Organizing for Spiritual Healing

Netroots Nation has posted a video of my panel, Organizing as a Healing Process: A Fresh Look at PTSD.

Panelists discussed PTSD as a soul wound, an altered spiritual state that enables the sufferer to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances such as war, and severe personal or historical trauma. We related troop PTSD to the symptoms suffered by refugees and the survivors of disaster or genocide. People experiencing soul wounding have witnessed the naked face of humanity stripped of the divine. They are messengers, encouraging awareness of injustice and all that is wrong with our ordering of our world. Organizing heals the wounds of the sufferer, empowering her to tell her personal story, and allowing the rest of us to listen.

Troops return home from war in a heightened state of alert which kept them alive in Afghanistan or Iraq, but which hinders their readaptation to civilian life. Many bring with them an awareness of the brutal truth of our engagements overseas, an understanding their relatives and communities are not open to sharing. There are few rituals to reincorporate them into our communities. They are expected to return to their daily lives as if nothing has happened. Many are unemployed upon their return.

Whole communities can experience a spiritual state similar to our returning troops. New Orleans, Native American reservations, and children of holocaust survivors come to mind. Many communities have experienced the wholesale destruction of their culture and interdependent relationships. It is the loss of relationship that leads to the dislocation associated with troop PTSD or historical trauma, and the marginalization of sufferers that causes despair. Relationships create meaning in our lives. Organizing heals spiritual wounds by building relationships and ending marginalization.

It is important for us as a society to reincorporate individuals who have experienced soul wounds. Often, they are bearers of a message. They can tell us about the deep imbalances in our current social structure that lead to hurt, injustice and social decay. We ignore them at our own peril.

The most important elements of organizing as a tool for healing are telling and sharing of personal stories, physical movement (such as walking), and activities that involve tactile and olfactory experience (such as cooking, building and group art). Movement helps us to incorporate a somatic understanding. Familiar smells, and playing with gooey stuff such as bread dough, adobe, or paint, removes some of the horror of the experience, rendering it less threatening to tell and hear. It also provides a common experience that the speaker and listener can share.

Panelists included ePluribus Media celebrities (okay, well the rest of them were celebrities) such as Ilona Meagher, author of Moving a Nation to Care: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and America's Returning Troops; Denise Ford, LISW, a social worker who treats PTSD and board member of ePluribus Media: Richard Smith, of Vet's Voice and; and me, of ePluribus Media and, most recently, of Tikkun Daily. Adam Lambert (clammyc), moderated.

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