice self-awareness and choice, and to stay in relationship with others at the same time. It has nothing to do with “protecting” ourselves from unpleasant experiences; in fact, having somatic safety improves our ability to relate with unpleasant —as well as pleasant —experiences.
This practice helps us to find our way back to somatic safety whenever we notice we’ve disconnected from ourselves or from others. Most commonly this occurs because our autonomic nervous system has become activated, or because we have been seduced by a judgment, evaluation or interpretation.”
Madelanne Rust D'Eye, a dear friend and collaborator, is a trauma therapist, cultural somatics practitioner, group facilitator and founder of Body-Informed Leadership an organisation providing a range of programmes that support us to come back into healthy relationship with the inherent wisdom and power of our body’s intelligence.
We highly recommend checking out Madelanne's work if you are interested in getting support for yourself and your group around body-informed leadership, cultural somatics and transforming trauma.
Trauma as life's evolutionary intent
Increasing evidence demonstrates the epigenetic nature of trauma such that it is passed on across generations and held in our bodies at both the individual and collective level. In light of this we believe trauma exists in everyone - and that it makes itself visible when someone is ready to heal it.
This is why it is less common for those generations directly experiencing significant trauma, like war or genocide, to be the ones to heal their own trauma. It tends to be subsequent generations who are ready to do the healing work needed to transform trauma.
At the core of our approach to change lies a belief that this collective trauma underpins our current crises - as well as holding the keys to the deep cultural transformation this demands. In other words - we believe collective trauma represents life's evolutionary intent for us humans as a species.
By life's evolutionary intent we mean the process by which life provides precisely the ingredients that are needed for this particular stage of our evolution as a species.
Perhaps one of the juiciest and most existential questions of our time is how and when did this collective trauma begin? Whilst this is not the place to go into that vast question, suffice to say that arguably the process of birth itself seems to represent our species’ original trauma which has given rise to our ubiquitous core wounding that seems to reside at the heart of our individual and collective trauma.
And historically it is useful, albeit partial, to recognise the role that power-over ‘Coloniser' culture has played in creating our current collective trauma.
Tim Mossholder and Peter John Maridable on Unsplash