When the prevalence of trauma is high in a community or group, its impacts extend far beyond individual “symptoms.” The defensive, immediate survival orientation of trauma thinking and behavior is a powerful and necessary tool for navigating situations of extreme danger. Yet it also blocks our ability to form flexible, dynamic communities that are sustainable and open to diverse ways of being and thinking.
When we start to pay attention to the group dynamics and conflict cultures that surround us – the “water we swim in” – we can start to perceive the effects of trauma on our collective emotional health. We can start to become curious and seek out deeper understandings and different ways to resolve differences and address harm. Critical to group conflict healing is our capacity to meet the basic needs of each group member not only for simple survival, but also for shared dignity and mutual respect.