Light in the midst of darkness Metaphors to heal the pain of living in the heart of the conflict
When deeds and words fail – let metaphors prevail (Milton Erikson) Don’t curse the darkness – light a candle (a Palestinian proverb) The conflict – a bridge over the abyss Decades of ongoing struggle and strife between two nations, Israeli and Palestinian, occupying the same small terrain between the river Jordan and the shores of the Mediterranean have yielded alienation, hate, fear and mutual suspicion. The future would seem bleak unless a paradigmatic change of attitude takes place on both sides (hopefully followed by political truce and a viable co-existence). Instead of hovering through the circular question of “where to begin” or “what should happen first”, a group of courageous educators on both sides decide to invest in reconciliation training for teachers and school children. They took the Quantum leap into the heart of the conflict, trying to build bridges across the abyss. This road has been (and still is) fraught with immense difficulties, yet it behooves me that this project deserves acknowledgement. It stands on the same line with other international projects designed to help children to overcome the trauma of war, terrorism, ethnic cleansing, civil strife and community violence and prepare them for living in more secure environments. This chapter will investigate the effects of trauma on children living in dangerous environments, the power of survival and the potentiality of eliciting coping resources that can make the shift from victimhood to victory. It will delineate the aims and activities of MECA (Middle East Children Association) and present a most potent tool for humane survival in dire difficulties: the power of imagination and metaphors to overcome the darkest times. The vortex of trauma and the spiral of healing. The situation in the Middle East seems hopeless. Every day, the media reports stories of trauma and violence and seemingly irreconcilable political positions agitated by individual passions. We become intimately acquainted with stories of enormous suffering on both sides, that leave us ever more resigned and helpless at the incomprehensibility and futility of the situation. We say that the violence is contagious and spining out of control. But in reality, trauma is contagious. It manifests in violence, which begets more trauma, which begets further violence. Creating peace through cease-fires and pact signing does not resolve trauma. As it seethes beneath diplomacy, repeated violence is inevitable. (Ross 2003a). The threats that trigger major trauma have all become part of daily life of Palestinians and Israelis adults and children alike: threat of death, exposure to gruesome dead or maimed bodies; threat of loss of or harm done to family and friend; n threat of bodily injury, pain, injury or impairment, environmental destruction, human violence; threat of losing home, possessions, neighborhood or community. The top treat implies threat to self-worth, religious faith, trust in other human beings, value system and integrity Trauma occurs when a person is overwhelmed by a harrowing and distressing event that his nervous system is unable to assimilate. Traumatic stress, as any event that contains a threat to our vital concerns, whether abrupt and powerful, prolonged or recurring, is bound to trigger trauma laden responses. Such events, whether they happen to individuals or nations can leave people and whole nations traumatized (Ayalon, 1993). The “trauma vortex” is a metaphor coined by Peter Levine (1997) describing the whirlpool of chaos in trauma’s aftermath. Also called the “black hole” of trauma (Van Der Kolk, 1966), it is a downward spiral that traps the traumatized. They become unable to control their sensations, images, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Traumatized people can hardly stop revisiting the horrible images of the event. Deep feelings of inadequacy, shame, guilt, and hurt pride come by waves. Especially in cases of man-made traumas. Their essential needs for safety, the right to exist without danger, the trust in the good will of the other, and the sense of empowerment are shaken. The sense of predictability, competency, and the ability to control one’s destiny are gone. There is a social danger that may spread into a major social conflict, when traumatizes people develop suspicion towards others. People different from them suddenly appear threatening and dangerous. Anger and rage mount, coupled with a deep sense of powerlessness at their ability to right the situation. It is a rage that can be turned against themselves or against others. When there is a pervasive insecurity at the core of our belief this gets reflected onto new and potential others, and particularly those less predictable and less familiar to our life experience. From this perspective, being “not like us,” “different,” or “an outsider” is seen as less than desirable or comfortable, and there is a tendency to distance and avoid forming relationships When the beliefs are strongly fear based this heightened sense of vulnerability leads to an excessive discriminating vigilance for potential danger. Anything deviating from the norm carries a substantial degree of potential risk or threat that can promote resistance, opposition, and even aggression. In it’s extreme cases, fear-based beliefs can be expressed in striking out through violence and war. (Olweean, 2005). The trauma has a polarized effect on people. On the one hand it creates a vortex that pulls people down by a growing temptation to adopt the “victim” identity, to the detriment of all previous personal achievements and future plans. The traumatic narrative takes over and becomes the center of our thoughts, feelings and relationships. It may give people a sense of righteousness, a deep relief in thinking they are good and right and have been greatly wronged. The price for adopting victimhood is giving up control and mastery over one’s life. In a follow-up study of Israeli adolescents who were trapped in a very traumatic hostage situation, we found one survivor who 20 years still signed up all his letters as “victim of the Ma’a lot massacre” (Desivilya, Gal & Ayalon, 1996). On the other hand trauma can also trigger a healing spiral that pulls people up. People transcend their limit, find in themselves hidden resources, transform their order of priority by attending to family, social and also spiritual values, choosing compassion and forgiveness. Some may commit to charitable work and important social causes, such as the mother of a murdered girl, who made it her life mission to fight against the death penalty in California and wished to spare the life of her daughter’s murderer (Gail, 1999). Nations let go of their grievances, offer a helping hand to each other and commit to truce, joint projects, and economic and cultural exchanges. The trauma and healing apply at the individual and collective levels. Entire cultures can take on the identity of tragic victim and unwittingly use