My first travels throughout the West Bank in 2007, introduced me to Palestinians living in Palestine and what it means emotionally and practically to live under Occupation. In 2015, I returned, meeting dedicated Palestinian and Israeli peace activists. I spent time with the Parents Circle, or known also as the Bereaved Family Forum, where bereaved Palestinian and Israelis who have lost a family member due to the conflict, share their grief together in a structured, safe container. This brave, evolved initiative, inspired me as I saw applied the same tools I have used in my counseling work with discordant couples or resentful family members – truth-telling, listening, bearing witness, really seeing the other and fostering the inevitable compassion that eventually results. One of the biggest obstacles many faced was being perceived as betraying their own communities by relating to the ‘Other’. I witnessed this ‘Us vs. Them’ evolve progressively to what is called, a ‘We-space’.
A visit in early 2017 led me to know of Thomas Hübl and his then upcoming Pocket Project Training in Collective and Intergenerational Trauma Integration, which was about creating such We-spaces. I signed up immediately.
The training took place over this last year, with two in-person weeklong intensives, in Jerusalem, at the beginning and the end, with monthly teaching sessions and weekly online triads in between. We were 150 participants from 39 countries, including a Palestinian psychologist from Gaza and a Palestinian art therapist/family constellation facilitator from the West Bank, several Israelis, many Germans and Americans and a multitude of others.
Why Pocket? This refers to a pocket of consciousness holding space within the traumatized field for the purpose of integrating and healing Collective Trauma and Intergenerational Trauma. Its mission is to stop the cycle of recurring collective and intergenerational trauma, contribute to its healing, and reduce its disruptive effects on our global culture. How? Drawing on the latest body-oriented trauma release therapies, …….
What is Trauma? Trauma describes the self-regulation system of any mammal going through a threatening experience, or what is perceived as threatening. The nervous system responds with timeless survival mechanisms, including the hyper production of adrenaline and cortisol to support one of the following functions: Fight, Flight or Freeze. After a traumatic experience has occurred, one needs the time and resources to process it, like a gazelle who shakes and trembles on the ground after managing to escape the hungry lion. Every inhale, needs an exhale, or we suffocate…in this case, on unreleased trauma. If there is no exhale allowed by the society, the family or oneself, the trauma will likely stay suppressed, and not only the individual, but the collective will suffer. Suffering often takes the form in trauma symptoms of frozenness, depression, numbness, hyperactivity, emotional outbursts, anxiety, illness, diseases, violence and addiction. Palestine is a pod of trauma, manifesting in excess many of these symptoms.
Collective and Transgenerational or intergenerational trauma is the ‘passing on of the trauma and its negative consequences throughout one’s community and down through the generations.’ Aside from environmentally, emotionally and intrapsychically, this can happen through Epigenetics, where the DNA methylation marks are directly damaged by unprocessed trauma, and trauma is passed onto the next generation, as seen in both Israelis and Palestinians.
The relieving news is that trauma can be healed in present time, the DNA can be restored and healthy genes can then be transmitted onwards. We can even heal the trauma of our ancestors or the collective. Family and Systemic Constellation Work and Trauma Release work are methods I had trained in that support such integration of the past, as it supports the exposing of the trauma, gives the long denied its exhale through expression and release, and fosters eventual forgiveness and healing in quite transformational and inspiring ways. The Pocket Project gratefully expanded my repertoire.
I came away from this training with a greater understanding of shared collective trauma, one right outside the training’s Holy City’s doorstep, its symptoms before my eyes and what would be necessary for its healing. I understood not only the Palestinians on both sides of the Separation Wall, but also the Israelis – as communities heavily traumatized, and still unhealed in the processing of both of their colossal trauma and its far-reaching effects. And what happens if the conflict in ongoing? It adds to a greater challenge, but one calling on greater resilience, innovation and competencies to be developed and mobilized. Every problem contains within itself, the seeds of its own solution. Stanley Arnold. However, every challenge needs the intervention from a level of consciousness superior to the one in which the problem was created or perpetuated.
Despite the current Palestinian/Israeli situation that can appear despairing and overwhelming, I carried hope, with the grounded, leading-edge tools we were given, in even the very midst of further ongoing collective traumatization. I saw in our own experiential, raw, group processes how essential such tools are, to prevent collapsing or disassociating from the trauma symptoms, so to feel into them and shine a compassionate holding on what is underneath. Such presencing is the beginning of being a pocket of consciousness that holds space within the traumatized field.
These tools, or what Thomas calls, competencies, include….
- Do the 3 sync process. “3 sync” means that mind, emotions, and body are synchronized. I take a physical, emotional, and mental inventory without any self- judgment, in general or when I am activated. Whatever I perceive, first I see it, feel it, listen to it, and then eventually let it go. Sometimes just staying still to what I am feeling is frightening. Letting Go may be even more of a daunting task. I may need accompaniment in the form of a trusted confidant or a professional to be able to do so.
- The capacity to embrace change and go from feeling victimized to being co-creators of the change. This is a tall order for a Palestinian kicked off their land.
- The capacity to feel discomfort. How do I host those feelings of anger, sadness, disappointment, shame, and humiliation and stay connected to my body and my environment?
- Multi-perceptivity or the capacity for holding contradiction, paradoxes, without rejection or confusion.
- Innovation. True innovation requires resonance between multiple minds with the resources of their environment.
- The ability to service collective trauma is another important capacity emerging at higher stages of awakening.
- The ability for the one traumatized to synchronize to a coherent field is a distinctly We ability.
- Another competency is “looking” into the very field that is traumatized; having the overview.
- In meditation, we practice unhooking consciousness from the object of awareness. Through practice, we discover the inner witness, a silent, non-judging observer.
