- Collective trauma processing: dissociation as a way of processing postwar traumatic stress in Guinea Bissau
- Transcultural Psychiatry
- Volume | Issue number
- 50 | 5
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
Guidelines on psychosocial interventions in postconflict areas commonly mention that interventions should be based on local needs and be built on culture-specific expertise. This paper is based on a dissociative cult, the Kiyang-yang (KYY), in Guinea Bissau. In a previous article, we used a refined definition of the concept of idiom of distress to analyze the dissociative behavior displayed in KYY as a symbolic language addressing politically dangerous truths. This paper uses the concept of "collective trauma processing" to analyze how the idiom offered the local population a pathway to mitigate the consequences of protracted and widespread political violence. The paper first argues that the field of psychotraumatology lacks a comprehensive ecological theory on trauma. Moreover, within clinical psychology and psychiatry, little attention is paid to local cultural healing mechanisms addressing traumatic stress. This paper is an effort to study such mechanisms in their own right. To compare trauma processing mechanisms across the globe, we propose to analyze trauma processing mechanisms with the help of a comprehensive model discerning five ontological dimensions that are considered to be involved in suffering and are addressed in healing approaches. Our paper describes similarities and differences between psychological healing traditions and collective trauma processing within the West African context of Guinea Bissau. We will illustrate how the KYY movement uses the idiom of dissociation as both a collective expression of distress and as a vehicle to process social suffering and traumatic stress as a circular phenomenon.
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