October 17, 2023

Healing Across Divides: A Q&A Episode

In this special Q&A episode, Thomas answers some insightful questions submitted by listeners during his recent live event with Dr. Gabor Maté, which focused on topics explored in Thomas’ recently released book – Attuned: Practicing Interdependence to Heal Our Trauma–And Our World.

The questions covered by Thomas explore how to practice attunement in an environment of harsh political polarization, why it’s difficult – but possible – to feel attuned to collective issues even when there is discord in your family or personal relationships, and that the numbness many of us feel in response to trauma is not a barrier to attunement but a valid experience that we would all benefit from attuning to.

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“We need a social architecture for collective healing.”

- Thomas Hübl

Guest Information

Thomas Hübl

Thomas Hübl is a renowned teacher, author, and international facilitator whose work integrates the core insights of the great wisdom traditions and mysticism with the discoveries of science. Since the early 2000s, he has been facilitating large-scale events and courses that focus on meditation and mindfulness-based awareness practices, as well as the healing and integration of trauma.

His non-profit organization, The Pocket Project, works to support the healing of collective trauma throughout the world. He is the author of the book Healing Collective Trauma: A Process for Integrating Our Intergenerational and Cultural Wounds.

His new book Attuned: Practicing Interdependence to Heal Our Trauma—and Our World is available now wherever books are sold. Visit attunedbook.com for links to order it online.

For more information, visit thomashuebl.com

Notes & Resources

Here are the questions that Thomas addresses in this episode:

Question 1) Since the pandemic, the irreconcilable divisions in relationships and global politics have been very obvious and seem to be growing ever larger. What can you offer toward creating attunement when there is a difference in how we relate to collective issues within our relationships and communities?

Question 2) How do you suggest that a person can be attuned to the trauma in the world when they still struggle to remain attuned and grounded in relationships to their own family members?

Question 3) Does the ability to attune to another person depend on the ability to feel one’s own sensations and emotions? Many people are quite numb these days. How can one feel another person if they cannot feel themselves? And how do you start to feel yourself?

Episode Transcript

Producer Michelle: Welcome to Point of Relation. I’m Michelle, producer of the podcast. We recently hosted a live event with Gabor Maté in celebration of Thomas’s new book “Attuned.” For that event, we invited participants to submit their questions for Thomas and Gabor, and since we had so many meaningful questions that Thomas and Gabor did not have the time to answer during the event, we thought it would be a great opportunity to bring some of these outstanding questions to Thomas for the podcast. 

So let’s begin with this first question, Thomas. 

  1. Since the pandemic, the irreconcilable divisions in relationships and global politics have been very obvious and seem to be growing ever larger. What can you offer toward creating attunement when there is a difference in how we relate to collective issues within our relationships and communities? 

Thomas Hübl: Yeah, that’s a fantastic question. So first of all, we want to honor the fragmentation that we see is not because of Covid. I think the fragmentation that we see is deeper than that, that pre-existed and got highlighted through a collective stress factor. What we also want to honor is that it shows us, I think, as societies in different places around the world, that the pre-existing collective trauma fractures that are residing in our collective subconscious show up when collective stress factors hit our collective or our society. So then these fragmentations become just more apparent. They were there before too. 

We also want to highlight that it’s not about different opinions about COVID, the virus, the vaccines – and so it’s about the ability or the inability to hold a relational space when we seemingly disagree. And of course, when there is a collective emergency situation and maybe many of us, including our politicians, haven’t encountered something like this before and we are collectively stressed, then it leads to all kinds of dynamics that we are facing. And we also need to honor that obviously we do not have the collective tools. Now, after that big wave of two years of kind of global impact to really work,  the after effects, the deep mistrust, the fragmentation that showed up, the disbelief in authority is the the the kind of mistrust towards our neighbors or other family members and the deep fractures that showed up there. 

I think the missing holding spaces that we, I think desperately need to digest as cultures, also as workplaces, because I think, of course, there were very positive developments, but there were also some painful developments that we need to integrate. We need to integrate and reestablish trust, reestablish relationships, and digest the pain that we experience together. Look at the mistrust that got amplified and really do some deeper collective trauma work to integrate the fractures and the wounds and the fragmentations, the polarization, and the othering that got highlighted. 

I deeply believe that if we do that and if we create the spaces, and not only in a small version, some private activities or initiatives, but on a large scale, we see wow societies need digestion and integration spaces to deal with this kind of big impact. We need a social architecture for collective healing. We cannot continue anymore just look forward. Just look forward. Let’s forget the past. Let’s be innovative. We have seen that that doesn’t work. 

Freud said already a long time ago that trauma has the repetition compulsion to resurface. We have to find ways to do that collectively. It will bless us with the resilience and the innovation capacity to really change some things significantly, upgrade our ethical learning, and move forward in a way that doesn’t bring forth the same old patterns over and over again. But these old patterns and the integration process will increase our perspective on life and will show us how important it is that after such a big impact, we have to have holding spaces in our society that are supported by the governments, which means supported by the states, different states around the world that need that as public health. This is part of public health and it generates more public health, more public resilience, and more unification in our society without eradicating the differences and the different viewpoints, how we look at certain things and different opinions around science, around health, around how we want to deal with certain situations that can be held in relational spaces and be the fuel of our growth process. That’s why I think that that question is very important and every one of us is asked to do the inner work that’s needed, where we feel we’re reaching the edge of being together, staying related, staying attuned. 

