From A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ON TRAUMA AND RECOVERY
By Dr. Mary Baures, Co-Producer and Author of Undaunted Spirits
A severe trauma cannot leave the psyche unchanged -- either we deaden parts of ourselves to seal off the emotional wound or we find ourselves transformed profoundly in working through the experience.
Instead of repressing the trauma, the people in this film (Undaunted Spirits) have recreated their selves through its horror.
While struggling to cope with major losses they found a mission or goal with which they aligned their will and upon which they set their hearts. The excitement of achieving that goal animated their lives, and as they joined with others to make their vision a reality, it gave their life a transcendent value which sustained them while they adjusted to catastrophic loss. Their character and identity was shaped by their new commitments: they became part of what they love.
After the trauma of almost being destroyed, they aligned themselves with forces larger than themselves. After losing something that may have been holding them together, they went through "a dark night of the soul" where they began searching for a new ground and a new anchor. Sometimes they found faith in themselves through the faith of others.
Creative projects -- using images, symbols, and rituals -- and helping others enabled them to set new priorities, to discover new values and emerging strengths in themselves.
All the survivors in this film made a choice to embrace the incomprehensible aspects of existence -- evil, torture, pain, death -- without having to "understand" them. By accepting them as a part of life, these survivors were able to transform it. Instead of cutting off parts of themselves to get to get rid of what was horrifying in the trauma, they examined the horror, and their own feelings of depression, anxiety, dread, shame, and guilt, in order to find the messages within those feelings.
As psychologist and Vietnam veteran Arthur Egendorf (1985) writes, when we stop trying to flee the horror we can look back on a traumatic experience as having led to a life-enhancing revelation. Once we hit bottom, it reveals an essential, basic truth: that we alone have the power to take care of whatever our life needs. We give voice to the power to recreate our own life.
Bottoming out and beginning the ascent takes place with a fresh conviction. Out of intense suffering, the survivors in this film vowed to do what they could to prevent others from suffering the same.
Max Cleland helps other veterans. Marcia Gordon assists other women trying to come back from the depression underlying addiction. Arn Chorn-Pond helps other children of war. Michael MacDonald works to banish the hand guns which played such a key role in the deaths of several members of his family.
Through their social activism, they began to express, not so much what life should give to them, but rather what they could offer to the world. When they found new goals and priorities in the aftermath of trauma, their negative experiences enriched rather than devastated them.
In my research I have found that positive transformations in the wake of trauma tends to take forms which are larger than the self, and which turn healing into an intersubjective process. The survivor takes a new interest in relationships, culture, society, or spirituality. In coming back from profound loss, certain coping behaviors and attitudes are of central importance...
~Dr. Mary Baures
Next week, we hope to continue this article which lists and elucidates such important coping behaviors and attitudes that Dr. Baures shares are of central importance to our coming back from profound loss…
Thank you to Dr. Mary Baures' article enlightening us as to creative ways people have of overcoming great losses.
To be continued…