Sharing Culture: Healing Historical Trauma

Yesterday, I began promoting a new website that I have launched with two colleagues, Professor Marion Kickett and Perth filmmmaker Michael Liu. Here is what we have said on the home page of the website:

‘What is Sharing Culture?
Sharing Culture is a unique initiative to empower Aboriginal people to heal and develop resilience to historical trauma and its consequences. These consequences include poor physical health, mental health problems, drug and alcohol addiction, violence, abuse  and suicide.  

Sharing Culture is based on the core values of authenticity, connection, courage, creativity, empathy and forgiveness.

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‘Surrendering to Heal’ by Ellie Schoenberger

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Last week I had two blogs on Ellie Schoenberger, one an interview and the other focused on Ellie’s work. Couldn’t resist including one of Ellie’s blogs, this one from WomenHeal.

‘I am currently in recovery from two chronic, life altering diseases that if left untreated are always fatal.

Always.

The first one is alcoholism. In 2007, after years suffering in silence and struggling in vain to get sober on my own, I gave up. I stopped kicking and screaming and trying to do things my way and went to rehab. For thirty days. I had been to rehab before. Twice, in fact. The difference with my last rehab was that I surrendered. I got out of my own way and let people who had walked the path before me carry me when I didn’t feel like carrying myself.

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‘Setting the Intention to Heal: The Starting Point of Mental Health Recovery’ by Douglas Bloch

dblochSome very helpful reflections from Douglas Bloch, who blogs on Mad in America.

‘“The readiness is all.” William Shakespeare

In my work facilitating depression support groups, I have discovered three essential factors to healing from depression, which I call ”the three pillars of mental health recovery.”  In my earlier blogs for Mad in America I wrote about two of these pillars – connecting with community and using a holistic approach to treat symptoms. Now I would like to present the first and MOST IMPORTANT pillar – Setting the Intention to Heal.

I define setting the intention to heal as “making the decision that you want to get well, even if you don’t know how.”  Setting the intention to heal does not require that a person know the exact path that will heal him from a major depression or other mental health disorder. It just requires that he or she wants be well.

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‘We Are Meant to Heal in a Community’ by Douglas Bloch

dbloch“Anything that promotes a sense of isolation often leads to illness and suffering, while that which promotes a sense of  love and intimacy, connection and community, is healing.” Dean Ornish

‘In my last blog, I talked about how I was attempting to cope with a “mini-relapse” without using psychiatric drugs. One Sunday morning in the midst of this episode I awoke in a particularly dismal state. I didn’t have a structure planned for the day. And without something to look forward to, both my anxiety and depression increased.

As I lay in bed, trying to convince myself to get up, the phone rang. It was a cycling friend, Sandy, calling to see if I wanted to go on a bicycle ride.

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‘My Story of Recovery: Prayer, Community, and Healing’ by Douglas Bloch

dbloch‘In his book, Prayer is Good Medicine, physician and researcher Larry Dossey maintains that praying for one’s self or others can make a scientifically measurable difference in recovering from illness or trauma. It is one thing to understand such a healing intellectually; it is another to know it from experience.

Such an experience came to me in the fall of 1996 when a painful divorce, a bad case of writer’s block, and an adverse reaction to an antidepressant medication plummeted me into a major depressive episode. For the next ten months, I was assailed by out-of-control anxiety attacks which alternated with dark, suicidal depressions. Each day felt like an eternity as I struggled to stay alive in the face of overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and despair.

My depression was called “treatment resistant” (a condition that applies to 10 – 20% of those who suffer from a depressive disorder) and for good reason. Medication, the mainstay of conventional treatment, simply did not work. Drugs, such as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft, made me agitated; others such as Lithium made me even more depressed; and the rest did nothing at all.

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A Journey Toward Recovery: From the Inside Out

IMG_2364-220x165Today, I thought I’d repost a blog from our early days. It is from an extraordinary article by Dale Walsh written back in 1996 which really summed up what recovery and recovery principles mean to a person who has been suffering from mental health problems.

At the the time, the original article had been ‘lost’, due to the original website  being redeveloped. However, I  have found it now! Enjoy!

