Healing

Healing

The most recent posts in this section are at the top of this page. However, I developed this Healing section in order to take people on a journey into the fascinating field relating to the healing of trauma and intergenerational trauma. If you are new to this field, I suggest you start reading my first post, entitled Indigenous Trauma and Healing. You can then access the second post by clicking the link at the bottom of the page.... and so on. I will gradually add more and more posts over time. I hope you enjoy.

Relationships, Connection and Healing from Trauma: Bruce Perry & Maia Szalavitz

For anyone interested in the healing of childhood trauma, I strongly recommend you read, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And other Stories From a Child Psychiatrists Notebook by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz. Here is a description of the book from the back cover:

‘What happens when a child is traumatized? How does terror affect a child’s mind—and how can that mind recover? Child psychiatrist Bruce Perry has treated children faced with unimaginable horror: genocide survivors, witnesses to their own parents’ murders, children raised in closets and cages, the Branch Davidian children, and victims of family violence.

In The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, he tells their stories of trauma and transformation. Dr. Perry clearly explains what happens to the brain when children are exposed to extreme stress. He reveals his innovative methods for helping ease their pain, allowing them to become healthy adults. This deeply informed and moving book dramatically demonstrates that only when we understand the science of the mind can we hope to heal the spirit of even the most wounded child.’

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‘We Shall Remain’: The StyleHorse Collective

‘WE SHALL REMAIN was created to address the effects of historical trauma in our tribal communities. Many times, these untended wounds are at the core of much of the self-inflicted pain experienced in Native America. Much like fire, this pain can either be devastatingly destructive or wisely harnessed to become fuel that helps us to rise up and move forward in life with joy, purpose and dignity.’

I love these words and the film ‘We Shall Remain’ by The StyleHorse Collective. Please check out this powerful piece.

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Learn the Signs and Symptoms of PTSD: Dr. Bessel van der Kolk

Bessel van der Kolk is one of the world’s leading experts on trauma and the healing of trauma. His book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, is a classic in the field, one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read.

Bessel starts this seven-minute film clip by describing how the diagnosis for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was created to remind the Department of Veterans Administration in the USA to take care of war veterans. It was quite clear that a large of number of Vietnam veterans were traumatised by their war-time experiences.

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‘My Family’s Story’ by Wazza Jones

This blog post was submitted by Wazza Jones for The Carrolup Story website I have been running with John Stanton.

‘Here is a film clip from The Healing Foundation that helps us understand why many of our Bibbullmun / Noongar people and our communities are broken.

This is My Dad’s RIP story, my sister’s story, my story and our family’s story.

Yes, life is not easy and everyone is dealing with something, but many of us are also dealing with what happened to our parents, our grandparents, etc… This makes simple things in life that much harder to deal with than what they should be.

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The Impact of Colonialism on a Young Aboriginal Australian

Here is an excellent description of how colonialism impacted upon a young Aboriginal Australian as summarised by Richard Broome in his seminal book Aboriginal Australians: A history since 1788.

‘In Dareton, new South Wales, In 1965, eleven-year-old Malcolm Smith and his brother ‘borrowed’ pushbikes leaning against a bus shelter and went joy-riding. This small act led to the involvement of the police, welfare officers and the court.

Malcolm’s widowed father, who was in seasonal work and thus not always present, was judged as an unfit parent. The boys were taken and placed in a series of homes and foster care placements, where their Aboriginality was undermined, even denigrated.

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Marion’s Film Story, Part 2

I continue the series of films made by Mike Liu and I when we spent a day with Professor Marion Kickett, Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University, in York in September 2103. Marion is a Noongar from the Balardong language group. On this day, I learnt a good deal about Aboriginal culture, the experiences of an Aboriginal person in a white dominated society, and about the healing of trauma.

Marion talked about her strong sense of belonging she feels for her country, the Western Australian town of York and its surroundings, and the strong connection she has for the Native Reserve where she was brought up. She describes the racism she experienced as she grew up, and how she overcame her various adversities and challenges. She talks about the shocking events experienced by Aboriginal people which have impacted on health and wellbeing. Over time, Marion came to realise that she had to forgive non-Aboriginal people for the terrible things they had done in the past. Forgiveness is a key element of healing. You can find the first six films of this series here.

