The Sunday Leader

Sri Lanka’s Individual And Collective Trauma

Over the next few days as citizens worry over what will happen after the election, there is a danger that addressing the traumatic fallout of the war that has already affected individuals and communities throughout the island might be forgotten or set aside because of newly emerging stresses.

Among people who will be watching are the hundreds of thousands who live at great distance from Lanka’s shores, anxiously hoping for an outcome that will usher in a period of safety and security in the land that bore them.

Natural as it is for people to look to their leaders for comfort in times of uncertainty or anticipated crisis, it is important and necessary to understand that leaders are themselves under inhuman stress and why this could compromise their capacity to infuse calm into nervous communities. Indeed, just as children suffer the transmitted anxieties and fears of their parents, when political and military leaders become overburdened their tensions could trickle down to the community of ordinary citizens.

This calls for ordinary citizens to exercise extraordinary patience and fortitude, summoning all the strengths that lie latent within them, while remembering that anxiety, fear, rumour, rage and revenge are highly infections emotions that could ultimately hurt everyone. Nobody is bullet proof.

It might be a timely and humbling moment for everybody to think about why their heritage has positioned them either as perpetrators or victims of trauma or more likely as bystanders, condoning, tolerating or conveniently finding distraction from the deep traumas visited upon their own people, by their own people, in their own country, in a self protection mode.
— David Ratnavale MD Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

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