What if the problems of the modern world aren’t really about power, money, war or religion? What if they’re rooted in our individual and collective experience of trauma?
Journalist Matthew Green has spent years experimenting with alternative approaches to mental health to help with his own periods of depression. In this podcast, Matthew speaks with the pioneering healers, visionaries, thinkers and activists he encountered on his journey.
Joining us from Boise, Idaho, Dallas Gudgell has spent 40 years campaigning for racial justice, nuclear disarmament and to overturn oppression in all its guises. With parallel careers as an environmental scientist, life coach and teacher of energy medicine, Dallas brings a Dakota perspective to the two biggest questions confronting America today: how individuals and society can heal from the trauma of white supremacy, and respond to the climate and ecological crisis.
Dallas says that in the Dakota tradition, “healing takes place in the dark” – a reference to the power of sweat lodge ceremonies to metabolise the energetic imprints trauma leaves on individuals and communities. Matthew and Dallas explore how the protests over racial oppression in the United States and Britain could be an opportunity for healing – both for oppressed and oppressor. Dallas argues that a global resurgence in indigenous activism is teaching us that the human race is in crisis precisely because it has turned against its mother, the Earth. With Covid underscoring the potential for forging new global connections online, Dallas and Matthew conclude by exploring opportunities for taking trauma work at the personal and community level to a global scale.
Dallas Gudgell lecture on morality at The College of Idaho
Wassmuth Center for Human Rights
Dallas Gudgell interview on Rose Apple Sage
Dallas Gudgell on Entelechy Leadership Stories
From her farm in West Sussex, Sun Meyer has emerged as one of the world's leading pioneers of equine therapy — a form of inner work based on the power of the horse-human bond. Sun explores how her own experience with grief informs her work, while Matthew describes how an equine therapy session with Sun some years ago cast a broken relationship in a new light.
To help explain why learning to connect with a horse can be so transformative, Sun walks Matthew through the influential work of Dr Stephen Porges, whose "Polyvagal Theory" is gaining growing recognition among trauma therapists, and provides a framework for understanding the neurobiological underpinnings of equine work. Sun cautions that it can be misleading to talk about "healing," when much of the task of recovering from trauma may involve learning to build a new relationship with lasting pain from the past. Nevertheless, Sun has seen how equine therapy has helped many people to change their lives in ways they might never have imagined possible before they encountered her herd. Trained in a wide range of evidence-based trauma therapies, Sun is working to bring greater professionalism to the field via her IFEEL Qualifications organisation, offering accredited training in Equine Facilitated Human Development, Organisational Development and Pyschotruamatology. Sun is also leading research into Extreme Stress and Human Behaviour Change through working with horses.
IFEEL Qualifications Ltd
Dr Stephen Porges
What if we are all suffering from "Climate Trauma"? Zhiwa Woodbury thinks that this is the great undiagnosed disorder of the modern age, and that facing up to it could be the biggest step towards meeting the existential threat posed by climate change.
Drawing on his decades as a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, eco-attorney, researcher, writer and climate pyschologist, Zhiwa is among the most original thinkers writing today on the connections between the ecological crisis and the human psyche.
Matthew got to know Zhiwa following the publication of his influential "Climate Trauma" paper in the journal Ecopsychology in February, 2019 — an article which has since been downloaded more than 25,000 times. The paper posed a direct challenge to the wider psychology community, which Zhiwa argues has largely confined itself to examining the emotional reactions stirred up by the climate crisis, coining new terms such as "eco-anxiety" or "eco-grief" to describe them, while ignoring the larger implications. This focus on symptoms, Zhiwa argues, misses the point: global climate change is not just inducing trauma from extreme weather events — it is instead a unique and unprecedented form of trauma itself, and one that is continually triggering all our unresolved traumas — personal, cultural, and intergenerational. As with all traumas, it is only by acknowledging climate trauma that we can empower ourselves to embark on the path of recovery. By facing this collective, biospheric trauma, we not only gain insights into our dysfunctional responses, both individually and collectively, we also begin to see how it is a relational problem that demands relational solutions.
In this episode, Matthew and Zhiwa dive deeply into the connections between climate change and trauma, exploring the emerging field of quantum ecopsychology — a worldview rooted in Zhiwa's lived experience of the Earth as a sentient, living organism — and the radical interconnectedness of all beings. It is this perspective, Zhiwa maintains, that offers us the best chance of navigating the climate and ecological emergency, and finding our way back into right relationship with ourselves and the natural world.
Climate Trauma: Toward a new taxonomy of trauma
Nature as "threat": The Plague of eco-anxiety
Zhiwa's blog: EcopsychologyNow!
Healing our collective traumas, healing our world (for Emerge)
In this unique collaboration, Matthew appears as a guest interviewer on the channel of Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri, a fifth generation Sufi master, philosopher and author, to learn what Sufi psychology has to say about the process of healing. Matthew and Shaykh Fadhlalla begin by discussing some of Shaykh Fadhllah's extraordinary life story, from his family's origins in the holy Iraqi city of Kerbala, to his later spiritual studies under a guru in India, and his life's work to make Islamic teachings more widely accessible. They discuss the role of mystical states in expanding awareness, and the relationship between these peak experiences, the day-to-day work of the individual spiritual journey, and how this relates to the bigger process of societal change. In this lively exploration of the Sufi tradition, Matthew and Shaykh Fadhlalla conclude by addressing the conundrum facing seekers today: With so many wisdom traditions available now freely available, how to find the right path to awakening?
Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri
Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri's books
YouTube video version of this podcast
How is our difficulty in facing our own personal traumas reflected in the problems we see playing out in society? In this deeply moving exchange, Matthew hears how Dr Anita Sanchez, an author, consultant and executive coach, learned to draw on the wisdom of her ancestors to transmute the trauma caused by the terrible abuse she suffered as a child and the race-related murder of her father .
The author of the internationally award-winning book, The Four Sacred Gifts: Indigenous Wisdom for Modern Times, published by Simon & Schuster, Anita has spent 40 years building a bridge between indigenous traditions and corporate culture. Her mission: to help top executives in companies around the world to create truly diverse and inclusive organisations, and drive wider change by confronting racial injustice and oppression. Anita and Matthew discuss how repressed suffering and unexpressed emotion may be a big part of the reason why the world is struggling to find adequate responses to the multiple crises societies face, and how rekindling our connection to Earth and Spirit can empower us to face our fears and create a more regenerative future.
This episode was recorded in July, 2020. In October, Anita was named by the World Woman Foundation as one of 60 "Women of the Hour" for the #SheisMyHero campaign aimed at inspiring one million girls around the world to live their dreams and pursue leadership.
Please note that this episode contains themes of sexual abuse and suicide.
The Four Sacred Gifts: Indigenous Wisdom for Modern Times
Anita Sanchez on Linkedin
Angele Wallis is a child psychotherapist and founder of the Psychoeducation in Communities Project, which helps community workers in Africa to offer better mental health support to children. Having grown up in the shadow of dictatorship in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angele embarked on a personal odyssey that would involve both a confrontation with the collective trauma of her homeland, and an intensely personal immersion in Jungian analysis. Angele is now uniquely placed to mediate between radically different paradigms: the focus on the individual handed down by the pioneers of psychoanalysis in late 19th century Vienna, and an emphasis in many African cultures on community wellbeing.
Angele shares how Carl Jung's elaboration of the collective unconscious provided her with a framework to begin grappling with the paradoxes she had encountered growing up amid a pervasive belief in "witchcraft." Her studies in turn informed her work supporting children in Africa, from escapees from the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, to young Kenyans who have lost parents to HIV/AIDS. Matthew and Angele go on to explore her perspective on the colonial legacy and present-day questions around racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement. Angele explains that healing is ultimately always achieved through relationships, whether they be in a therapy room or a ceremony circle. By fusing wisdom from seemingly clashing cultures, we may discover unexpected new pathways to wholeness on in both our own lives, and in our communities.
Angele Wallis' website
Psychoeducation in Communities Project
How do you go from trading currencies on the floor of an investment bank to leading a centre dedicated to building peace? Justine Huxley, chief executive officer of St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace and a practicing Sufi, shares the story of how she swapped a career in finance to pursue a vision bringing different faiths and spiritualities together to face the urgent needs of our time.
Based in a church in the heart of the City of London, on a site consecrated more than a thousand years ago, the centre honours the courage and spirit of service embodied by St Ethelburga, a 7th century abbess who gave her life caring for victims of the plague. Today, St Ethelburga's is on a mission to build community resilience in the face of our contemporary social and ecological emergency.
Matt and Justine discuss a variety of themes including mystical experience, the impact of trauma and the millennial leaders Justine met while writing her new book Generation Y: Spirituality and Social Change. Those encounters inspired Justine to find new ways to hold conversations between generations, aiming to find the kind of language that would allow a spiritual dimension to emerge without alienating or excluding people.
Matthew shares his experience with the generational and collective legacy of war, and Justine discusses how we can unearth the kinds of psychological and spiritual resources we need to build inner and outer resilience, and face the full reality of climate breakdown.
St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace
Generation Y: Spirituality and Social Change
After the fire: Sourcing hope in a landscape of collapse
Thomas Hübl is a spiritual teacher, author and founder of The Academy of Inner Science, which works to integrate the great wisdom traditions with the discoveries of contemporary science. Born in Austria, over the past fifteen years Thomas has guided large-scale healing events that have brought together thousands of Germans and Israelis to acknowledge, face, and heal the cultural shadow left by the Holocaust. His new book is called Healing Collective Trauma: A process for integrating our intergenerational and cultural wounds.
Matthew and Thomas explore how building group coherence can tap into a collective intelligence, which in turn can help us heal our individual and collective trauma. With the pandemic pushing much of this work online, Thomas notes how virtual "micro-communities" are springing up all over the world to help us build our capacity to respond to global crises with maturity and compassion.
Watch Thomas speaking at a launch event for Healing Collective Trauma
Healing Collective Trauma: A process for integrating our intergenerational and cultural wounds