We can recover from trauma. To have peace in our hearts, homes, and communities, we must heal and be resilient.
Trauma Resiliency is an Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) Advanced special topic workshop. In our experience, each person and society has the inner capacity to heal, and an inherent intuition of how to recover from trauma. We integrated our learning to create trauma-informed AVP Basic Workshops and free-standing AVP Resiliency Workshops. We drew from the state-of-the-art clinical practice to identify and develop group experiences that imparted skills that ordinary people can use to heal and make themselves, their families, and their communities more resilient.
Friends began drawing on emerging knowledge of trauma and recovery (Herman, 1992). By 1999, Cecilia Yocum and Carolyn Keyes drew on this emerging knowledge to support the victims of the genocide in Burundi and Rwanda and Nadine Hoover with the victims of the “reign of terror” in Aceh.
In Africa, Friends documented the three-day Healing and Rebuilding our Communities (HROC, 2003), using the activities to bring together people from both sides of a conflict to help heal and restore communities. In Asia, Friends began to develop an 18-hour Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) Trauma Resiliency special topic workshop (2005) to spread the activities more widely. Nadine Hoover worked with trauma specialists Cecilia Yocum and Lee Norton and RC Counselor Pamela Haines (first clerk of FPT-AWP) to document an Trauma Healing Manual (2010), an AVP Advanced special topic workshop.
Peacebuilding en Las Américas (PLA) Founder Val Liveoak worked with Cecilia Yocum, Alba Arrieta and HROC facilitators to bring the AVP Trauma Resiliency workshop to Colombia in 2008 and to Central America in 2010. In 2011, Asian facilitators integrated these activities into a 24-hour Cultures of Peace Workshop: Part I Personal Transformation, a trauma-informed AVP Basic Workshop plus one day of trauma resiliency activities (published 2018).
Some of the worst violence in the world is among loved ones and neighbors, requiring adherence to basic community agreements. Learning to care for and feel safe with ourselves and others allows us for affirmation. Learning to articulate memories sequestered in parts of the brain without language, analysis, or chronology allows for communication. Learning to reconnect with people and situations where we were wounded allows for cooperation.
We work in small companion groups to learn tools for everyday life to resolve conflict, recover from trauma, and open to the transforming power of life in our integrated, whole selves. This creates a foundation for living lives of peace and nonviolence.
Remembering and Mourning
Key Features of a Trauma Resiliency Workshop
Some of the worst violence in the world is among loved ones and neighbors, requiring adherence to basic community agreements. Community agreements may vary by location and group. Examples include:
- Affirm self and others; no put downs or put ups.
- Listen respectfully to all contributions, without interrupting.
- Speak one’s own experience, not others’ without permission.
- Volunteer self only.
- Everyone has the right to pass.
- Take care of each person and the group.
Learning to care for and feel safe with ourselves and others allows us for affirmation. We brainstorm self-care and make a plan for the simplest steps we can take to care for ourselves. Caring for ourselves helps give others permission and encouragement to care for themselves also.
As good companions to one another, we listen to things that are hard to listen to more resilient to secondary trauma, and contradict the isolation of trauma.
Are good listeners who:
- Stays relaxed and non-anxious in this time and place in your core self.
- Pays attention to the other’s goodness and capabilities in their core self.
- Notes distresses that arise in yourself to come back to later.
- Helps the other return to the present after discharge.
- Takes equal turns.
We learn to discharge painful emotions without reliving or reenacting the trauma.
Emotional Discharge- Emotions Signs of Discharge
- Grief (loss) – Crying, sobbing, moaning, wailing
- Fear (danger) – Shaking, shivering, cold sweat, urinating, laughing
- Anger (pain or injustice) – Loud voice, sharp movements, pacing, hot sweat, laughing
- Apathy (disconnection) – Conversational talking, laughingA natural sign of healing not of being hurt.
Learning to articulate memories sequestered in parts of the brain without language, analysis, or chronology allows for communication. When we distinguish between stress and distress we recognize risks to better see how to care for ourselves and others. Seeing symptoms of trauma as normal reactions to distress, disrupts the isolation and self-doubt, and demystifies trauma. We see how self-neglect and self-harm reenact the trauma, reinforcing the need for self-care. We learn to use the First Responders’ Protocol to support us as we talk about violence or trauma to not wander, repeat, or get lost in the memory:
- Where did it happen?
- What happened?
- How did you feel?
- When was it over (at that time)?
Then, to live in our whole, creative, core selves rather than rigid decisions and patterns from past painful experiences, we must learn to reprocess traumatic memories. With companions we remember pivotal moments and complete these sentences with concrete things we can see or hear, then draw them and write them in word bubbles on the page. Then post them on a wall and read them back to the author, effectively reintegrating the memory into the cortex that has been sequestered in the limbic system.
Stories of Trauma
With a companion complete these six sentences:
- I was startled when…
- I felt confused, like there was no way out, when…
- I froze when…
- I did what I could or was told, which was…
- I knew it was over when… •In order to feel better, I. . .
Especially in war zones or violent times, people often do not have the ability to gather and mourn losses. We remember how to gather together to mourn our losses as a community.
Loss: Something or someone important to us that we can never meet or have again.
Grief: A personal emotional reaction of deep sadness or sorrow in response to a great loss of a relationship, person, place or thing.
Mourning: Time set aside personally or with family and community to remember and pay respects for who or what was lost and discharge grief.
Learning to reconnect with people and situations where we were wounded allows for cooperation. When we see the chronology of our life, over time, we can bring our full minds to reflect on our past, present and future. On this foundation, we can have an informed choice to make personal commitment to live nonviolently in accord with life’s transforming power.
- A perceived threat that overwhelms one’s ability to adapt.
- A mental state of collapse or disorganization that occurs when one is overwhelmed by a perceived threat (cannot resist or flee), instilling deep patterns of emotional distress.
The ability to withstand, adapt, recover or bounce back relatively quickly and well from difficult or potentially traumatizing situations.