The World is Traumatized – understanding the 5 layers of trauma
An introduction to multi-level trauma
“The world is traumatized”
During the trial for the murder of George Floyd, his brother Philonise Floyd spoke outside the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis. “The world is traumatized.” Philonise Floyd’s words are among the most powerful ever uttered by mankind. They are the words we most need to hear, to reflect on, to act on.
We have a conception of trauma as something that happens to someone else, as the result of some misfortune. The traumas that we are aware of are the tip of the iceberg of buried, mostly inherited traumas that afflict every single one of us. They affect every aspect of our lives and completely shape the society we live in.
“Your conscious action is only a drop on the surface of a sea of unconscious processes, of which you can know nothing—about which, indeed, you are afraid to know.”
— Wilhelm Reich, The Function of the Orgasm
This introductory course teaches three key concepts:
- The whole world is traumatized—and that includes you
- Trauma exists in five separate but interpenetrating layers or sources
- Releasing trauma requires us to understand its key principles
Five layers of trauma
Understanding that trauma originates in one of five layers, four of them inherited, provides a framework for working with trauma. The layers are signposts to where we might find sources of trauma in our lives. Some of this trauma is personal to us, while some of it is shared with wider and wider circles—the ripples—of our extended communities.
- Current-life trauma—trauma from events in our current lifetime
- Generational trauma—trauma inherited from our immediate ancestors, typically from unresolved events that occurred to our parents and grandparents
- Community trauma—trauma that affects an entire, specific community, such as ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland
- Racial trauma—trauma that affects an entire, specific race
- Ancestral trauma—trauma inherited from remote ancestors, up to several thousand years old, that affects everyone living in patriarchal societies
The five-layer model of trauma helps us to isolate and identify specific traumas on our way to healing them. Healing them also requires us to understand and master the principles of releasing trauma.
The world is traumatized. Literally.
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