Staying attuned doesn’t mean that we either kind of don’t stay true to our values. It doesn’t mean giving in to somebody else’s opinion. It means that we have the strength and the courage to face the tensions and the kind of contradictions that we sometimes face in life. And we have different, well, opposite viewpoints and we are willing to be in that space and that process and see how we can become an emergence within that seeming stagnation. And that’s why collective relational skill building equals collective resilience. And I think if we want to face a climate crisis if we want to be able to deal with hundreds of millions of climate refugees and displacement in the next decades – we do have to upgrade our capacity here. 

Producer Michelle: Thank you, Thomas. That’s an important vision for us to hold. So the next question is from Anita. 

  1. How do you suggest that a person can be attuned to the trauma in the world when they still struggle to remain attuned and grounded in relationships to their own family members?

Thomas Hübl: Yeah, again we need to honor that within our family systems, we see our deepest work that we have to do. And it’s not that once we’re done with dealing with the trauma in our family, then we will be able to deal with the stuff in the world. It’s like a coexisting process. Of course, sometimes we need space and time to heal our own wounds to a certain degree so that we are not constantly overwhelmed and kind of overloaded when we relate to some of the bigger issues that are happening in the world. So we need to find a way to create that basic level of resourcing, a basic level of integration. But that doesn’t mean that we are waiting until it’s fully done, because maybe it’s never going to be fully done. And fully done in itself is already a question mark. What does that mean? But it’s more about the willingness to say, yes, we do have issues in our families. Many people do. And they might change. They might get less, maybe, they might be more fluid and open and dynamic.

 And I’m committed to the fact that every time something shows up, I will look at it myself. And if I cannot find some deeper access to some deeper process of integration, then I bring in peers, friends, and professionals that can help me to make a step there to become an update for myself and also within my family system. But that doesn’t mean that I am not also a grown-up person, I am also a citizen. And they have to also, in parallel, find my way in a society that partly resonates deeply with values that I share, maybe has completely different values. Maybe a society that inflicts a lot of pain through racism, anti-Semitism, neo-colonialism, gender violence, other kinds of violence, or power over structures, we are living in all of it. 

So it also means, again, how can we find resourced ways to be more and to develop our relationship more and more to a 360-degree world? And we are also looking at how we can do that in a more and more regulated way? And how can we create communal resourcing? Like, what’s the individual resourcing? So how do I recharge myself, and reconnect again in myself? What are the individual practices or circumstances I need, including my spiritual inner strength and what is the relational dimension of resourcing? What are the nourishing, deep relationships that I need in order to digest difficulties that I encounter? And what is that communal aspect? What’s the community aspect that helps me to strengthen myself and I support other people to resource themselves? 

We create this systemic field of resourcing so that we have the power to, first of all, find deeper meaningful relationships to 360 degrees of our world. Also, bring our social agency, service, love generosity and clarity, and love or compassion into this world in order to be a transformational force where we feel stagnation and recurrent issues are happening again and again and again. 

So I think if we take all of this in and into account, we have a kind of an integral or holistic practice. And it’s not only once we are done with our families and we go to the collective, once we reach a certain level of resourcing and inner stability or that’s any given to us, then all of that can happen as a dynamic process in parallel. And I think that also every learning we have in one area will kind of fertilize my learning in other areas so that we are not growing in a linear way. We are growing kind of in a circular spiral way and so there’s cross-fertilization happening all the time. 

Producer Michelle: Yeah, that’s a beautiful answer. Thank you. So this next question is from Natasha.

3)Does the ability to attune to another person depend on the ability to feel one’s own sensations and emotions? Many people are quite numb these days. How can one feel another person if they cannot feel themselves? And how do you start to feel yourself?

Thomas Hübl: Yeah, so as Natasha already said, yes. Our nervous system, our body, our emotions, and our access to our inner world is the key to attunement because attunement is based on resonance, which is based on mutual sensing or sensing. And so I need to open like a musical instrument. When the music instrument is not tuned, the music doesn’t sound that good. And because the interference is so, we need to tune our instruments. And it’s a self-awareness process. I get to know my body more through what they describe as a tracing practice or as an internal contemplative practice. I get to know different parts of my body. I develop a deeper body awareness and inner space awareness. Get to know more of my emotions. I become aware of what are the emotions that are more accessible to me, more at home and at ease. And then what are the emotions that I tend to avoid in my life? I avoid shame. That’s why I don’t go under certain circumstances because I don’t feel ashamed. So I notice it and I begin to expand step by step, my inner landscape and I practice also ‘I feel you feeling me.’ When I speak with somebody or I’m part of a group: how can I feel myself, the space in between us, the person or the other people and practice those things. 

