The other day I found myself in renewed conversation with a few Native friends, discussing the presence of the Ancestors in our everyday lives. There was shared agreement that the Ancestors are often close at hand, offering perspective and advice, although the frequency and immediacy of contact was wildly variable amongst those present. All of us are of mixed Native and European ancestry, and agree that much of the Ancestral conflict we experience is between settlers and Natives.
Western psychology was born out of attempts to understand and address the suffering caused by the internalized conflicts of clients. Freud, Jung, and Adler were engaged in projects that addressed internal dramas. Later, Moreno codified theatrical approaches to mind as he developed psychodrama. These approaches have received some cross-cultural validation as we have begun to understand something about the neurobiology of thought.
The Western understanding of internal conflicts has tended to assign them to the individual, while acknowledging that the conflicting needs and agendas of others can be internalized. This idea of internal conflict is, clinically, a very useful idea. After all, who does not experience divisive differences in the points of view of parts of self?
Conflict seems inherent to psyche and ecosystem. Perhaps it is simply an aspect of complex systems. That said, it is important to remember that cooperation is an even more salient aspect of Nature; if parts of complex systems cannot cooperate, chaos ensues.
Let’s return to the settlers and Natives. All of us in our small group were raised in European culture, although with significant marginalization. Our recent Ancestors wrestled with whether to fully assimilate. I’m pretty sure my parents fought over this, my mom being more determined to assimilate than my dad; I suspect she pretty much determining how little we knew about our recent roots. This family drama led to some truly bizarre experiences for my sister and me, and, I suspect, my parents.
Anyway, these days I am increasingly aware that both my Native and settler Ancestors are aspects of psyche, even as they are spirit beings. Both groups carry a great deal of trauma, with the settlers holding an additional burden of denial. Sometimes they are able to set aside their animosity and compare notes on their suffering. When that happens, there is mistrust, but also compassion. I guess their struggles are not that different from those of other parts of self: when parties listen carefully and compassionately to each other, conflict tends to wither.
Creating opportunities for the varied voices to share can be exhausting, even as it is rewarding. I guess four hundred years of conflict and sorrow take a while to sort through and heal. It does not help that settler culture keeps intentionally retraumatizing Natives. Generations of raped women, displaced families, and terrified children live within, and we cannot assure them that the violence has stopped. Truth is, all those traumas are continuing. I imagine the fact that there has not been a real apology from the settlers (nor have Natives been given an appropriate role in the Constitution), contributes to the ongoing rage and mistrust. Some days the sides can’t even agree on the shape of the negotiating table.
What Ancestral conflicts do you carry? Are the traumas in the past, or ongoing? How do you address them?