Reflecting on what I have come to term the GreyScale of Shock...I am emerging from many (I mean a number of years of) contemplative (some might call it thinking-dense and action-avoidant) hours on what defines Trauma...what the effects of Trauma are, and how best to offer a restorative/helpful response.
As Narrative practitioners, we are mindful of (and concerned about) the dangers of retraumatising the very people we seek to support and assist. We also hold a multi-storied perspective when we listen to the storying of traumatic events and their effects...this means that we hope to move out of the dominant trauma story... towards re-storying with people ...so that they can move into places that are less trauma-saturated, more settled again.
As South Africans (I think, in particular), we are also keenly aware of the everyday-ness of trauma and the probability that we float on top of a sea of trauma that is (thankfully) too deep to fathom. Kaethe Weingarten, experienced and highly regarded academic, researcher and practitioner visited South Africa a number of years ago now, and introduced our keen and thirsty minds to the concept of Common Shock. We were so thankful for this, as she made the chasm between "real trauma" and "all those other shocks" less gaping. She, for me at least, scaffolded a sense of possibility that I did not need to become traumatised by working with trauma...but that I too could assist in my everyday Narrative ways... without the overwhelming sense of drowning in that unfathomable deep.
Despite her incredible teaching, I continued however, to step (politely) side-ways when "trauma-work" came my way...feeling that this was best left to the "real experts" in the field. Of late (in still somewhat in spite of myself), I have been asked to offer support to some schools feeling the overwhelm and traumatic creep of 18-months-of-COVID...This, and because"Trauma-informed schools" has become the new buzz-word in educational circles, I have devoured reading material, youtube clips, enrolled on yet another course ... Dr Gabor Mate, Dr Bessel van der Kolk, Dr Bruce Perry and Oprah all teaching in and around this topic...wonderful and insightful work......High time, I think, that I step out of my not-my-thing-inertia...and find out how I too can participate...and yes, Respond!
Today was the first step of Response! At a brief workshop co-facilitated with the leader of a school I consult to, we put our toes into the water of this territory. I initially wanted to arrive with a number of indisputably researched facts (yes, the science=safety paradigm)...but found myself searching inside for my already-researched life understandings and lived experiences.
"Trauma is not that thing over there", I found myself saying, "...that you hope like hell happens to someone else, and not to you... Trauma is on a greyscale ... we can not be exempt from trauma if we live in this life."
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The GreyScale of Shock: Was that a trauma... or just an everyday shock?
Becoming "trauma-informed" when working in schools and NGO's...and how to respond using a Narrative approach