Every people, nation and state defines its identity and gives meaning to its existence based on a set of chosen traumas and chosen glories. These chosen traumas and chosen glories shape the role of a people’s mental representation of historical events and narratives. While every individual’s identity is intimately linked with the larger collective identity; to fully understand ones profound sense of belonging it is essential to recognize how perceptions and interpretations of historical experiences become the crucial link between the individual and the collective identity.
In this sense the question of chosen trauma and chosen glories are defined as concrete markers in recognizing the psychological make-up of a people. Aspects of chosen traumas and chosen glories are ritualistic and expressed most commonly through symbols and events, which are passed on from one generation to another. Examples of these are manifested through events such as the Independence Day, Victory Day, Memorial Day and are personified in stories, art, music and other forms of expression. The elements of mourning, humiliation, victimization, glory and victory are at the center of these expressions and are crucial in influencing national and foreign policies.
An illustration in case of chosen trauma is the Jewish experience of the holocaust. Till this day, the holocaust remains a key experience that shapes the Jewish psyche and the manner in which it influences policies at the national and international level, and can be perceived in the way the state of Israel conducts its affairs. Consequently, there are also instances where the chosen glory of one may be the chosen trauma of the other. The creation of the state of Israel was the chosen glory of the Jews, while it became the chosen trauma for Palestinians. They no doubt complicate matters and affect the manner in which these two entities relate with one another.
The psychoanalytical aspect of chosen traumas and chosen glories has unfortunately been undermined in international politics. Failure to adequately address them is catastrophic in consequence. In situations where past experiences are reactivated, time collapses and experiences that may have occurred many generations ago are interpreted as if it were happening in the present. They lay dormant at the sub-conscious level and when confronted with situations that threaten their identity, choices are made on the basis of these historical experiences. This was evidently featured in conflicts that eventually resulted in the break down of former Yugoslavia.
Chosen traumas and chosen glories have implications on the dynamics of political negotiations and peace-building. Considering that in situations of protracted conflict there are various versions of the ‘historical truth,’ caution must be taken to ensure that peace processes take into account the psychological analysis of all parties involved. Any lack of insensitivity has the potential of creating an acute sense of insecurity, which may trigger a sub-conscious response based on past experiences of trauma.
As Nagas go through testing times, it is essential that the question of chosen traumas and chosen glories are identified, acknowledged and addressed, so that the positive experiences are nurtured and passed on to the next generation. Similarly it is necessary that the negative experiences are addressed in a constructive manner; if not it gets passed on to the next generation which may prove detrimental since they lack a reference point on which to resolve it constructively. Nagas should not make the mistake of undermining chosen traumas and chosen glories, because such a mistake may prove costly, as experienced in other parts of the world.