Unresolved trauma, ethnic conflicts, and history stuck in an endless loop

Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another. – Desmond Tutu

Hi everyone,

2014 is almost here. My thoughts keep drifting back to events in 1994 and questions about what we have and haven’t learned in the past twenty years.

The Rwanda genocide and the publishing of Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory both occurred in 1994. While one lead to the death of 800,000 people in 100 days, traumatizing multiple generations, the other put forth a new understanding of the nervous system, senses, emotions, social self and behaviors. It has contributed greatly to the fields of Infant Mental Health and Trauma Recovery, noting that under extreme stress it is our most evolved system of social engagement that goes off-line.

This morning on Facebook I noticed an article about the current violent conflict in South Sudan, posted by Mukesh Kapila, Darfur genocide whistleblower. In 1994, as part of the UN, he was sent to Rwanda at the end of the genocide while the horror was still quite apparent. (When he tells his own life story, he describes how these issues began in his life before his birth, as mass atrocities profoundly affected his family in India-Pakistan.)

A line in the article jumped out at me:

The big lie is that there was no ethnic problem in South Sudan. There is a political problem. – Senior UN Official

While Rwanda, Darfur and South Sudan give us examples of what happens when an “ethnic problem” explodes into a mass violent extreme, we all know these ethnic disparities, prejudice and bullying from having been witness to them in our everyday lives.

Unresolved traumatic experiences can unplug our healthy relational state, increase suspiciousness, stereotyping and reactivity, contribute to repeating the past as if stuck in endless loop, and are trans-generational. Why would we think we can move forward into something new, different and better without adequately pursuing healing as part of the process? See: Conflict Resolution and PTSD (Berceli)

In 2014, we plan to launch Trauma Recovery for East African Refugees in San Diego (link) and we need your help to make it happen.

Will you help us by becoming a monthly donor, or making a year-end contribution?

May 2014 bring us a year of trauma-informed conflict resolution that leads to genuine and lasting peace.

With much gratitude for your continued engagement and support,

Barbara English
Founder & Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
(949) 891-2005

[Ubuntu] n. Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human beings.

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