Collective trauma as a complex social situation: system-conceptual analysis

Keywords: collective trauma, historical trauma, group values, historical memory, group unconscious, group emotion experience


The article is dedicated to the system-conceptual analysis of a very complex and multifaceted problem of collective traumas. Collective trauma can be interpreted as the destruction of socio-psychological structures and values of the group, which requires rehabilitative measures, as the experience that the group gets and endures during a traumatic event, and as a crisis that becomes a turning point in the development when posttraumatic growth resources are used. Among studied mechanisms for the formation and spread of collective trauma, we can name information traumatizing, a mandatory component of all collective traumas, and posttraumatic stress disorder, which spreads in the population mainly due to secondary traumatic stress. The scientific literature also considers the concept of “posttraumatic slave syndrome” as a multigenerational trauma experienced by enslaved Africans and their descendants. There are several concepts related to collective trauma, describing various aspects of its formation and functioning: social trauma, historical trauma, cultural trauma, national trauma, racial trauma, transgenerational trauma. The extensive categorical-conceptual apparatus of the problem of collective traumas covers a wide range of phenomena that describe the origin, development, spread of traumas in social groups, the consequences of traumatizing. Collective (historical) traumas lead to the deformation or destruction of group values, boundaries, identity, and historical memory. During traumatizing, passing trauma by group, and the healing process, group experiences play an essential role. Collective trauma is very closely linked to the functioning of the group consciousness and the group unconscious. The experience of untreated collective trauma tends to be repressed into group unconscious and has a complex effect on the further life of the group. One form of group unconsciousness that reflects collective trauma is group mythology, which is also essential in transforming trauma into a non-traumatic narrative.

Author Biography

Pavlo Gornostai, Institute for Social and Political Psychology, NAES of Ukraine

Dr. Sc. in Psychology, Professor, Chief Research Associate, Laboratory of Psychology of Small Groups and Intergroup Relations

How to Cite
Gornostai, P. (2021). Collective trauma as a complex social situation: system-conceptual analysis. Scientific Studios on Social and Political Psychology, (48(51), 100-111.