The Problem
“For many years I believed in a traditional medical model. I had a disease. I was sick. I was told I was mentally ill, that I should learn to cope with my anxiety, my depression, my pain, and my panic. I never told anyone about the voices, but they were there, too. I was told I should change my expectations of myself and realize I would always have to live a very restricted life.

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Reflections on Healing: A Canadian Aboriginal Perspective

UnknownI’ve been reading a fascinating article from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation in Canada entitled Aboriginal Healing in Canada: Studies in Therapeutic Practice and Meaning. What of course is said in this article is relevant to recovery in the western world. Here are some interesting thoughts about healing:

‘The first thing that emerges from our work is that healing is a concept that is difficult to articulate, in part, because most [people participating in the research – DC] seem to feel that there is no need to articulate it and/or simply have never been asked to.

There is no dominant treatment paradigm at work here. Healing proved to be variable in meaning, often vague and fuzzy, and very idiosyncratic.

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‘The healing journey revealed (trauma and transformation)’ by Monica Cassini

rsz_51rm8b-t6hl_sy344_pjlook-inside-v2topright10_sh20_bo1204203200_I want to introduce to a wonderful blog, Beyond Meds, by Monica Cassini and a highly recommended book which I am just due to start reading. Here, Monica talks about Peter Levine’s book ‘Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma’:

‘I finally have the book Waking the Tiger, in my keep. It’s been on my list to read for a long time. I’ve read other works by Peter Levine and have posted about some of it on this blog, but I’ve not read this classic by him yet. I posted about his new book on Friday.

Quite wonderfully and like a good omen, when Waking the Tiger arrived in the mail a few days ago, I flipped the book open and landed on a page with no thought whatsoever. I read from the first place my eyes fell. It made me cry tears of relief as some of what he speaks of is already happening (see below), the rest of the healing I await, knowing in my heart that this is how it works and that, yes, there will be a gift in all of this pain I’ve been experiencing. The deep validation I got from reading his words was much appreciated. Like a signpost along the dark  and unclear jungle path.

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Sharing Culture: Transcending Historical Trauma

Sharing Culture is a new initiative I am developing with Dr. Marion Kickett, a Noongar Aboriginal leader and Associate Professor at Curtin University, and Perth filmmaker Michael Liu

Sharing Culture is a unique initiative to empower Aboriginal people to heal and develop resilience to historical trauma and its consequences. These consequences include poor physical health, mental health problems, drug and alcohol addiction, violence, abuse and suicide.  

Sharing Culture is based on the core values of authenticity, connection, courage, creativity, empathy and forgiveness.

Read More ➔

‘Intergenerational Trauma & Healing, Parts 1-3’ by Joe Solanto

Yesterday, I posted a blog from Gabor Maté entitled Our Strange Indifference To Aboriginal Addiction. I highlighted the following about society’s – it’s not just Canada – response to the problems of addiction amongst Aboriginal people.

‘We seem to comfort ourselves with the belief that the endemic drug addiction and alcoholism are unfortunate realities for which we, as a society, bear no responsibility. From both scientific and historical perspectives, such a view is distorted and self-serving.’ Gabor Maté

I’ve heard many non-Aboriginal Australian people say in relation to Aboriginal people: “Why don’t they just get over it?” (Yeh, like non-Aboriginal people just get over diabetes, cancer or rape)

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On Healing: Mary

rsz_jimn_jim_falls‘You know, I don’t think most Murri people have idea about healing. A lot of people I know think healing is just going to the doctor and getting fixed up – getting some pills or something like that. Faith healers – religion – stuff like that.

Saddest thing is they don’t even realise that they’ve got all the coping mechanisms, and they’ve been healing themselves all these years. If it was pointed out to them, things would really start to happen. They would build on it, because they know things are wrong, but they just don’t know what to do about it.

What I’ve learnt is, healing is facing up to the fact that you’ve got choices, and there is no need to live your life in this pain. You can always get out of it.

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On Healing: Jackie

rsz_1outback-sunset-880‘Healing is a really confusing word. When I first thought of it I thought I would go along and all this pain was going to be healed and at the finish I would just walk away and I would be healed, but now I know healing means learning.

Learning about yourself – learning about looking at things in a different way. Understanding how those things came to be.

Owning your own things, but not taking on board other people’s things. Being responsible for what you are responsible for, but not for other people’s responsibilities.

