Archive for November, 2011

16
Nov

When you have suffered a major setback, experienced betrayal or loss, what have you found brought you some relief? Did the ear of a friend help? Someone listening, not trying to solve your problem, but showing in their eyes that they care. They hear, and they care.

Telling our stories helps us to heal. It releases some of the energy the experience created and begins to externalize the experience. In telling it, in giving the story to another, it is not ours alone. Someone is sharing it with us. In enabling another to understand and have empathy, we move out of the sense of isolation the experience fostered into community, a requirement for healing.

In the last twenty years, medical practice has increasingly recognized the importance of what’s come to be called “narrative medicine” to the patient’s healing. Columbia University’s medical school has a Narrative Medicine program that “fortifies clinical practice with the narrative competence to recognize, absorb, metabolize, interpret, and be moved by the stories of illness.”

Recognition of the value of story telling’s ability to heal is evident in the plethora of writing workshops for veterans that have sprung up across the country since troops began returning from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Poet and author Maxine Hong Kingston began the first veterans writing project in 1993 in the Bay Area where she witnessed the healing power of writing about war experiences and sharing them in a group. Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace resulted from that project. Warrior Writers www.warriorwriters.org/home.html began in New York City in early 2007, providing writing and art workshops to veterans to create a culture that articulates veterans’ experiences. It now makes their workshops available around the country. Veterans Writing Projects offers workshops in Washington, D.C.; Reno, Nevada; Ogden, Utah; San Diego. Various Veterans Administration medical centers provide workshops as does the Veterans Education Project in Amherst, Massachusetts. The Writers Guild Foundation of Los Angeles offers the , and there is the Military Veterans Writing Workshop of the Veterans Writing Workshop at New York University.

For a few years the National Endowment for the Arts supported a writing project called Operation Homecoming in 2004 to help U.S. troops and their families write about their wartime experiences. This program brought distinguished writers to military installations to conduct writing workshops. A related call for writing submissions resulted in more than 1,200 submissions and 12,000 pages of writings. Almost a hundred of those were featured in the anthology Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families.

A unique program that enables veterans to both write their story and tell it is the Telling Project. It works with veterans in universities, communities and organizations to produce innovative performances. After interviews, trainings and rehearsals, veterans and their family members tell their stories on stage for their communities. The Telling Project has performed in Eugene and Portland, Ore., Seattle, Sacramento, Washington, D.C., Starkville, Miss., Baltimore and Iowa City, enabling veterans to speak their truths and their communities to listen.

Writing is an essential step in telling one’s story, because through writing, we create order out of chaotic events. In creating a narrative, we make clear the experience’s meaning– for ourselves and for others. Our truth might not only allow empathy but enlighten.

I once sat with a veteran of World War II, who like my father, had been among the liberators of the Nazi concentration camp the GIs referred to as Nordhausen. Like so many other WWII veterans, especially those who had been among the camp liberators, this gentleman had never spoken about his memories of the war. But as we sat there, me listening and showing familiarity with his subject and keen interest, he began to unwind his memory, a knotted spool of thread. When he came to a knot, I encouraged him to continue talking.
“You know,” he said at one point, “I’ve never been able to make sense of my memories. But now, with your help, I see how the pieces fit.” A few minutes later he turned to his wife of sixty-two years and said, “I have struggled to stay alive every day since.” Her face whitened in astonishment as she clasped his hands.

Trauma creates chaos of our senses and then shuts them down to protect the mind from becoming overwhelmed. And while this is life-saving in the short term, it is soul numbing in the long term. Finding a way to a narrative, to connecting the pieces, gives us a way to free ourselves from those sense memories that trauma encapsulated in our brains. And then to see someone listen to the story, to hold our hands in compassion and love- that opens the door to feeling safe. To coming home.

Let us celebrate and support the invaluable writing programs for veteran within our communities. And then let us listen to the stories our veterans speak. Last week, “60 Minutes” had a feature about Operation Project Exit that takes veterans suffering PTSD back to Iraq as a means of healing. As one young veteran said at the end of the show, “I always hear people complain about stuff, and it just makes me mad because a lotta people don’t understand. They don’t see the stuff that– they just go about their daily lives, while there’s still people dyin’ every day. For them. And it– it upsets me a lot.”

Let us listen and heed.

Category : Uncategorized | Blog
فروشگاه اینترنتی خرید ساعت مچی ساعت مچی مردانه ساعت مچی زنانه قهوه نسکافه