Recent psychoanalytic debates about trauma have followed at least two controversial arguments: one adheres to a rather clinical notion of PTSD, focusing on the individual case of a traumatized person, whereas a more political option stresses the point that trauma is mostly the result of man-made disaster. The article follows this line of argument, exploring theoretical approaches that have connected trauma with its political and social context, focusing on the societal impact of mass trauma. These theoretical implications are then transferred to illustrate the traumatizing situation of postwar Guatemala, showing how the denial of mass trauma leads to chronic social violence and the inability to solve conflicts in nonviolent ways. Finally, the analysis of a case study in Guatemala serves as an example to demonstrate how mass social trauma that lacks acknowledgment invades and contaminates all work relationships within a given social institution.
Keywords: Trauma, Guatemala, violence, symptoms in social institutions, institutional context, case-study.