mercredi 10 juin 2009

The Empowerment of Community Healing ( Great Deportation )

The Empowerment of Community Healing by Carolji Corbeil and Eric Forgues, Wellness Networker magazine, January 2006, New Brunswick. (translation: Carolji Corbeil)

Whether it takes place on the collective level or on an individual basis, healing calls upon a deep-seated respect for the lifelong experiences, convictions and certainties of all those concerned. In a spirit of respect and recognition, we wish to share with you our thoughts on the subject of Community Healing.

On July 28, 2005, the Acadie Nouvelle Newspaper published an editorial pertaining to the Day of Commemoration of the Great Deportation in which the reader could find the following excerpt: "..., l’Acadie has demanded that the Crown express its regrets for the serious damages and prejudices inflicted on our people. The response given was a recognition of the historical facts. The offering of regrets was too much to ask for. It is impossible for us to turn the page. July 28 of each year will never commemorate the healing of our wound. Instead, it will serve as a memorial to the wound itself as long as the Crown does not demonstrate a more significant sentiment." [1] (our translation)

This editorial excerpt gives rise to questions about the collective healing process when the trauma afflicts a whole community. The consciousness-raising of a collective trauma favours the release of the residual memories which can lead to the re-establishment of a solid and lasting relationship on an equal basis with those who have inflicted the pain and suffering. Often, strong emotions emerge from this awakening process giving rise to a desire to name the culprits, to backslide into judgement and to summon up excuses. By doing so, we express and reveal our distress by displaying outwardly the emotional suffering confined within ourselves. At this point, it may be tempting to turn away from the responsibility of our own healing.

The enduring memory of the Great Deportation within the collective imagination of the Acadian people is compelling evidence that a wound so deeply anchored in the depths of the core of their collective identity seems to overshadow the efforts to heal the trauma. Therefore, the question being raised is how can a community heal itself from such a painful episode of its past?
How can healing occur between those who cultivate the memory of the traumatic event to the point where it has become the founding act of the Acadie, and those who maintain that grasping the full potential of the present requires that we cease to call forth this past occurrence? This leads us to ask if there is a true healing intention?

The constant reminiscence of the Great Deportation in the newspapers and community events reminds us of Caroline Myss’ audio-book: Why People Don't Heal. [2] In this work, Caroline Myss examines why some people do not heal. According to Myss, often times, the wound or trauma gives a life purpose to those who define themselves by the wound and who then develop a language around it. These individuals move from one therapy to another in search of a healing solution but they do not heal. Metaphorically, it is like getting on board a healing vessel yet instead of crossing to the other bank, one instead sails in circles in the middle of the river. Their wound becomes the reason for which they bond with others. A network of friendships and acquaintances is created around the wound thus offering the individual a life direction while contributing to the definition of their self-identity.

According to Caroline Myss, these attitudes are part of what she calls “woundology”, the establishment of relationships by virtue of sharing a common wound. Basically, the concept of “woundology” allows the individual to use the wound to define and distinguish the self and to determine under what condition bonds are created with others and it may go as far as manipulating others so as to play upon their sense of guilt.

This reasoning can be extended to the community as well. What will the Acadian people be making of the memory of their wound? Is there a real intention to heal or is there a preference to maintain the actualization of the collective wound for identity, political or economical reasons? What role are Acadian leaders willing to play in the healing process and the restoration of peace on the collective level, knowing that a symbolic gesture such as a collective event may have a considerable restoring effect? What kind of gesture might facilitate healing, if there is a true collective willingness to move in that direction?

We may believe that in order to repair the harm inflicted on the Acadian people, the healing process must involve the request for apologies from the offender, followed up by substantial financial compensations. This persistent act of demanding apologies only serves to prolong the affect of the wound and to likely confine the Acadian people to the victim role. We suggest that healing starts well before the presentation of apologies. The real healing empowerment of the Acadian community manifests in the forgiveness. The apologies will only have a positive effect if they complete a healing process already brought forward by forgiveness which foreshadows reconciliation.

The act of forgiveness makes it possible to integrate the trauma, (without forgetting), and to surmount the pain. The historical status of this traumatic event will then be placed in perspective allowing the Acadian People to reconnect with more positive foundational ev ents.
We may wish to inspire ourselves through the thoughtful reflection and healing initiatives of the aboriginal communities which have experienced extensive traumatic events of their own. For example, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation[3], whose mission is to support the aboriginal people and to encourage them to conceive, develop and reinforce a community healing process, has recently created a National Day of Healing and Reconciliation (NDHR) which takes place on May 26th of each year [4]. Several other initiatives take place in their respective communities in order that they may reconnect with their spiritual heritage and develop and rediscover positive references to define their cultural identity.

The holistic aboriginal healing traditions acknowledge the importance of the community in the healing process by emphasizing the bonds which connect each and every member. The aboriginal healers teach that the healing process occurs through the re-establishment of harmonious connections between the community members and all of their relations. The healing circles [5] are based on a traditional concept of respect, honour, sharing and consensus-building and are created with the intent of providing an equal voice for both offender(s) and victim(s) within their communities. For example, the restorative justice program set up in the community of Elsipogtog in New Brunswick is a framework which uses the traditional justice model and is aimed at restoring harmony and wellness in the community[6]. Within the community, the one who has committed a wrongdoing is encouraged to recognize their responsibility. The recognition of the wrongful gesture plays an intricate part in the healing circle’s efficiency. While having broken harmony and balance within the community, the perpetrator is encouraged to willingly partake in the re-establishment of harmony within his/her community. The offender must heal by his own free will and knows that his healing is directly related to the success of the community’s healing and wellness. From this point of view, justice is not separated from the healing. This affects not only the individual and collective dimension, but also the mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions. Through justice restoration, harmony and wellness are restored.

A collective wound hides a complex reality. As a member of a community, we carry within us various degrees of emotional hurt issuing from our past history which we transmit, from generation to generation, into our social bonding by the constant re-actualization of the trauma. By cultivating the emotional trauma from the past, the community’s collective imagination also remains captive of its suffering. The on-going re-enactment of the emotional trauma may prevent us to fully benefit from the opportunities in the present life.

In the absence of a collective healing process, the identity of a community tends to structure itself on the reactualized wound through what is termed the “duty of remembrance”. It may happen that we do not feel the need to heal since we maintain our relations with others through the similarity of our wound which represents a distinctive characteristic of our collective identity. Consequently, the imprint of the collective memory remains hidden within us behind a veil of emotional density and is maintained by the fear of the change, the fear of the other and even the fear of healing.

Healing occurs in the present moment and starts with a clear intention and a willingness to release past residues of a wound which restrained us within its memory. The conscious integration of an emotional wound experience supposes its recognition without creating any opposing principles of resistance and conflict. The liberation of the collective memory will activate the unfolding of a new kind of energy which will enable us to participate in an enriching, spontaneous and creative community destiny.

It is through the collective gestures of reaching out to the entire community that we can begin the healing process which will liberate us from our collective wounds and it is from this vantage point that we can restore harmony throughout the community and allow the emergence of our true creative nature while developing our full potential for equanimity within our relationships with others.

The authors Carolji Corbeil and Eric Forgues (Translation: Carolji Corbeil)
are Reiki Masters Teachers and Healing Touch Practitioners.
Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

References :

1 Editorial by M. Maurice Rainville, L’Acadie Nouvelle, July 28th 2005
2 Audio Book « Why people don’t heal », Caroline Myss,
3 Aboriginal Healing Foundation,
4 The National Day of Healing and Reconciliation (NDHR)
5 Healing Circles
6 Elsipogtog restorative justice program

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