So What is Ecocultural Trauma?
You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you.
— Vandana Shiva
Eco: Greek οἶκος, house
When was the last time you felt truly at Home?
Ecological relationships refers to those between living organisms, including humans, plants and animals, and their home, which is to say, our planet. Those relationships form complex systems or realms, from the individual level to the global, with enormous diversity contained therein.
Our culture, however, has trouble recognizing complex interrelationships and timeframes beyond current lifespan. This results in broadscale ecocultural dysfunction, as witnessed by the expanding damage to our own habitat, which is not the behavior of a healthy species. It is, in fact, a sign of cultural mental illness.
This is hardly the first time that last has been pointed out. There just hasn’t been a handy name for it up to now.
Ecocultural trauma is a cultural mental illness with symptoms both caused and reinforced by trauma occurring in these eight basic human relationships to self and Home: Time, Place, Body, Sensory, Heart, Tribe, Ancestry and Soul.
If my culture is sick, then what about me?
As a result of living within an ecoculturally traumatized culture, individuals tend to have difficulty forming solid relationships with Home, no matter how long they have lived in a particular place. This makes many of us, then, perpetual transplants, not fully at home anywhere: not in our bodies, relationships, work, communities, physical homes or the land within which we live.
But it can be hard to pinpoint the impact of such trauma in oneself. After all, everyone around us is pretty much the same! Loss of meaning has become a way of life. Many of our doctors, teachers, churches, leaders, healers, friends, family and coworkers live similarly.
Not to mention that in an individualistic society, we have been taught from birth that problems are the result of personal or interpersonal issues. Now and again there might be the rare glance at social or political forces. Generally, though, the message is: You must be doing something wrong.
This is how we have become the most medicated people to have ever walked the face of the earth. Seeking medicine for illness is natural, healthy. Not seeking meaning in the illness — nor cure — is not.
This is why I have designed a simple assessment tool to help identify individual areas of suffering across the eight realms of Time, Place, Body, Sensory, Heart, Tribe, Ancestry and Soul, where ecocultural trauma occurs. This can help to make clear areas that might benefit from deeper healing or reworlding on both personal and cultural levels.
The Ecocultural Trauma Assessment is available as part of all individual Holistic Therapy packages.
ReWorlding Magazine, a free online publication published by the Calyx Pearl Center, addresses these topics in more depth.
To reworld, first, is to recognize not only that the world is made up of more ecosystems than is obvious at first, but so, too, are we.