International Journal of

Communal and Transgenerational Trauma

Journal of
  Common Bond Institute  and
  International Humanistic Psychology Association

Healing Trauma Across Fourteen Generations

Everything we do will affect seven generations is a saying known and understood by many Indigenous people of the world. The understanding of the impact on seven generations includes the ancestors as well as the unborn ones. Therefore, the act of writing these words are already having an impact on at least fourteen generations. This understanding is one of the main ideas that led towards the formulation of theory and practice of historical/trans-generational trauma also known as the soul wound.

Trauma has received much attention for many decades and most of the theoretical and clinical has been accomplished from a Western perspective. Contributions from Western ways of being in the world can and have had effective impacts on those suffering from trauma. At times peoples from different cultures do not do as well with Western approaches and a different strategy is needed in order to ameliorate the many symptoms of trauma. A different strategy that has soul as a root metaphor is required in order to have the treatment strategy be integrated into a new narrative by those suffering from the effects of trauma or soul wounding.

Many Indigenous people in the world maintain belief systems that are consistent with Tribal understanding of the life-world we are part of as well as a parallel life-world (spirit) that works closely to what we call reality. In order to have providers who are working with people suffering from soul wounding it is important to understand how trauma/soul wounding is understood outside of Western medical models. In order to do so a deconstruction of Western view is needed. A new narrative that is consistent with a world-view that has not had an abrupt separation from the world as was done by the Cartesian split in Western philosophy must be developed.

As we all know trauma is when someone is injured physically and psychologically. Physical cure can be done by getting medicine from someone who knows how to diagnose and treat the body although the body starts its own healing process as soon as it is traumatized. Psychological cure is attempted by what was known as the talking cure and presently this is the realm of the counselor or psychotherapist (interesting to note that psychotherapist implies soul healer).  After having worked with these approaches I became aware that there was something missing because many of the people who had been recipients of these cures still suffered from symptoms some, which were serious and debilitating. It was logical to seek what was missing and this I found in the realm of my Indigenous teacher.

Indigenous cosmology teaches that we all are spirit as well as physical and psychological beings. Therefore, when trauma occurs the wounding is at all of these levels. The body and psyche feel and try to understand the impact of the trauma. The spirit of trauma becomes one in which the spirit of the perpetrator is projected into the victim and the victim then carries the energy of the perpetrator (similar notion was theorized by Anna Freud and she termed this identification with the aggressor). What is different in the Indigenous theory is that the projection is more than a psychological identification with the aggressor. In this way of thinking the personality/spirit of the perpetrator literally becomes part of the personality of the victim and is understood as sorcery.

The ego world of the victim who has lost the original teachings regarding this type of intrusion begins to defend itself in ways that create more trauma for him/herself and those around him. The ego in an effort to rid the personality of this intrusion will begin an effort to destroy or kill the intruder. If the ego is one that introjects the object then the person will engage in self-destructive behaviors such as addiction, somatic illnesses and overt suicidal ideation. Ego that projects will engage in behaviors that are destructive to those around it and will commit acts of violence to those who are around him. A common projected behavior is known as domestic violence and the extreme is when the victim has access to making violence to many as in an act of war. The narrative for the projection I describe here in the life-world of many Indigenous peoples is best understood as sorcery.

Presently in the world we see the horrific effects of soul wounding across generations. The sad and incomprehensible suffering of people at the hands of perpetrators within and outside governments leaves many world leaders as well as healers from all disciplines feeling completely inadequate. Solutions are hollow canned political sound-bites that don’t begin to understand the profound soul suffering of the people who are being victimized in the present. Wounding of the soul takes on a deeper meaning when the perpetrators commit their actions in the name of a God that is the same God that the victim believes in. At this point God has taken on the shadow that is projected on Her and leaves both victim and perpetrator in a dark abyss where soul is lost. Once soul is lost suffering of human beings is not known by the perpetrator and the lust for blood creates more lust for suffering in an apparent endless spiral of darkness. This spiral of darkness is seen in the faces of human beings trying to escape the evil dark cloud that surrounds them and can be witnessed every day on nightly news. What is even more frightening is that the very victims whose souls are being wounded may introject the projections of the perpetrators and become perpetrators for the next seven generations.

