Upcoming workshop to address how individuals can heal their trauma, and the role of the community in preventing violence
On March 22, 2021, Boulder suffered one of the worst mass shootings to occur in the nation’s recent memory. The impact of the shooting at the Table Mesa King Soopers brought a profound wave of shock, anxiety and grief that reverberated across the city and the nation.
Colorado, like many cities across the United States, has seen a dramatic increase in violent crime in recent years. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting, violent crime across the country has risen by 5% in 2020, and in Colorado, the rate is slightly higher.
Trauma from witnessing violence can be isolating, leaving survivors feeling alone in dealing with recurring thoughts, memories and anxieties. But a workshop jointly hosted by the University of Colorado Boulder and Naropa University intends to facilitate healing from trauma caused by violence through repairing a sense of community connection and belonging.
The workshop, titled “Healing Colorado’s Collective Trauma: Honoring Shared Loss and Promoting Resilience,” is hosted by Beverly Kingston, director of CU Boulder’s Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV) at the Institute of Behavioral Sciences and a senior research associate. It will take place virtually on Wednesday, Dec. 1 and Thursday, Dec. 2, from 9 to 11 a.m. Mountain Time. Those who wish to attend can RSVP here to reserve a spot. There is no cost to attend.
Kingston says the workshop, which is focused on healing from and preventing violence to help citizens expand their understanding of trauma and cultivate trauma-informed awareness, offers “an incredible opportunity (to) voice the pain we’ve all experienced from the violence in Colorado.”
“This is a chance for anyone who’s been impacted by violence, and who wants to make a difference in preventing future violence, to come together and learn some of these really great practices around how to heal, and how to… get into touch with parts of ourselves that may have been shut down” by trauma, Kingston says.
One result of trauma is a sense of disengagement and isolation from the community, Kingston says, which reflects broader social and cultural patterns that fail to actively prevent violence collectively.
At the CSPV, Kingston adds, researchers ask a critical question: “How do we prevent violence? We know lots of ways to prevent violence, (but) it’s really frustrating that what science says works is not really getting put into place. So, we ask ourselves, ‘why is that?’”
Kingston believes that one reason is the trauma of violence, in which feelings of numbness spread and propagate a “sense of apathy, like there’s nothing that can be done.”
Trauma can manifest in a myriad of ways, but common indicators of trauma include the feelings of being “shut down,” or even dissociation, where you feel like “you’re not in your body anymore.”
To address this sense of widespread apathy to violence, Kingston wanted to change how she and other experts approached violence prevention by engaging in practices that may help traumatized individuals and communities heal and build resilience.
These community-based practices for healing individual, generational and collective trauma are inspired by the work of Thomas Hübl, a renowned teacher, author and international facilitator who will lead the workshop. His teachings combine meditative practices of wisdom traditions with evidence-based research and modern sciences.
The workshop is also being hosted by Hübl’s non-profit organization, the Pocket Project, which focuses on examining the roots—and symptoms—of collective trauma throughout the world to promote greater healing.
Kingston believes Hübl’s work has helped how people around the world embrace community-centered practices for healing trauma. Kingston noted that Hübl’s work was widely received in Germany, where some communities still struggle with the residual traumas of the Holocaust.
“In communities that have experienced cycles of violence, it is critical that we attend to healing on both the individual and collective levels. In my work over the past 20 years in working with people who have lived through—or are descendants of—some of humanity’s worst atrocities, I’ve observed that critical steps in healing can take place as we learn to attune our nervous systems, practice self- and co-regulation, and experience the power of group resonance and coherence,” said Hübl.
Regina Smith, vice president of Mission, Culture, & Inclusive Community at Naropa and a workshop co-host, explains that “Naropa's mission is to unravel the conditions which create suffering. To do that, we must recognize that regardless of the manifestation of suffering—whether it be a personal loss, a traumatic event, or systemic oppression—we are all being impacted because we are intimately connected.”
“The Boulder shooting was yet another reminder of how intimately connected we actually are—we hope this collaboration, and Thomas Hubl’s work, will help us to recognize this connection and build our collective resiliency,” Smith says.
Kingston adds that, “we are living in a time that urgently needs new and innovative competencies and resources to support the well-being of our communities. Hübl’s work has been embraced by professors, physicians, psychologists and therapists with great acclaim throughout the world over the past 20 years, opening up new avenues for research.”
Hübl’s work include practices that are a form of mindfulness and meditation techniques where individuals sense their own bodies, emotions and thoughts, and then open themselves to others in the group.
“Hübl’s work is about us first coming into ourselves to be able to sense (ourselves)… they’re embodied practices focused on sensing, where you're feeling your physical self, feeling your emotional self, and becoming aware of your thoughts and asking, ‘Are these parts of myself in sync?’” Kingston says.
In groups of three at the workshop, individuals will have the opportunity to learn self-regulation, and then extend this practice to co-regulation, learning to “attune to one another” as well as the larger group. “He'll start to work with us on being able to sense the entire group, an exploration of what it means to experience coherence and synchrony as one ‘shared nervous system.’”
“We'll focus on what's arising from everyone in the group, and together, become present to ‘what is,’ not what we think the experience ‘should be.’ Whatever is emerging is the truth of that moment that needs to be seen and acknowledged,” Kingston notes. Workshop participants can engage as much or as little as is comfortable in the process.
A critical aspect to supporting the healing of trauma in the community setting, Kingston believes, is becoming more conscious of how communities are traumatized and fragmented through racism, poverty and other persistent social inequalities and injustices.
“To quote Peter Senge, who's a great (social) systems thinker, ‘In order to change the systems, we have to be able to see the systems.’ And so this is how healing trauma also helps us address the fragmentation at the more collective, societal level,” explains Kingston.
Repairing the relationship between traumatized individuals and the community, Kingston believes, will help communities become more conscious about systemic violence, which will then foster more collective action to counter the causes and effects of trauma.
Mark Wilding, director of PassageWorks Institute, a non-profit focused on supporting equitable classrooms and emotional learning between educators and students, is also partnering with CU Boulder and Naropa to promote this workshop.
“I believe that Healing Colorado’s Collective Trauma virtual workshop is happening at a critical time for our communities, our schools, and our organizations. Understanding how to recognize and respond to collective trauma is the most important challenge that we face personally, with family and friends and in our workplaces. Learning how to heal from traumatic experiences and events is essential to addressing racism and violence in Colorado,” Wilding says.
Kingston thinks it may take a long time before such a trauma-informed awareness becomes widely embraced. But Kingston believes that “it is possible to plant those seeds, to truly prevent violence, to truly start doing them now, even if it's going to take 500 years for these seeds to grow to fruition and to have the society we really want. Let's do it anyway.”
More information, including on how to register, is available on Naropa’s website