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On Healing: Lorna

rsz_aa10‘The word healing – it means to me [that] I need to look at all my pain. Feel the pain and release it. Work with it, talk about it, and let it go, rather than hold on to it, locking it up inside myself.

I need a safe place where I can talk about my pain, all the pain that I have had in my life, my drinking in my marriage, my childhood, to to be able to sit and feel free enough to talk about it to get it out of me. I had it in me for so long, too long.

I believe that’s when the healing takes place, when I can feel well enough in myself to talk honestly about how I feel, what happened to me, what it was like for me. It is action healing. That it what I found for myself. It is action.

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‘A healed and healthy country: understanding healing for Indigenous Australians’ by Tamara Mackean

2007_0116walpole0025Yesterday, I blogged about a description of healing by Professor Helen Milroy, an Aboriginal Child Psychiatrist and Australia’s first Aboriginal doctor. This wonderful description of healing was also included in the article below which appeared in the Medical Journal of Australia, but here I focus on the rest of the article.

Of course, much of what is said here is relevant to recovery, because recovery is healing. I have highlighted some sentences that I think are particularly relevant to people working in the recovery field worldwide, whatever their cultural background.

‘The Apology by the Prime Minister to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia in February 2008 was the first step in a significant healing journey.

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‘The Nature of Healing’ by Professor Helen Milroy

Unknown-1I have recently started collaborating with an Aboriginal lady here in Perth, Dr Marion Kickett, who is an Associate Professor at Curtin University. We’re very excited about the project we are developing, along with my close friend and filmmaker Mike Liu.

I have been fascinated reading about aboriginal history, culture, health, historical trauma – more of which I will talk about in later blogs – and many other things. During this time, I have become very interested in the concept of Aboriginal healing.

Yesterday, I was chatting with good friend Christina Burki about healing and she loaned me a fascinating book Traditional Healers of Central Australia: Ngangkari. In the Foreword, I found this delightful description of healing (I have altered the paragraphs):

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Strategies to Face Adversity: Letting Go, Forgiveness and Healing

Every participant spoke of the healing process and how before such a process can begin, they had to let go of negative emotions such as anger and hatred.

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An educaring approach to healing generational trauma in Aboriginal Australia

Shouting recovery from the rooftopsI was away this weekend in the country at an aboriginal healing retreat, which was an amazing experience. I felt peace in a way that I have not experienced in a very long time. I will blog about this later in the week.

Prior to going on the retreat, I started to look for content on historical trauma, something that I have been thinking more about recently. I have become increasingly aware of the inter-generational trauma which has been experienced by Aboriginal Australian peoples (and indigenous populations of other countries)  and which has resulted in social dysfunction, violence, addiction and mental health problems.

It seems to me that far too few people in Australia are aware of the role of inter-generational trauma in producing the above problems.

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‘Addiction: Problems behind the problem’ by Recovery Coach

P1010092I was pretending to be Superman when my mother’s frantic cries for help brought a sudden halt to my game. I ran towards the kitchen faster than a speeding bullet. But a Superman t-shirt with a bath towel tucked into the collar didn’t give me superhuman strength.

Peering just below the vinyl seat of our yellow kitchen chairs, my eyes widened as Dad pinned my mother to the cold linoleum floor. He was a large man, standing 6’1″, and Mum was 4’6″. The image seemed surreal, like a horror movie, and I stood frozen in fear.

There was an odor of carnage as Dad hovered over her. Maybe it was the mixture of sweat and testosterone rising from his green work shirt. Pure, unfiltered terror flooded my body and my heart beat so fast it seemed to smash against my ribs.

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‘Hope and Full Recovery From Addiction’ by Kendra Sebelius

IMG_1870Hope is a key element of recovery. You need hope at the beginning of your recovery journey and at various other stages along the way, particularly when you are struggling and/or facing obstacles. Other recovering people provide hope by showing that recovery is possible via a multitude of different pathways.   

Here’s a blog from Kendra Sebelius I spotted the other day on the HealthyPlaces website. It focuses on hope and provides some hints to facilitate your recovery.

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CCAR films

Three films from Connecticut Community of Addiction Recovery (CCAR) on the healing power of recovery, making recovery visible and recovery walks. [3 clips]

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