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Marion’s Film Story, Part 1

I first became interested in Aboriginal culture and in Indigenous healing after reading Judy Atkinson’s wonderful book Trauma Trails: Recreating Song Lines – The Transgenerational Effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia. I soon realised that western culture can learn a great deal from Indigenous culture and healing practices. I also learnt the key importance of connecting to culture for the healing of trauma and its consequences (e.g. mental health problems, addiction) amongst Indigenous peoples.

I was lucky enough to spend a good deal of time with Marion Kickett, who at the time was a lecturer at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University in Perth, and through listening to her I learnt some important aspects of Indigenous culture and history. Marion is now a Professor and Director of the same Centre. She is a Noongar from the Balardong language group and spent the early years of her life on a reserve.

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Describing Healing: Professor Helen Milroy

3652715I came across a beautiful description of healing in the Forward of the fascinating book Traditional Healers of Central Australia: Ngangkari. I quote this description here, although I have altered the paragraphs

“Healing is part of life and continues through death and into life again. It occurs throughout a person’s life journey as well as across generations. It can be experienced in many forms such as mending a wound or recovery from illness.

Mostly, however, it is about renewal. Leaving behind those things that have wounded us and caused us pain. Moving forward in our journey with hope for the future, with renewed energy, strength and enthusiasm for life.

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What is Healing to Me?: Australian Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation

9157171_origHere are quotes from six different people participating in a national consultation process:

‘Initially, I think healing is about recognition. Recognition, both internally and externally, of self, of others and as a collective that there are ‘issues’. That there is pain. That there is anger and hurt and sadness that stems from past events. And that this anger, hurt and sadness is handed down, like an unwanted legacy, though the generations of our people. Once there is that recognition, collective recognition, of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and of all Australians, then begins the process of healing. Healing is a change. A change of attitude, a change of behaviours that have become entrenched.’

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What is Healing to Me?: Aboriginal Healing Foundation in Canada

Unknown-5Here is a summary of the findings from interviews of clients and staff of five healing programmes in Canada:

“… healing is an active, not passive, process: it is something you do, not something you think or that is done to you. In this sense, healing is work, it is ongoing and requires dedication. First and foremost, it requires commitment from the individual. No one can heal you or make you heal. Personal agency is stressed above all else.

The dominant metaphor in our research describes healing as a journey… The journey has a clear direction toward healing, yet it is a journey fraught with challenges. Falling off the path of healing is common, even expected by treatment staff. There is no shame to temporary setbacks, nor are these seen as failures; rather, the individual is welcomed back to continue on his or her journey when he or she feels ready…

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On the Nature of Healing: Judy Atkinson

As some of you know, I was inspired to work in the healing trauma field in large part by Judy Atkinson’s wonderful book Trauma Trails: Recreating Song Lines – The Transgenerational Effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia. Here is a short bio of Judy, taken from the We Al-li website:

‘Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson is a Jiman (central west Queensland) and Bundjalung (northern New South Wales) woman, with Anglo-Celtic and German heritage.

Her academic contributions to the understanding of trauma related issues stemming from the violence of colonisation and the healing/recovery of Indigenous peoples from such trauma has won her the Carrick Neville Bonner Award in 2006 for her curriculum development and innovative teaching practice. In 2011 she was awarded the Fritz Redlick Memorial Award for Human Rights and Mental Health from the Harvard University program for refugee trauma.

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Judith Herman: Trauma and Recovery

511+Nl1uNdL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_1. Principles of recovery (healing)
‘The core experiences of psychological trauma are disempowerment and disconnection from others. Recovery, therefore, is based upon the empowerment of the survivor and the creation of new connections.

Recovery can take place only within the context of relationships; it cannot occur in isolation. In her renewed connection with other people, the survivor re-creates the psychological facilities that were damaged or deformed by the traumatic experience. These faculties include the basic operations of trust, autonomy, initiative, competence, identity, and intimacy.

Just as these capabilities are formed in relationships with other people, they must be reformed in such relationships.

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Gabor Maté: Our Strange Indifference to Aboriginal Addiction

Unknown-8“Addicts are made, not born, and the most common precursors are early childhood privation, neglect and abuse. For several generations, Canada’s native children have been far more likely to suffer grinding penury, abuse and childhood substance addictions than non-natives.” Gabor Maté

Marlene, a 46-year old native woman, sat in my office last week, slumped on her chair, blinking away her tears. I’d just shared the news that her most recent blood test confirmed she had “seroconverted” to HIV, become infected with the AIDS virus.

Although an injection drug user, Marlene had always been careful to use clean needles. Her route of infection was sexual contact – with the resigned naiveté characteristic of so many aboriginal women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, she had trusted a man, himself a drug addict, who assured her that he was a safe partner.

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Addiction and Psychological Pain

During the many years I spent working in the addiction and mental health field, first as a neuroscientist and later helping empower people to facilitate their recovery (healing), I rarely heard the word ‘trauma’ being used.

Few practitioners I met mentioned that the person with the substance use problem might be self-medicating to ameliorate psychological pain. And yet in society, there were plenty of people visiting their doctor and obtaining a prescription of benzodiazepines such as librium, which are highly addictive substances, or antidepressants, which also produce problems, to help them deal with unpleasant psychological states of anxiety or depression.

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Youth Suicide & Self-harm: Indigenous Voices, Part 2

“Culture has become life-giving medicine for our people, closing the wounds of the past and standing us strong to face the future.

Our Elders have been fundamental in this process. They are our wisdom keepers. They have seen the changes, so dramatically incurred in their lifetime. They are the vital bridge between the modern world and Aboriginal culture. They are the leaders of our communities, to whom we continue to rely on for guidance and counseling.

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Youth Suicide & Self-harm: Indigenous Voices, Part 1

This ‘Culture is Life’ Campaign video highlights the problem of youth suicide amongst Indigenous people of Australia. Youth suicide is a problem amongst Indigenous peoples of other colonised nations.

Below, are some quotes from The Elders Report into Preventing Self-harm & Youth Suicide. This is a seminal report that brings together the voices of Elders and community leaders from across affected communities that wished to speak publicly about the causes and solutions needed to address this issue. These quotes reflect what the Elders see happening on the ground:

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Severe Dysfunction in Some Levels of Government

If we are to help Indigenous people improve their health and well-being, then we must understand the nature of the problems. Sadly, parts of government do not have that understanding, as illustrated by Professor Judy Atkinson. [View from 9’20” until 17’39”]

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Society is Failing to Tackle Historical Trauma

images-2‘The bureaucratic interventions of the state – the processes of law, social welfare, and health care – have not addressed the core issue of human traumatisation. These issues, in many cases, compounded the trauma by creating and increasing dependency on the state, which, while intensifying the feelings of victimisation, also enforces the beliefs of being powerless to change destructive circumstances.’ Judy Atkinson

If we are to help Indigenous people improve their health and wellbeing, we have to tackle core underlying problems such as transgenerational trauma. However, our health care systems do not address transgenerational trauma—they just manage its symptoms, e.g. by prescribing medications to ‘treat’ emotional distress.

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Shocking History Impacts on the Health and Wellbeing of Indigenous Peoples

Professor Marion Kickett relates how she and the other Noongar children in York, Western Australia, were not allowed to swim in a particular area of the river. When she was fifteen, her father described how he and his friends were similarly told by their parents not to swim in that location. He also related the shocking story of The Sandy.

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Don Coyhis: What the Boarding Schools Did to Our Community

Don Coyhis, Founder of the Wellbriety Movement in America, describes Native Indian culture and communities before the issues that arose from intergenerational trauma. This trauma arose partly through the government-led introduction of boarding schools across America to to which Indian children were sent. [16’02”]

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