So Natasha also said something important in the question. What happens if you’re numb? And I think the first thing is that we notice that numbness is an important protection or a defense mechanism for many of us. Numbness saved us in difficult situations, moments, very painful moments, and overwhelming moments. Numbness was needed in order to feel less of the overwhelm or the pain and to go through different situations in a better way. So my relationship to numbness is also that numbness is not a mistake and saying I cannot feel, but to say, somehow I was able to turn my sensing and feeling of. Because that was better for me in a given situation than to keep it on. So numbness with disconnecting from the data flow and the experience is and was an important function. 

And if it begins to relate to it as a function and not as a dysfunction, then I can develop a connection to the part of my nervous system where that numbing is happening. Usually when we feel numb today, we are touching a place that has been created way earlier in our development. So we begin to create compassion for the end in ourselves. But also when we speak to people and we feel, Oh, the person I am speaking to is emotionally overwhelmed. And that’s why I feel the person touches numbness. So I take your breath. I slow down a bit, maybe ask the question. I feel the person in that moment, even if it’s harder to feel because it’s numb. So it has a transference. So I develop a capacity to include numbness in myself, in others, sometimes also in groups that there’s collective absencing or numbing. 

That awareness process is actually very powerful. Because for many people, numbness is something that we learn to override. We learn to not respect, to try to fill those gaps that sometimes are awkward or strange because we don’t feel anything. Then we started to talk a lot. We try to do something to not have it feel awkward. We behave in certain ways to override the numbness, but actually what our nervous system embodies is that “I’m overwhelmed.”

 Sometimes, when we are overwhelmed, we need to take a breath. We need to ground ourselves. We need to slow down a bit. I need a moment, and I need attention for myself. I need to be aware of myself, and I also need to be attentive and sometimes slow down in the conversation when I feel the person I’m talking to is numb and that creates more resonance capacity. And it’s mindful of the process. It also, if more and more of us do this and it creates a systemic awareness and mindfulness around numbness and more resonance capacity. 

Today’s another point that I think speaks to that is we need to be aware that even if just listening within the time of this podcast episode, the data flow of the world is accelerating. That’s sometimes something we tend to forget. We just feel it kind of from time to time. But actually, through the upgrades in technology all the time and the upgrades of processor powers, phones and mobile networks and quantum computing and whatever we do. The speed of life is getting faster over time. And this speed in the external nervous system worldwide with the speed of data is growing. And that means also all the news feeds that inform us about a lot of dramatic events that are happening around the world are much faster, much more impactful. So I actually need a regulated version of data intake if I’m dysregulated in the way I take data in, I will become more and more numb because I feel more and more overwhelmed by all the things that are happening in the world that I hear about, read about, and the data that comes to me. 

So when we’re living in a world that might inevitably speak more and more to the numbness in us – so we’re becoming more and more numb because we express a certain collective overwhelm. That in itself calls for a deep practice, that in itself calls us to a deeper trauma integration individually, ancestrally, and collectively. Because if we don’t integrate that, the current experiences or the current incidence situations, wars, traumatic events around the world will trigger more and more of the unintegrated aspects in us. And so that needs more anesthesia. It needs more consumerism. It needs more entertainment. It needs more painkillers. It needs more distraction because it’s painful. And often the pain is not felt and that unfelt part needs some kind of distraction to keep itself going. 

That’s why, especially in our time while we are listening to this podcast, the world has become faster. I think the more we remember this means our nervous systems need to constantly upgrade their capacity to compute and stay up to date with the data flow that’s happening in the world and trauma necessarily is equal to un-updateable zone. Trauma area in our systems are an un-updateable zone. It’s frozen in the past. It’s by nature not updating. And so the faster the world becomes, there’s more pressure on these zones in all of us and in our collective systems. And that’s why this is the time when a lot of these things will surface because the data flow will surface and a lot of the unintegratedness that we carry inside. 

And on the one hand, it might seem like it’s harder and on the other hand it’s also a blessing because it shows us what we need to tend to in order to grow as a humanity into a higher and higher version of ourselves that will also enable us to deal with the current issues that we have in our world. 

So thank you, Natasha, for this question, because I think speaking to numbness and speaking to self contact, relationship to self, increasing our resonance capacity, increasing ‘I feel you and I feel how you feel me’  and increasing our capacity to create holding spaces together is I think are few of the remedies of this time.

Producer Michelle: Great. Hopefully this was an opportunity to come into presence and slow down a little bit amidst all of the quickening. And I think this is a great place to end for this episode. We do still have some more questions that we’ll come back to in part two Q&A with Thomas. 

So please stay tuned, we’ll have another live episode next week. If you want to go a little bit deeper into some of the topics that Thomas talked about today and the three think about practice for instance, you can order Thomas’s new book “Attuned” and learn more at attunedbook.com. 

Thank you so much for joining us. Please remember to leave us a reading and review wherever you listen to this podcast. We really appreciate you all tuning in each week. So thank you.