Richard Mollica – On Trauma, Healing, and the Sacredness of Life

I often reflect on the woundedness of the world.  It has been the blessing of my adult life to come into contact with my own woundedness and thereby create space for healing and wholeness.  By that same token, I have become more receptive to the suffering around me.  Trauma is often spoken of on a grand scale, in the context of things like PTSD or domestic violence, but it exists in small ways around us and within us all the time.

Years ago, when I first encountered The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, I took issue with the first truth that suffering is a fact of life.  I found the assertion dark and pessimistic.  Now I understand it to be full of hope and freedom.  There is a subtlety to the human experience that is fraught with the discomfort of being.  It is by coming into contact with that discomfort and being with it, that the experience of life emerges in its fullness.  In the dim reaches of that space I have found empathy, compassion and much deeper acceptance for myself and others.

My guest today is Dr. Richard Mollica, a pioneer in the field of trauma and healing.  Richard speaks of empathy as a naturally occurring and collective phenomenon inherent in the neurobiology of the human organism:  “When you go down into the deepest, biological sub straight of the mirror neurons, you find your universal relationship with your ancestors, with living organisms, with plants and animals.  You’ve entered into a new zone of spirituality, a kind of new spirituality that comes out of healing.”

Dr. Mollica is the Director of the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma (HPRT) of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and a faculty member in the Counseling Psychology and Global Mental Health program at William James College.  In 1981, Dr. Mollica co-founded the Indochinese Psychiatry Clinic (IPC). Over the past two decades HPRT and IPC have pioneered the mental health care of survivors of mass violence and torture. HPRT/IPC’s clinical model has been replicated throughout the world.  He and his team have cared for over 10,000 survivors of extreme violence worldwide. Through his research, clinical work and trainings he is recognized as a leader in the treatment and rehabilitation of traumatized people and their communities. 

I met Richard through our work with the Global Mental Health Certificate Program (Sutra runs the online component).  Each year they bring together professionals working in the field of trauma and recovery worldwide to learn and share best practices.  He has received numerous awards for his work and has published two books, Healing Invisible Wounds: Paths to Hope and Recovery in a Violent World and A Manifesto: Healing a Violent World.

Richard is one of a kind and our conversation is wide ranging.  Please enjoy.

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