In this apparently hopeless scenario it becomes imperative that healers from all traditions come together in order to address the immense present suffering, to heal the suffering of past generations and to prevent suffering in future generations.  I believe that this apparently impossible task is actually something that can be accomplished if we integrate cultural root metaphors into the healing/therapy strategy.

If we merely go into the work utilizing only the tools of Western modalities we will be adding to the problem because we will be in a new phase of neo colonialism which factors into the root of the problems that we face. It is well known that much of historical trauma/soul wounding has its genesis in the colonizing of much of the Indigenous life-world for over seven generations. This is not to say that we cannot integrate some of the healing ideas of the talking cure into the modality that will emerge, but the modality must be organic and Indigenous to the people that the modality will be offered as a healing method.

First we must develop a method that is flexible to the narrative of the population who are suffering from trauma. This will require that we access knowledge keepers as well as story-tellers who have knowledge and understanding of the cosmology and mythology of the people. This will require humility and openness from Western trained providers because the methods that we are trained in closely approximate white supremacy ideology and our Western models are steeped in colonial discourse. Healers that will be working with wounded populations will have to be familiar with qualitative methodology that is congruent to the culture in which they will be working towards finding solutions.

Basically I am proposing that the modalities emerge from the people and from their understanding of the soul wound. It was made very clear to me as I begin this work as an intern years ago that what I was bringing from a Western perspective was not acceptable. I was fortunate in that the communities were vocal and informed me that the pathological models that I was bringing into their communities were not useful or acceptable. I was taught through an arduous process of ego humiliation that the symptoms I was focusing on were merely the tip of a much deeper soul wound. If I focused on the symptoms (which all appeared legitimate on the surface) I would be providing symptom relief and the symptoms would return in different form unless the underlying cause of historical trauma and soul wounding was addressed.

It is also crucial that in the healing process that we give attention to healing the land itself. Indigenous teachings tell us that we as humans are the earth itself and wounding of human beings also wounds our mother the earth. Cosmological narratives teach us that everything that makes our bodies and consciousness is earth. If we eat food, drink water and breath air that is traumatized it follows that we will also be assimilating trauma through the very act of trying to stay alive. We can see daily the trauma that is inflicted by people possessed by the spirit of violence on humans and the earth. Every step that refugees take with a wounded soul leaves an imprint of pain on the earth that must be addressed if we are to heal our ancestors and the unborn ones in the present moment.

As this sacred task of healing our relatives from all directions is taken on we must clear our egocentric selves and be open to what the Great Mystery has to teach us. We can continue to do the same methods that we have without much success and keep expecting different results. I recommend that we take the road that the sacred dream will lead us in and in this way we will begin the journey towards a new narrative of collective healing for all of our relatives as well as our mother the earth.



  • Eduardo Duran, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, healer, teacher, storyteller, and Vietnam Veteran who started his academic training after being discharged from the US Navy Born in northern New Mexico, Duran worked in the fields as a migrant farm worker in California and at age 17 enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served for 6 years on board submarines and other vessels during the Vietnam war. During this time he became interested in psychology and began working for the Navy as an engineering psychologist. As he progressed through a master’s degree Duran found that his spirit was no longer compatible working for defense and military systems. Once he was discharged his path took a turn after his last visit with his grandfather, changing career trajectory to become a clinical psychologist and begin the journey into the clinical realm of psychology and healing. Duran was admitted to a doctoral program and early into the course work he was hired to develop a mental health program for a tribal consortium. The initial work on this project let him know that the Western paradigm was falling short of what the Native community required in order to heal from what later became known as historical trauma. He attained his PhD degree and has since worked in Indigenous communities most of his professional life, with much of his clinical and research work concentrated on working with the legacy of historical trauma that is relevant for most people. His groundbreaking work with Native Peoples is informed by traditional teachings from Native elders as he creates a hybrid model in his clinical practice to address the deeper issues resulting from soul wounding, answering a deep call for healing and providing guidance to counselors working with Native Peoples and other vulnerable populations. Duran has served as a professor of psychology in several graduate settings and continues to teach and lecture in community settings all over the world sharing his insights into "soul wounding." He is author of Native American Post Colonial Psychology, Healing the Soul Wound: Counseling with American Indians and Other Native People and Buddha in Redface. -- Email: / Web: