Sunday, May 31, 2021, was the last day of a 3-day on-site facilitator training with Friends Peace Teams Indonesia. Rhaka, Ida, Jati, Petrus, Nanik, Wiwit, and Tito participated in this activity.
My work to develop embodied justice has encouraged me to study trauma and be sensitive about it, because I have been trying to do trauma healing regularly since early 2021. One of the traumas that I am healing is academic trauma, which makes it difficult for me to engage in academic activities.
In the stress, distress, and reaction activities, which I facilitated, we were all called to remember the definition of trauma, which is “The imagined threat exceeds the ability to adapt. The breakdown or confusion of thinking power that occurs when a person does not feel able to face the threat (fight or flee), and instill a pattern of distress. (Lee Norton)” I tried to fully involve myself in the activities of stories of trauma, facilitated by Ida.
As I practiced, I came to understand that traumatic events occur as long as we are in the place where trauma happened. The event ends when the self or person who triggered the traumatic event leaves the place.
There are often debilitating and distressing effects of trauma when writing and drawing trauma stories. My body felt weak, my head was heavy, and bad thoughts arose about myself and others. This rigid pattern clearly prevents me from remembering traumatic events. It is a force that keeps me from remembering and connecting with my personal experiences. As we began, I allowed myself a little light chat with other participants, then I slowly sharpened my focus on the work at hand. I comforted myself, saying, “This shall pass”.
After drawing my trauma story, I felt relieved. Then I reflected on it. At first glance, I said to myself “That’s terrible and it’s not good.” I saw Ida start directing us to start reviewing our trauma story with a companion. With Nanik as my good companion, I started to tell and show my trauma story. When I read and listen to my trauma stories, I don’t feel so bad. I noted Nanik’s advice, “Remember, the one who had the problem was not you but someone else in the trauma incident.”
My trauma involved the experience of getting an assignment whose burden far exceeded my capacity. My lecturer ordered students to complete assignments in two days without a clear description of the material and assignments. As a result, my good habits of visiting the library, reading books, and writing papers were instantly replaced by doing the task full of anxiety and confusion. Finally, I fell down and cried every time I got academic assignments. This makes a difficult situation for my academic life.
I recalled a professor who quoted a paper I wrote before the trauma event for his research.I remembered feeling that I was worthy and able to do a good research assignment. So far, the department where I studied was unable to recognize this difficulty, thus creating inappropriate policies regarding research assignments for final year students. By learning to create a culture of peace, I was able to address a problem common to students and began planning steps for change. One of them is proposing allowing students to take the class again, with a different teacher, on subjects taught by lecturers who cause academic trauma.
When debriefing the session, we share our reflections and record our new experiences and understandings. Trauma can be present and formed in us, but that does not mean that we will be trapped forever in trauma. Process the trauma and allow it to pass.
I remember Nadine saying that when a trauma story has been healed it will ease the difficulties that come afterwards. I have managed to unravel one key trauma in my life. Next I can break down the sequence of events one by one so that I can convert from the distress pattern to the ease pattern.
For me personally, healing trauma is ending the struggle full of tears. I became convinced of life’s transforming power and now feel driven to make personal and social changes.