What has often helped me has been safety and clarity in a group space. Surprisingly these have helped some aspects of my own trauma and life-difficulty to heal by itself. I like this idea of things healing by themselves; in fact I’m suspicious by nature of overt attempts to heal or even to help another. There’s an implied superiority of the helper in that which breeds resistance on the part of the helpee. Healing, in my experience, doesn’t come from these roles. It happens below the roles, from a stratum in which participants are equally learners. It’s the result of a shared inquiry in which each person takes what they want and can from the interaction.
But what is that interaction?
Here’s a stripped-down, most simple model of how that works, as I understand it today. It has elements from systemic constellations and integral theory both.
There are three elements implicitly present in each human interaction though they’re not usually named or in consciousness.
Firstly there’s “I,” me having an experience that involves something of the other, here in a relational space. Secondly there’s thou/you/the other that, from “his” point of view, is also an “I” for which I am its other.
There’s a relationship between us and that relationship has a quality that is sensed by us as an information-rich feeling. The observer self is the one that notes that feeling and may also have a sense of what needs to be done to move that feeling forward. The observer self typically has direction and movement built into it as part of what it is. Each of the three is dynamic like a character in a story that is going places. (I-you-it are also the primary perspectives of integral philosophy’s AQAL model.)
These three are a part of all interactions. They also mimic, or echo, our seminal early childhood situation: There is the child, the other (usually parents), and the developing ability to witness or observe. Every time we’re in a group situation, that early situation, healed or unhealed is brought forward. We may have fully dealt with and moved beyond that early childhood situation in which case our internal representation of the I-you-it triad has moved on to deal only with the present and the emerging future. But to the extent that it hasn’t we’ll be restrained by the limitation of our early experience in the present interaction.
If the group space is very “clean,” then tension and difficulty in the early childhood dynamic begin to be eased by dealing with the present relationships in the group space. It’s not necessary to mention the childhood dynamic at all.
In almost all conventional relational interactions the dynamic between I-you-it is not up for discussion, examination or change. Yet these three are always present in the group; they’re just not in consciousness. Our common socially approved way is to not bring thiem up to awareness. But we certainly can in special group spaces for this purpose.
The relationship between I-you-it starts to move forward in such spaces. In fact, this starts to happen spontaneously any time there’s any increase in the safety and permission in the group.
There’s no practical limit to the degree of safety and permission that can be experienced in the group. Trauma can start to find its resolution just as well as anything else. The limiting factor is the depth of clarity in the group space, the degree of agreement that the members have.
Depth of agreement is not a simple matter because many of the agreements that we make, or have made, are not in awareness. There’s already an agreement in place. However we do have good ideas and experience of creating deep safety and permission in groups. It’s beyond my purpose to outline what they are now.
The point is, where the relational agreement is strong and clear, substantial movement and growth can happen in a group using just these three factors. And this be done without specifically bringing up the details of an earlier incident.
They’re already in “the field.” It doesn’t matter what “the issue” is. There’s no need to put anything, including trauma, into a separate box from other experience. Trauma is simply a point on a continuum that we are all part of. We all have thoroughly undigested material that will, to some extent, trigger us when it comes up.
Further, it’s not as if traumatic material, or any other, is specifically “ours.” Issues exist in the family or system and expresses themselves in different ways through individuals. If a family member suffers from trauma, each family member is also accommodating it within their internal system.
Groups can find their own way, or be supported in taking the three perspectives on a situation that is important to at least one of them. Many factors will help a group work together well. If the room is well prepared, the evolutionary impulse will seize the opportunity to move the field forward.