A community is a web of relationships among people with a common heritage, similar social values and common life experiences. They also bring unhealed developmental traumas and unresolved conflicts from their individual, couple, family, school, and work experiences into the larger community.
These community systems provide a large collective stage where they can project their unresolved issues into their athletic contests, economic and social competitions, and ethnic beliefs, religious values, their work orientation, and neighborhoods.
Our meta-theory, Developmental Systems Theory, shows how communities develop in ways that parallel other human systems. Once you understand the template for the development of an individual human, you can use this same template to understand how communities develop. Our meta-theory has two tracks of development.: The Developmental Trauma Track and the LOVEvolution Track.
People on the Developmental Trauma track often overreact during collective events. This usually indicates that post-traumatic stress related to their own unhealed developmental traumas is triggering them. Rather than judging or criticizing people who get triggered, we need to see neighbors and other community members crying out for help rather then punishing them without any understanding that creates a compassionate and empathic perspective. If you personally are triggered by these events, develop a compassionate attitude toward yourself and work on discovering the roots of your own reaction to these events.
Collective Trauma & Collective Therapy
National and worldwide events, such as September 11, 2001, the Iraq War, the scandals of the Bush presidency the and election of a black President in the U. S. stirred deep emotional reactions in millions of people all at once and created energetic fields of fear and anguish. They also provided people with opportunities for “collective therapy.” Many counselors and psychotherapists actually reported a large increase in requests for therapy immediately after September 11, 2001. A post-9/11 study showed that more than 90% of the school children in New York City were suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic-stress disorder. Many of them were struggling with overwhelming fear and grief that made it difficult for them to function effectively in school.
Highly visible public people such as presidents, senators, athletes and movie stars become collective targets for people use to project either positive or negative aspects of themselves. An interesting example of this phenomenon that we’ve observed is the large number of cartoon caricatures that portraying George W. Bush as an immature, insensitive and socially awkward boy with big ears, a silly grin, and a gap between his front teeth.
Our Cross-Cultural Learning
Having lived for extended periods in Central and Western Europe, we learned that Europeans perceive American culture as being very similar to George Bush’s cartoon image. From their perspective, we are brash, loud, arrogant, impetuous, and politically immature. World War I and World War II have tempered them culturally, sensitizing them to historic differences and subtle points of view, and the wars have moved them further along toward in their development as nation-states then the U. S.
Those upset with the election of a black President have obsessed about his religion (“he’s a Muslim”) or his birthplace (He’s a foreigner). These all hide projections that he is not one of us–he is not white.
Our advice on community relationships is that members must heal themselves of their hidden projections and unhealed traumas. Then they must move from competition to cooperation (this is not socialism).
When there is a community crisis such as a natural disaster, members reach out to help each other–even people they don’t know. This is so astonishing that the media highlights these human interest stories, stories about people being unusually kind to each other.
The question is why don’t people do this when there is no crisis?