Updated: Jan 19, 2021
I believe it was the American sociologist Kai Erikson who first coined the term "collective trauma".
Very often bad things happen to people in isolation - people suffer and prevail on their own. It is rare for bad things to affect people on a societal level. Erikson explained that when an event deeply impacts so many people in a profound manner, the trauma can go way beyond the individual.
Naturally we may think of examples of collective trauma from the past. Wars, natural disasters, recessions, genocides or terrorist events.
Today, there is little argument that the Coronavirus pandemic is an example of a phenomenon which is causing both individual and collective trauma. Typically, feelings of distress, feeling overwhelmed and feeling powerless are typical in trauma - alongside the threat to our sense of self, or to our safety.
As a society, we may be dealing with the fallout from this collective trauma for generations to come - collective memory and trans-generational trauma are very likely. After all, many will have lost loved ones in such difficult circumstances.
But in the here and now, how can we take individual control and reduce or manage the effects of this collective trauma upon ourselves? There are some very simple things we can do.
Limit media exposure
Using the example of the 9/11 attacks in New York 2001, research showed that people who watched television for between 4 and 7 hours a day, were four times as likely to suffer PTSD type symptoms. Cut down your media exposure. Some suggest moving to types of media that are less graphic - newspapers rather than television, for example.
Rely on trustworthy information
Being able to accurately and realistically assess threats helps us to lower our personal sense of threat, and make better decisions and opinions. Obsessing on information on comments sections on the internet is likely to distress us and wind us up into unsustainable, unhealthy states.
Stay connected with others
Social distancing and lockdown regulations may limit our oppotunities for face to face contact. But social connections can be maintained by using modern technology. It is important to maintain those relationships with friends, family and co-workers. Other people help us to anchor ourselves in reality and normality.
Use mental health resources
If you need help dealing with trauma, a good place to start is with counselling or psychotherapy. Free NHS counselling services may offer you a limited number of free sessions, but to really deal with trauma, choose a talking therapist with experience of Transactional Analysis.
I can help you here if you would like to find out more. Don't be put off if you can't have sessions in person - the use of platforms such as Zoom has been shown to be a great alternative. It has surprised me just how good it can be.
A list of useful services both locally (Hull and East Yorkshire) and nationally is shown here. Click to enlarge.
Don't beat yourself up
You may not be feeling that it is "normal" to be feeling like this. Let me assure you - it is completely "normal" to be feeling like this, and you should take comfort in the fact that others will be feeling the same way. Be patient and be kind both to yourself and others. A little bit of compassion goes a long way.
I offer some further tips in a former blog post "Survive and Thrive During Lockdown".
The important thing to remember is that whilst it may take our societies some time to get over the trauma, this trauma will end. It will pass. Of course, that is really difficult to accept when you're in the grip of your own experience - but hang on in there. With a little patience and with work on our feelings alongside friends, family or a therapist, you will feel better.
If you, or someone you know might need my assistance, please get in touch. I offer FREE initial consultations, so there is nothing to lose (you can book them here on my website too). You'd be very welcome to follow me on social media (details below).
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