It is exactly one month today since the second Christchurch earthquake. Thinking of you Canterbury.
“We at the Life Reclamation Project (LRP) believe that if we continue to leave trauma unhealed in our community, survivors will continue in their attempts to manage their distress through unhealthy methods. Not only does this directly affect their immediate family, extended family and their community, it will have a direct effect on the health, welfare and justice systems in Aotearoa New Zealand and other world communities. This proposal is designed to directly address the core issues and eliminate the person’s desperate need to gain help through acting out in unhealthy ways, whilst giving them the internal skills and tools necessary to move on through life in a resourced and self-sustaining way, which will also benefit their family and wider community.” Odette Hoffmann (Registered with the Psychotherapists’ Board of Aotearoa New Zealand and a Member of the New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists.)
My friend, Odette, has been working with the idea of some sort of bulk-funded easily accessible therapy service for over a year. It began when the NZ government in their wisdom (sarcasm intended) cut a readily available source of funding for access to therapy for the adult victims of sexual abuse. At that time we talked about accessing government funding through the local health authorities etc, but with a world-wide recession in progress, that was not to be.
Odette was raised in Christchurch and her mother still lives there. The recent earthquakes (along with the Queensland floods and then the Japanese multi-disaster situation) made her more determined than ever to try to set up some sort of organisation that could help people heal their trauma. Along with her friend, Claudette (also a psychotherapist), she is developing The Life Reclamation Project. This will be a charitable trust, which eventually will be accessible and recognisable world-wide.
I’m taking on the role of chief nagger and prodder, which means I have to have coffee meetings with Odette every fortnight (Hey, someone’s got to do it!). During these discussions our mutual passion for healing all childhood trauma has become a main topic of discussion. At our last meeting we were discussing the comparisons between earthquake survivors who are emotionally falling-apart now, and those who appear to be stoic. Unfortunately, many people in the ex-colonies have a strong sense of stoicism – and many are proud of their ability to ‘suck-it-up’ when things go wrong. Stoicism, like it’s best friend perfectionism, is not healthy. So while the people who are falling apart emotionally at the moment seem not to be managing, they at least are processing what has happened to them. Those who are being brave and not causing a fuss are going to have long term problems. The human body and brain are resilient, but only to a point – then things start to go wrong in one way or another.
This being the case, I’m sure most of us in the western world, particularly in the post-English-colony world, can identify some amount of stoicism in our personality. It is a not-so-useful gift from our ancestors, passed down through the message: “do not show any emotion under stress”. Many of those who left the old world, did have to just get on with life in order to survive, they often didn’t have other family members, or even neighbours in the earliest days, to help out. Stoicism was possibly their survival strategy. It doesn’t have to be ours.
So, I guess my message is this: unless someone in our past has wildly broken away from the parenting they received themselves, chances are many of us, too, could benefit from the services of a trust like The Life Reclamation Project. While it begins as a project to help those who have survived disaster (it’s meant for people who’ve experienced any type of trauma, whether natural, developmental or at the hands of someone else) I, for one, hopes it will grow into the organisation that Odette and Claudette envisage. One that circles the world and helps to heal all childhood trauma.
Watch this space for progress reports.