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The collective trauma story : personal meaning and the recollection of traumatic memories in Vancouver's Chilean community Espinoza, Adriana E.

Abstract

The subject of recollection of traumatic collective memories resulting from a single, unexpected event is still a new phenomenon in the trauma-related literature, especially in the context of exiled political refugees. The focus of this research is to explore the nexus between Chilean exiles' personal meanings of Pinochet's unexpected arrest and release in England, and the construction of group memories of traumatic life experiences triggered by these events. To access the individual and collective meaning experiences of the members of this community, this study used narrative inquiry. The participants created individual narratives of these events, and they shared them in a group format. Through sharing these experiences in a group setting, the participants created a "cultural group narrative." This embodied their individual and collective experiences, their lived experiences of exile, their adaptation to a new culture and their re-experiencing of traumatic memories and life events when hearing the news of Pinochet. Because the researcher is also Chilean and because Latin American culture is collective in nature, she played a dual role as both investigator and participant. This study has several implications for counselling practice, education and supervision. It provides further knowledge and understanding of the historical, political and cultural issues related to traumatic experiences in both individuals and groups, as well as further understanding of the events or situations that trigger the re-appearance of traumatic memories. The results of this research also provide important information for therapists working in the areas of cross-cultural counselling and the development and improvement of therapeutic approaches for dealing with traumatic memories among political refugees and immigrant populations. In a broader context, this study enhances the understanding of similar processes in other ethnic communities. Finally, this study contributes to the documentation of the collective trauma processes of the Chilean community in Vancouver, Canada.

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