Here's a repost of something I wrote in January about the broader cultural implications of ancestral trauma and communicability of psychological symptoms, both across generations and from person-to-person within a generation.
During the week, I watched this PBS documentary on reactions to the staggering and unexpected death toll of the American Civil War. Interesting stuff.
I've long pondered not only the effects of the catastrophic death toll on the psyches of those who lived during the Civil War, but also its psychic imprint on American culture itself.
I don't see that imprint as having a benign influence. Aside from the complicated racial legacy of the war, I think that a derivative chain of reactions to the collective trauma imbues many other facets of American life with a heightened sense of conflict.
For example, I suspect that the traumatic trail of the war fortifies tension between an alternating appetite for belligerent exercise of power in foreign affairs and a similarly robust counter-tendency toward belligerent isolationism. While the roots of such a conflict can be found in archetypal conflicts intrinsic to the human psyche, I do think that the overwhelming trauma of the Civil War amplifies the conflict in troubling ways.
Something else just came to mind. I was thinking about this idea in relation to a news story reported earlier in the week. Pope Francis described the Armenian genocide as the first genocide of the 20th century. The reaction included tears of gratitude, this in reference to an event that occurred 100 years ago.
The genocide is a highly emotional subject that still looms large in the psyche of Armenians, eliciting powerful reactions a century later. I wonder how this trauma continues to affect politics, attitudes toward non-Armenians and international relations for Armenians whose interior lives are imbued with the symptomatic trail of such brutality.
I have much more to say, but this was just a quickie on the cultural and political dimension.