Sunday, April 27, 2008

Healing old wounds

At Choices, 80 to 90 people gather in a room and talk about their journey. They learn tools to apply as medicine to old wounds, tools to replace old habits with positive steps. And through it all, they engage in healing.

“When people engage in genuine healing,” Sousan Abadian, A.M. ’87, M.P.A. ’88, Ph.D. ’99 says, “they become more accountable, and in touch with reality. Healing generates compassion and tenderness. To heal collective trauma, you must heal the individual; healthy individuals give birth to healthy institutions and cultures. It’s circular, of course, and ideally you intervene at both macro and micro levels at once.”

Abadian has studied collective trauma and its effects on societies, particularly in North American Indian tribes. According to Abadian, "The most extreme types of collective trauma are sociocultural: it’s not just an aggregation of individual traumas, but disruption of the fundamental institutions of society, and of its ‘immune system’ that can restore people and repair a culture."

At Choices every month, there are always several trainees from various Native nations. My roommate, when I went through Choices as a trainee, was Cree. I've stayed in touch with her since we first met 2 years ago, and in the process, learned much about the impact we, 'the white man', has had on her people. It has never ceased to amaze and sadden me to learn of the prevalence of suicide and violent death on the reserve.

There was a time when I believed that native Indians simply had to make a 'choice' to let go of the past and pick up the reins of self-acctualization to become 'successful'.

In retrospect, I am amazed at how naive I was.

In Trails of Tears, and Hope. "Collective trauma" takes a ferocious toll on human societies—yet there are pathways to healing., Harvard Magazine, Craig A. Lambert ’69, Ph.D. ’78, deputy editor, Abadian is quoted as saying, “The social and economic conditions we are seeing—the violence, suicide, addictions, endemic poverty, alcoholism—are to a large extent the symptoms of trauma. If you attack symptoms separately without attending to the underlying condition, other symptoms will show up. Right now, in many parts of the world, people are doing bits and pieces of what needs to be done to address poverty and violence. But because they come from particular specialties, few take an integrated approach, and almost no one also recognizes the incidence and the effects of trauma. Monetary assistance, housing, better schools, reforming political and legal institutions, are all essential for improving native people’s lives. But all these efforts will fall short if you aren’t also channeling resources into addressing trauma.”

It is what I find so powerful about Choices. It starts with healing old wounds and trauma so that the future can be viewed through the possibilities of peace today; a peace that is the birthright of every human being.

At Choices, I have found peace with the past, and a belief in my power to live today without fear of what tomorrow will bring. Today, I know I am a woman worthy of love. I am a woman capable of loving fearlessly, living joyfully and dancing like nobody's watching.

The question is: What do you believe?

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