- By nurturing our capacity to hold witness, we lend support to areas such as emotional regulation and stress tolerance. We become more conscious and awakened.
- When we become social global witnesses, we hold active presence and engaged awareness of our world, observing all that arises around us while simultaneously observing all that arises within us. We remain aware of our internal responses to our exterior world, whether our response is resistance, shutting down, or even a sense of going numb. As attuned social global witnesses, we create an expanded interior space from which we begin to recognize the self-sense of the collective.
- The paradoxical truth is that, to be global witnesses, we must remain conscious of current events in our communities and in the world, but we must learn to do so with all capacities online – where no part of us has checked out or become dysregulated. We must be willing to consciously feel and accept all that has been split off, dislocated, and denied. We must choose to be present witnesses for pain, for terror, and for trauma. We must be willing to consistently and consciously resolve those energies that have been left stored and undigested.
- I heal my past, because whatever trauma I carry belongs to the collective shadow and acts as a filter, preventing me from seeing the world and from witnessing clearly. My own healing and integration becomes an act of service.
- I must awaken to the degree of pain and unprocessed energy I carry. Psychotherapy and other healing modalities offer healing for the restoration of traumatic wounds, liberating me from patterns of retraumatization, initiating a life of greater choice and freedom. By holding onto unresolved and unprocessed energies – past traumas and conflicts we dare not face – I doom humanity’s children and grandchildren to carry this trauma for me. It becomes a moral imperative that I reclaim these disowned traumas in my lifetime.
- I am a proactive global citizen. The more regressive I am, the more I externalize my ‘stuff’ and wait for ‘them’ (governments and institutions) to do it instead of me taking responsibility and participating. They’ll be solved by all of us.
- I open beyond my rational, smaller mind to allowing the space that hosts our world’s most intractable problems, to become alchemistic ground for transmutation and for innovation to appear.
- Interaction between the two parties is very different when there’s a third party witnessing that the parties don’t feel judged by and can trust. Witnesses create a container that can hold things when someone feels like leaving or destroying the container. You’re putting two elements together that have been incredibly opposed. There could be a kind of explosion. The mediator creates the container in which the parties do the magic themselves.
- I hear that you need to hold the presence space and also to be so connected that you can find a way into moments that seem shut down or when a person wants to leave. What is the power of enough of us truly witnessing with a felt sense of awareness and energetic connection so that more and more people will serve like a third party for life’s global stage?
- The core of his work is simple though not easy:
- 1. making the collective unconscious conscious,
- 2. integrating the strong unexpressed emotional energies.
- 3. expand my consciousness, my perception and my embodiment to hold a higher presence.
We were trained over the year, to then brave the chaos with all the reinforcements necessary, of surrendering to the process of collective trauma integration and healing. The last week of our training we tackled first Colonialism, including the colonizer and the colonized. The room went into the expected wave of resistance, heaviness, then exhaustion as deeply stored trauma was releasing itself. We then collectively released strong emotions through anger, tears and verbal release, all so expertly contained. There was neither too much rigidity nor too much chaos, allowing a progression to significant resolutions that appeared in the field, like spontaneous apologies from an oppressor to a victim.
Our container was secured enough to go into the risky territory of- the elephant in the room- the Palestinian/Israeli conflict… the pain was on the surface and palpable. For all who were able to remain with the process, we rode the wave- both eager and reticent inside a shared container of trust, presence, and non-judgment. A few in the room were unable to bear the process for a period of time, and required the attention of one-on-one counselors. Such work demands a sophisticated process and conscious facilitation, as well as time carved out for support during the integration of group shadows, including the terror felt, the admissions, the emotional requests of forgiveness, the acknowledgement of the pain of the other. It was perfect in an imperfect way. We dared to approach this active canon. Our group process that day is still being intregrated by many, particularly the Germans, Israelis, Americans and Palestinian present, given our direct connection to the conflict. A resilience resulted. The We-space was restored, where the capacity to relate and bond even more was created. We came out on the other side, with the agreement to go in again, under skilled facilitation, because we know that to engage healing at an individual or group level, a degree of coherence, intimacy, and transparency is required.
The Pocket Project not only works with individual and group processes, but also :
Advise organizations, institutions and governments on how to deal with the after effects and cultural symptoms of massive collective traumatization.
Train and build individual and cultural competencies and trauma resilience in crisis areas.
Create an online platform that provide the latest research and knowledge on collective and intergenerational trauma.
“If world governments are unable or unwilling to handle five million refugees, fleeing war-torn countries and flowing into Europe and abroad, how will they handle the mass migration of humans from global climate catastrophe?” Hübl asks. Understanding trauma and its relationship to the unconscious is more important now than ever, whether for the climate crisis, the radical displacement of millions or the breaking down of capitalism. We are called to collectively activate the contemporary technologies of trauma release, emotional self-responsibility and spiritual attunement.
It is the aim of The Pocket Project to lend healing in as many places around the world as possible, so the effects of these scars—the effects of imperialism, colonialism, war, slavery, human trafficking, greed, poverty, and man’s inhumanity to man—will bear fewer effects on succeeding generations. The ‘sins of the fathers’ can no longer be inherited by their sons.
The Pocket Project and related links:
The Pocket Project: https://pocketproject.org
Thomas Hübl: https://thomashueblonline.com
The Parents Circle: http://theparentscircle.org/en/pcff-home-page-en/
Women Wage Peace: http://womenwagepeace.org.il/en/
Epigenetics: https://www.whatisepigenetics.com/inherited-epigenetic-and-behavioral-consequences-of-trauma-could-be-reversed/Family Constellations and Healing Intergenerational Trauma: http://exmoorjane.com/family-constellations-healing-inter-generational-trauma/