Dear St. James friends and family,
Last fall, I asked several colleagues if they were experiencing an uptick in unusual pastoral care. I had a difficult time naming it, but it consisted of intense anxiety and acting out beyond normal. It seemed understandable at the time, based on months of quarantine, but everything was escalating out of proportion and at a rapid pace. Most of my colleagues did see an increase in pastoral care but couldn’t name it either.
I then contacted several psychologists and explained what I was experiencing and asked if they could name it. They couldn’t either. So I started researching (what I couldn’t name!) and finally stumbled upon an article written by Gilad Hirschberger in Frontiers in Psychology, “Collective Trauma and the Social Construction of Meaning,” from August 2018 that completely described everything I was witnessing. It was called “collective trauma.”
On a chance, I contacted Gilad in Tel Aviv and asked if he would meet with me via Zoom to discuss collective trauma. He agreed! The meeting proved transformational for me. The more he described the symptoms of collective trauma, the more it felt it like exactly what I was seeing.
Gilad defined collective trauma as: “the psychological reactions to a traumatic event that affects an entire society; it does not merely reflect an historical fact, the recollection of a terrible event that happened to a group of people. It suggests that the tragedy is represented in the collective memory of the group, and like all forms of memory it comprises not only a reproduction of the events, but also an ongoing reconstruction of the trauma to make sense of it.” Like 9/11, the Holocaust, the Trail of Tears—we are all in the midst of a global collective trauma and we are all trying to make sense of it.
We will also see trans-generational collective trauma that defines how we handle our future life in a post–COVID-19 world. We will be dealing with post-collective trauma, mental illness, homelessness, and all kinds of psychological issues that may be seen for generations to come.
I have asked Gilad, who is conducting a global research project on this subject, to be our first guest speaker during Lent to educate us on collective trauma. Gilad also helped me select the three other expert speakers for our Lenten Summit this year that will prove to be invaluable as well.
Please join me this Lent on Wednesday nights as we learn from four distinguished guest speakers about collective trauma, the long-term effects of COVID-19, and how we can become agents of resiliency in our world.
The Daily Pilot recently ran an article on our upcoming collective trauma summit, and how this past year has affected our congregation; you can read that article here.
MARCH 3, 7 p.m.
Gilad Hirschberger, Ph.D.
The School of Psychology
The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC)
What is collective trauma,
and its long-term effects?
People of all populations understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has been an extraordinary experience that has gained intensity the longer it has dragged on. We have made major changes to our lifestyles, from wearing masks to social distancing, closing of businesses and events, and dealing with the economic impact the virus has had on society. We adjust and readjust to the ever-changing COVID numbers. Our life has been disrupted and will take time to return to normal. In his discussion, Dr. Hirschberger will define collective trauma, its long-term effects, and how we can overcome our trauma with resiliency.
Gilad Hirschberger, Ph.D., is an associate professor of social and political psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel. His work focuses on collective existential threats, and on how threat perceptions influence and shape political cognitions. His research distinguishes between threats of commission that are immediate and local (e.g., terrorism) and threats of omission that are universal and slow to develop (e.g., climate change; viral pandemics). Studying populations worldwide, he shows that the perception of these threats is contingent on political ideology, such that liberals and conservatives perceive certain threats while ignoring others. His book Group Survival: The Psychology of Collective Threat is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.
Watch Dr. Herschberger’s presentation on YouTube, above.
MARCH 10, 7 p.m.
Anat Brunstein Klomek, Ph.D.
Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology
Interdisciplinary Center (IDC)
Interpersonal and emotional skills make a difference during COVID-19
Our psychological muscles require similar training to skill development and training required by our body to maintain its health. The development and training of our emotional and interpersonal skills becomes even more crucial in a time of trauma. Dr. Brunstein Klomek will describe the emotional and interpersonal skills, based on Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT), which can help us in coping with the difficulties during COVID-19. The skills presented can be used by individuals, groups, and whole communities. She will also discuss the ways and means of resiliency in a post-pandemic world.
Anat Brunstein Klomek is a clinical psychologist, and director of the graduate clinical psychology program at the Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel. Dr. Brunstein Klomek is an expert in suicide prevention and interpersonal psychotherapy for clinical depression (IPT). In the last few years, she has been an academic advisor for the Israeli Ministries of Health and Education in these areas.
Watch Dr. Klomek’s presentation on YouTube, below:
MARCH 17, 7 p.m.
Roxane Cohen Silver, Ph.D.
Associate Director, UCI ADVANCE Program
Office of Inclusive Excellence
Department of Psychological Science
Department of Medicine
Program in Public Health
University of California, Irvine
2020: Coping with
cascading collective traumas
in the United States
In the presentation Dr. Silver will discuss the challenges of coping with the compounding events of 2020 (pandemic, economic recession, climate-related disasters, racial reckoning, etc.) and discuss how people can survive the trauma of COVID-19. As a preview this was the topic of an editorial that she published in Science several months ago, “Surviving the Trauma of COVID-19.”
Roxane Cohen Silver, Ph.D., is professor in the Department of Psychological Science, the Department of Medicine, and the Program in Public Health, and Associate Director of the ADVANCE Program for Faculty and Graduate Student Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the Office of Inclusive Excellence at the University of California, Irvine, where she has been actively involved in research, teaching, and administration since 1989. An international expert in the field of stress and coping, Silver has spent over four decades studying acute and long-term psychological and physical reactions to stressful life experiences, including personal traumas such as loss, physical disability, and childhood sexual victimization, as well as larger collective events such as terror attacks, infectious disease outbreaks, and natural disasters across the world (e.g., U.S., Indonesia, Chile, Israel).
She has guided governments in the U.S. and abroad in the aftermath of terrorist attacks and earthquakes and served on numerous senior advisory committees and task forces for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, providing advice to the department and its component agencies on the psychological impact of disasters and terrorism. Silver is also a dedicated teacher and active mentor of predoctoral and postdoctoral students.
Watch Dr. Silver’s presentation on YouTube, above.
MARCH 24, 7 p.m.
Sandy Avzaradel, M.S. Ed.
Early Childhood OC
The impact of collective trauma on young children and how we, as a community, can mitigate its long-term effects
Many families have concerns about the long-term effect of the pandemic on their children and their psychological, emotional, and interpersonal well-being. In her discussion, Ms. Avzaradel will discuss how parents can guide their children into a healthy and resilient response to the pandemic and signs to watch for in a post pandemic world.
Sandy is currently the Training and Content Specialist for Start Well. In 2018, Sandy designed, implemented, and managed the Early Childhood Mental Health and Wellness Program (now Start Well), a county-wide program where early-childhood-mental-health consultants work alongside preschool professionals to support social and emotional development and effectively work with children with challenging behaviors and/or mental-health concerns. In addition, Sandy is the director of Early Childhood OC, an organization which promotes Orange County’s Early Childhood Policy Framework, champions an increase in funding to early childhood programs and services, and supports initiatives which cultivate resilient families, ensure quality early learning, and promote comprehensive health and development.
Sandy has provided numerous local, state, and national presentations with a focus on social/emotional development, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), mental health and challenging behavior, school readiness, child development, special education, parent education, and Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS). Sandy is proud to serve as the Fund Development Chair for the Board of Directors for Orange County Association for the Education of Young Children.
Watch Sandy’s presentation on YouTube, below: