Think about the power of all the things that we celebrate within our families and our communities. Think about the power of remembering and honouring what was and what has been. Everything from celebrating a wedding anniversary to honouring years served in the military, to remembering a loved one after they have passed. Think too about the cultural and collective remembrance and celebrations. Perhaps Independence Day on the 4th of July, or Remembrance Sunday within Europe on the 11th of November to commemorate the end of the first world war, or Martin Luther King Day on the 3rd of January, or Holocaust Memorial Day on the 27th of January. All of these memories and moments are significant on an individual and collective basis. They have an emotional charge, and knowingly or unknowingly help to define the structure of who we are.
As we connect with those memories, both individually and collectively, we are in effect animating their field of influence upon and within us. Our sense of belonging is enhanced by the individual and collective honouring and remembrance.
Think now of the weight of all of the absences of those things that are NOT REMEMBERED—the trauma that has NOT BEEN WITNESSED, where history has been rewritten or ignored, the emotional trauma of someone who is excluded and displaced, through to the weight of collective unacknowledged trauma around enslavement and racism.
We know how big the ripples are from the pain of something like a traumatic death within our individual family and ancestral fields—imagine that weight in the collective: the cost of genocide, enslavement, broken political promises and deep cultural betrayals.
Can you begin to feel it? It seeps into each of us as individuals from our collective experience of non-acknowledgement.
This unacknowledged and invisible collective trauma also forms the structure of who we are and how we live in destructive ways. The belonging of each of us individually and collectively is negatively impacted by the invisibility of the collective unacknowledged trauma. But as we chip away at our own individual invisible inheritance, we begin to uncover our connection to the collective stories. Because these stories—this history—comes from our ancestors.
The collective influence of the untold stories of the past is within us, influencing our relationships and personal choices as we experience our sense of belonging through the unconscious lens of unacknowledged collective trauma.
By looking at who we are and where we come from as individuals we are contributing, in no small way, to a greater collective shift.
We are shifting the lens through which we see and experience others and how others see and experience us. And if we focus on the collective dynamics and choose to participate within that arena then we are also simultaneously contributing to our own individual healing.
Choosing to see and acknowledge the invisible and silent collective historical narrative allows us to advocate for the forgotten dead and in doing so we can transform the lives of the forgotten living.
Choosing to see is a radical act. And it is a step towards dismantling the inherited systemic structure of racism that permeates each aspect of our belonging from the collective through to each of us individually. Choose to see the historical unseen trauma. Choose to see the present trauma. And choose to see the invisible privilege that comes from being part of a system built on NOT SEEING.
This is not someone else’s story. This is our story. This was our ancestors’ story. Choose to see and change the story for our descendants.