This is the second part of a longer post.
The use of scapegoating, abuse, and the erasure of Self is a familiar story in psychotherapy, where clients speak of parents who made little room for the growth and needs of their children, instead insisting the children meet the needs of the parent. The abuse and torment that arise from these conditions are passed from one generation to the next. I have often heard clients speak of their parents trying to “literally beat the Devil out” of them. Rather than facing their own experiences of trauma and suffering (their own Devils), parents may pass these experiences on to their children. (Alice Miller wrote extensively about this.) The problem is always out here, always in someone else.
Healing requires courage to halt to the violence, repent harm, and repair the damage done by terror and suffering. When there is harm, and those who do the harm deny it, healing becomes more difficult. This is a fundamental truth in the psychoanalytic and family therapies, as well as traditional forms of Indigenous healing. Healing is facilitated when the person, or persons, doing harm acknowledges their actions and the resultant effects, seeks to make amends, and the harmed one moves toward acceptance, and perhaps, forgiveness. This is an I-Thou process, a dance of two or more persons committed to justice and healing.
Shamans, medicine people, and other traditional healers also engage in relational work to address multi-generational trauma. In this work we frequently journey back many generations to find the beginnings of abuse in families. Very often we find ourselves negotiating, in one sense or another, with the spirits of long diseased family members who maintain some traumatic hold on the family in the present. We may also negotiate with energy beings who have attached themselves to the family and have remained for generations, repeatedly creating the conditions for new trauma. Always the negotiations are for acceptance, reparation, and healing.
Just as individuals and families may choose to seek healing, so may nations. Germany is an examples of this. Following World War Two, the German government acknowledged the horrors of the Holocaust, and it’s part in the genocide of it’s Jewish citizens and the murder of a multitude of persons of disability, homosexuals, and Gypsies, as well as hundreds of thousands of others. As a society, the German people sought to, in some small way, make reparation for their deeds. Although the effects of the Holocaust have echoed through generations of survivors and their families, the actions of the German people in offering reparation have opened the door to healing.
Nations may also resist opening the doors to healing. The United States government has strongly resisted accepting responsibility for the genocide of Native America, and the later torture of Native children in orphanages and residential schools. Even here in Vermont, the state has largely ignored its role in the extensive sexual, physical, and emotional abuse that occurred in state funded religious orphanages, abuse that effected Natives and non-Native children alike. All of this is in stark contrast to the actions of the Canadian government, and allied religious institutions, who recently publicly acknowledged their role in the horrors of the residential schools and orphanages.
The journey towards healing is demanding. Denial and hatred are easier pathways to follow. They also bring ever more suffering to the world.