'How are we to tackle historical trauma and its consequences? Let’s consider a two-pronged approach.
Firstly, we must implement the principles that are known to facilitate recovery or healing from historical trauma and its consequences.
Secondly, we must engage and learn from Aboriginal people who have overcome adversity. Who better to teach us then those who have ‘been there’? Aboriginal people who live successfully in two cultures can also teach us about resilience.
The core experiences of psychological trauma are 1) disempowerment, 2) disconnection from others, and 3) loss of a sense of power and control (or loss of agency). The first task of the healing process is to ensure safety of the person.
Healing of trauma (and historical trauma), therefore, is based upon four key principles: (1) provision of safety; (2) empowerment of the person; (3) creation of new connections, and 4) restoration of the person’s power and control.
Empowerment is key because healing is something that is done by the person – it is not what a practitioner or treatment service does to, or for, them.
We must empower people to heal by giving them hope (that healing is possible), understanding (of the nature of the problem and how it can be overcome) and a sense of belonging.
In relation to the third principle, healing can take place only within the context of relationships (or community); it cannot occur in isolation.
‘I alone can do it, but I cannot do it alone.’
The connecting process often involves the person recreating psychological facilities damaged by trauma (e.g. trust, autonomy, intimacy) and learning or relearning social skills.
When people are connected, they can receive the support of other people, which allows them to feel accepted and loved. This leads to an enhanced self-esteem and motivation to change. The support of family and peer support play an important role in healing.
A further important component of healing is gaining a sense of agency (or power and control; Principle 4 above), which comes from: being engaged in meaningful activities; finding a niche in the community; being given informed choices and be able to act upon them, and by helping other people. The latter is therapeutic in its own right.
Connecting Aboriginal people to their culture, land, spirituality and history is key for healing to occur. When these connections are strong, Aboriginal people gain a sense of who they are and where they belong.
Culture provides meaning and purpose to life and a sense of wellbeing. Identifying, preserving and sharing culture gives Aboriginal people a sense of pride and hope of a positive future. All these elements facilitate healing and help the person develop a strong positive identity.'
Of course, there is much more involved in healing historical trauma and I will be talking about that in future blogs.