Post-election reflections: We can no longer afford to ignore our unresolved psychical wounds
By Nomfundo Mogapi
The recent outburst of pre-election violence, the way the campaigns were conducted by various political parties and the intense confrontations over councillor positions calls for us as a society to pause and engage in serious reflection. These are an indication of a society whose psyche is unsettled, a society with deepening faultlines, which threaten the peace that so many fought so hard for. One of these faultlines is the unresolved psychosocial issues, trauma and psychic woundedness that has infested all spheres of our society and continues to shape its psychosocial architecture. There is an urgent need to devise strategies for redesigning this architecture.
In order to do this, we need to unpack what the psychosocial architecture of South Africa looks like. On the one hand, a sector of our society developed strong and at times inflexible defenses in order to ignore or justify their participation in the violations experienced by millions of South Africans during colonial oppression and apartheid. Some were spectators who defended and/or pretended not to see the violations happening at their back door. Psychosocial survival strategies for this sector of society were, amongst others, continuing to shut their ears and eyes to the realities faced by the disenfranchised and oppressed in society. This involved denial and amnesia, the see no evil and hear no evil by those in positions of privilege. This has continued to shape the psyche of those in position of privilege (historically and in the present) in post-apartheid South Africa.
Psychosocial wellness is no longer a luxury but a necessity for all of us, especially for those in leadership. We have to begin to invest in dealing with the unbearable, uncomfortable and difficult emotions associated with our historical and present traumas. As a society we need to learn how to create a relational home, a container for our psychic pain, which keeps on rearing its ugly head through events such as the violence we have seen before and after the local government elections. We need to move from leaders who are trauma carriers to those who are peace carriers.
Source: column that was published in The New Age on the 30th of August 2016
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