Chosen Traumas and Chosen Glories

A chosen trauma is the shared mental representation of an event in a large group’s history in which the group suffered a catastrophic loss, humiliation, and helplessness at the hands of enemies. When members of a victim group are unable to mourn such losses and reverse their humiliation and helplessness, they pass on to their offspring the images of their injured selves and psychological tasks that need to be completed… The shared importance of such events, whether recent or ancient, real or mythologized, helps to bind the individuals in a large group together. In stressful situations or times of war, leaders reactivate the mental representation of chosen glories and heroes associated with them in order to bolster large-group identity.

-Vamik Volkan


Introduction by Sydney Allard

Chosen Glories and Traumas are historical events that hold special significance to the groups that they affected. The transgenerational transmission of trauma occurs when one generation is never fully able to mourn or some to terms with the event. Ultimately, an idea of the historical event becomes part of the shared memory of the group. The same is true of Chosen Glories, however glories are often used to boost the self-esteem of a group and harness energy and enthusiasm.



Building Community Out of Trauma

In his personal essay, Lee Shapiro elucidates the powerful bonding abilities of shared traumas. His ancestors’ tragic past has driven him to make Judaism a central part of his life.

The Man on the Moon

In the following essay, Khandker Shabnan Habib explores both the positive and negative effects of Neil Armstrong’s trip to the moon. Though Armstrong’s accomplishment led to technological advancements, it also fed into the competitive American mindset that can make Shabnan feel like he pales in comparison to those around him.

Inherited Legacies and Expectations

In her essay Sajan Mehrotra dives into the complexities of her immigrant story. Though she and her parents feel great pride about her education and background, she also feels obligated to live up to the very high expectations her family have for her.


Julia Isakov explains the disconnect that she and her family felt between the nation they were told they lived in and the country to which they felt they belonged. Her family’s feelings toward Russia have been passed down through the generations, and Julia sees them manifest in herself today.

The Armenian Genocide

Isabel Jordan recounts her trip to Turkey with her father, where she began to feel the weight of the Armenian Genocide on her shoulders even though she wasn’t alive to experience it first hand.

Dad, Were We Nazis?

Clara Kraebber details her journey to come to terms with her family’s past. She grapples with whether they were on the right side of history, and whether it’s fair to call anything “right” at all.

The Holocaust

In his poem, Tammuz Frankel artistically portrays the way that his family’s history during the Holocaust manifests for him today.

A Wedge Between Us

Catherine Valdez recounts her family’s immigration to the US and the colorism that still plagues her grandfather as a result of when he grew up.