By the Crowd They Have Been Broken, By the Crowd They Shall Be Healed: The Social Transformation of Trauma
The social transformation of trauma is probably as old as the social nature of humankind. Our predisposition to gather in groups of mutual support and defense is an evolutionary response to the overwhelming stress, vulnerability, and helplessness of solitary primate existence. We are biologically programmed for attachment from “cradle to grave” and the natural human response to danger is to gather together, to seek out the safety of human companionship. The social transformation of trauma can be seen in its early form in the highly developed rituals of our ancestors. Rites of mourning, rites of healing, and rites of passage were all vital in helping us to resolve the traumas of the past and move ahead into the present and future (Lex, 1979). All important rites were accomplished in social settings, usually involving the entire group as participants. These rites provided a sense of group identity and cohesion and were essential to the life and well-being of each tribal group. In healing rites, the patient was frequently expected to become a member of a healing society after his or her own recovery (Van der Hart, 1983). The performative arts have their roots in these social rites and may have evolved, in part, as biopsychosocial mechanisms for resolving individual and group trauma (Bloom, 1995; Shay, 1995).