“What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is your candle.”
Many years ago, while training as a Family Constellations Facilitator, I was invited to a workshop on social trauma. It took me some months to approach this work. I remember feeling a strong resistance to the word “trauma”. Yet, I ended up becoming a passionate trauma therapist. I still believe we need to aspire for the light above all, but I came to understand in my body that the light of consciousness will only be complete when it illuminates our shadows. In my own experience, only by coming in contact with my own past wounds, entangled with those of my ancestors and those of my land and my culture, I started to come more alive and I found a sense of purpose and connection that was not available for me in the past.
After many years feeling the strong longing to bring more integration between my professional and spiritual practices and my personal life, by the end of 2013, I came in contact with Thomas Hübl, a contemporary mystic, and spiritual teacher. I became a committed student and, since then, I participate every August in the Celebrate Life Festival, a 10 days event organized in northern Germany by his students, which every year gathers over 1200 participants. This year’s topic was on personal, intergenerational and collective trauma. These issues have always been at the core of Thomas Hübl’s teachings yet, for me, this was not just another Festival.
As part of the assistant team, many of us had been preparing for months to generate a strong and safe container to be able to allow the participants to delve deep into personal and collective issues. The first strong impact I felt, was already on the starting day, seeing the amount of people gathering; the huge hall being filled with even more participants than last year. The hall team kept bringing more chairs. I had not trusted that so many people would answer this call and decide to spend their summer holidays looking at their/our traumas. I felt deeply touched, full of hope, and grateful for it.
Besides the numbers, the deep commitment of the participants, and all the personal processes I had the honor to facilitate, the next thing that deeply impacted me was the presentation of Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, a 92 year old Holocaust survivor, and her daughter Maya Jacobs-Wallfisch. When Anita spoke about the fate of her parents I felt my legs shaking and I took refuge in the arms of my friend Sucha who was, luckily, standing by my side. We have all heard and known about so many, and even worse, things before. How much of those stories could we really feel? Now we were there directly listening and feeling Anita telling us how her parents ended their days in a concentration camp obliged to cave their own graves naked, after which they were shot and buried there.
How do we, collectively digest these events? In that moment, I was lucky to have my friend by my side, otherwise, I could have added another layer of contraction and freezing on top of all those things that have been too much for me to feel. Seeking comfort in my friend was not my usual reaction. I chose this in order to prevent myself from entering my automatic and “normal” reaction of shutting down when something is too much. Yet, as a member of the assistants' team, I was there to support and contain the other participants so, after the first shock, I concentrated on my feet and my breath - as I have learned, to regulate myself - and thus managed to stay open to what was being spoken while, at the same time, attending to what was going on in the hall.
Knowing there is so much more; knowing what I know... stories of torture and horrible crimes in my own country which only a few dare to speak about or listen to; how do we live our “normal” lives? How do we live with this knowledge? How much energy does it take from us to suppress what is too much to feel? How do we live without acknowledging so many things we carry imprinted in our genes? A big part of the answer was standing there right in front of our eyes. Mother and daughter talking about being and surviving, feeling and not being able to feel, silencing and speaking out, struggling for connection and meaning, carrying their message into a world endangered of forgetting the sacredness of life, and continuously repeating stories of discrimination, torture, and genocides. There were we, hundreds of witnesses with our hearts wide open and a prayer in our souls.
On reflecting upon these days, I feel a growing clarity about our need to face our collective wounds. It's my deep wish and prayer that more of us wake up and assume our responsibilities of being global citizens with voice and power to correct the course of our history away from constant retraumatization, towards a more creative and peaceful coexistence.
This year's festival was organized jointly with the Pocket Project, an international fundraising project aiming to bring awareness and integrate collective and transgenerational trauma worldwide. If you are touched by these words and wish to know more or contribute with this work, you can visit the Pocket Project page here: https://pocketproject.org.