The therapeutic effectiveness of storytelling and the arts in trauma survivor recovery cannot be underestimated. Traumatic memories are created by the perpetrators of sexual and political violence to wipe out all good memories, including those of family continuity within the survivor’s personal life. Storytelling enables survivors to contextualize their suffering, and to rediscover what the French philosopher Gabriel Marcel called the “fixed constellations in the heavens of the soul.”
The social, psychological and spiritual earthquake that is caused by human aggression in the survivor can be of extraordinary magnitude. It can disrupt a life over an entire generation. One day of violence can take a family and a community a half century to recover. The collective memory of a nation can dictate its future history. Rational science as it confronts the human and spiritual impact of human aggression—atrocities often of unspeakable horror—needs a diviner of the deepest thoughts and resources of the human spirit. Sometimes events such as torture can almost completely extinguish the life force that animates a human being. It takes a special person and technique to go into this violated human space to fan the inner fire of the human spirit, help it grow, and at all costs prevent its extinction.
Human aggression in its violation of others transforms the world-view of the survivor as a new world of human relationships and meaning is created. Over two decades of clinical work with survivors, HPRT has worked closely with the artist and the arts to understand the deepest meaning of trauma, its many effects on the human spirit, and to reveal to the therapist and survivor pathways to recovery.
Read Dr. Mollica’s essay on storytelling for more discussion of this topic in “Why Stories?”
Take a look at the HPRT-commissioned comic book, about the survival of a Cambodian brother and sister, “Sun and Moon.”
Watch in the coming months as we add oral histories, and our photo gallery.