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Finding Light out of the Darkness of Trauma through Community


Melanie Craig (23) Photo-1

The American Psychological Association defines trauma simply as “an emotional response to a terrible event.” Broken down further, trauma can be acute (from a single horrific event that threatens one’s life or safety), chronic (ongoing or repeated trauma as from abuse or poverty), or complex (multiple, chronic, and prolonged exposures to trauma as experienced by people in war zones, those in abusive relationships, children who suffer from neglect and/or abuse).

The emotional and physical effects of trauma can be severe and debilitating. I should know. I have been dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since I was 13 and have long been searching for ways to alleviate the symptoms of PTSD and other trauma-related disorders. I was not making much headway until I came to United, and started researching spiritual and community healing options, and a vast array of trauma treatment resources I never knew existed before.

Therapy Options

The traditional therapy that I experienced focuses on cognitive behavioral therapy and biochemical interventions. In these scenarios, the patient is mostly passive, and interactions are one-to-one. During my time at United during the COVID pandemic, I learned about the value of community as a means of healing and support.

United places a strong emphasis on exploring and cultivating individual potential. This emphasis allowed me to construct my thesis by interweaving my Baha’i background and the mostly Christian resources on healing from trauma. I also integrated scientific PTSD research into my paper.

Interestingly, both the new scientific sources and religious sources reach the same conclusion: we heal better in community. Active listening and bonding in groups allows individuals to reestablish a sense of safety that is difficult for professionals to achieve one-on-one. These bonds also help to raise oxytocin levels (the snuggle hormone), which is typically low in those who suffer from PTSD. Even better, working in groups challenges us to expand our identity and our love for others.

The Spiritual Approach

Throughout my thesis research, I found that even though Christian and Baha’i theologians approach trauma through varied means, an examination of their distinct and similar insights yields promising methods for overcoming our culture of separation and building communities of resilience. Postmodern Christian theologians, for example, emphasize the potential for destruction post-trauma, the need for political reform, and the value of lived experience. Baha’i theologians, by contrast, emphasize the potential for spiritual growth post-trauma, the need for constructive resilience, and the value of spiritual transformation.

I propose that by integrating the discernments from both Christianity and the Baha’i faith, we can develop a more balanced and effective approach to trauma. It may be that individuals could fully process their emotions in community first, and then move forward together to find solutions. In that way, we would not become consumed by our trauma, nor ignore its wounds. Similarly, the practice of employing constructive resilience in tandem with political protests, when necessary, may provide the most efficacious path to humanizing our world.

As individuals, many Baha’i and Christian theologians have incredible wisdom about spiritual healing methods. The greatest knowledge, however, comes from weaving together the individuals’ wisdom.

I am so grateful for the support that United has given me so I could explore a variety of voices, from theologians to scientists, in my writing projects. I believe that, together, we can resist the darkness of trauma, but only if we listen to and learn from each other. As unique individuals, we all see the world in our own ways. Only by bringing our insights together can our understanding of trauma and healing grow.


Melanie Craig

Melanie Craig (’23) graduated from United with a dual degree in Baha'i Studies and Religion and Theology.

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