this energy of fear to become the perpetrators. When two groups in conflict each bear a deeply imbedded ethos of “victim,” there is the greatest danger of blind, brutal treatment toward a dehumanized and demonized “Other.” Absolute wrongness allows for absolute righteousness, and inhumane treatment allows for inhumane treatment in the guise of just retribution toward evil doers (Olweean, 2005). The interplay between the two will determine whether individuals, communities, or countries will engage in destructive actions such as conflicts, violence and war or constructive measures, such as forgiveness, rebuilding, and peace. Circles of vulnerability: Who needs help? In order to explain who needs help we may use the metaphor of a stone thrown into the pond full of frogs. The stone kills those frogs that are directly hit. But then, all other frogs are caught in the ripples. They are disturbed or injured or suffer from shock. Such is the effect of human trauma The ripple effect of a traumatic event produces circles of vulnerability. When disaster hits and kills victims, the eyewitnesses and survivors are traumatized. Families who lost their dear ones, friends, peers, are all caught in the ripples, and so are rescue workers and media reporters, who come in close contact with the horrors of death and injury. These “circles of vulnerability” include also the medical staff, social workers, teachers and psychologists who are exposed vicariously to the trauma of their students and clients. A lot of these people are never identified. They are hidden victims, who carry hidden scars. Often they don’t realize how wounded they are. They are often overlooked by post trauma health services as well as by their close relative (Rosenfeld, Caye, Ayalon & lahad, 2005). Demonization of the ‘other’ “In the beginning we create the enemy. Before the weapon comes the image.” (Keen,1986)” Trauma is a root cause of violence. Violent, traumatic conflicts arouse violent emotions, incitement to hatred and demonizing of the ‘other’, the ‘enemy’. Both Israeli and Palestinian societies have been caught up in this vicious circle, where trauma begets violence, which begets more violence, which begets more traumas, hated and fear. The most dangerous aspect of this vicious circle is the loss of all reasoning power and the hijacking of one’s emotions by the part of the brain called the amygdale (Ross, 2003b). Like any individual, any nation can be vulnerable to the irrationality of hatred, denying the fears and hate, projecting them onto the enemy, demonizing the enemy. Depth psychology has presented us with insight and evidence, that show how the ‘enemy’ image is constructed from denied aspects of the self. By means of the defense mechanism of ‘projection’ a process of inner splitting takes place in the individual or in the group: the ‘good’ splits from the ‘bad’. Rejected elements’ such as meanness, jealousy, greed, hatred, etc., are denied as parts of the self and ascribed to the ‘other’, be it a person, a group of people, or a whole nation (Volkan, 1990). As it seems unlikely that we would acknowledge the internal split between good and evil parts of the self, “we are driven to fabricate an enemy as a scapegoat to bear the burden of our denied enmity” (Keen,1986). This split is responsible for creating ‘enemy masks’ in our imagination and sticking them onto the faces of those whom we define as the ‘others’, without differentiation. These masks convey the archetypes of the ‘Shadow’ and ‘Evil’. The enemy is described as inhuman and inferior , containing a host of negative attributes such as ugly, dirty, greedy, dishonest, criminal, barbarian, satanic. Clad by images like these, the ‘other’ becomes a ready target for persecution and destruction. These perceptions are often reinforced by education from early childhood and by political brainwashing later on in life. This combination is very effective. It enables us to attribute certain hateful and threatening qualities to a group of people whom we perceive as alien or different. Situations of political rivalry and war create a vicious circle, which feeds these stereotypes and is fed by them. When the time for change arrives, as, for example, following political negotiations with former enemies, there also arises an opportunity to change and adjust the i er processes of projection of the ‘evil’, of Scapegoating and of vengeance (Schmookler, 1988). These processes are evident in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, with morbid repercussions for children growing up into the conflict. Major projection becomes a developmental danger for children because it is too absolute, too final, and too irreversible (Flashman, 2003). By projecting murderous impulses upon each other, Palestinian and Israeli children become estranged from their own i er aggression and violence. By demonizing the Palestinians, Israeli children may feel free from responsibility for the pain caused to the ‘other’, whom they see as always guilty and ‘inhuman’, and vice versa. This on going distortion blocks the natural curiosity and curtails any prospect for empathy (Lahad & Ayalon, 1997). Israeli children would not try to imagine what it is like to live in a Palestinian refugee camp, to be stopped and searched at military road blocks, to suffer the frightful encounter with Israeli soldiers, to see their parents or older brothers humiliated or injured. Palestinian children would not be able to imagine the horror of Israeli children exposed to suicide bombers on streets, school busses and shopping malls. On the contrary, they might experience joy of vengeance, as they believe that Israeli children “deserve” their agony because “they are all bad”. In our situation of armed conflict, children will be vulnerable to a process of demonization. It will feel safer for them to direct all of their frustration and anger at the anonymous other, “the Palestinians”, or “the Israelis”. It seems that the only antidote to demonization is to give adequate voice to the feelings of protest that are not acknowledged. Otherwise, teaching “against” demonization will be experienced by children as another form of silencing and be deeply resented and rejected. Child psychiatrist Dr. Flashman maintains that “nothing gives children more hope than the understanding that children of the enemy side are very much like themselves – also growing up in times of pain, solitude and silence. Children need to hope that on the other side there are children like themselves, who wish to live in a quiet and just way, protected and safe… By demonization of the Palestinian people – including their children – we deny our children a lost ray of hope, and condemn them to a future of mutual demonization, bloodshed and hopelessness” (Flashman, 2003, 78). Once we recognize the dynamics of trauma, demonization and violence, we may be able to slow that process. We may be able to help the two warring nations identify when they are under the influence of the trauma vortex and engage in healing processes that would lead toward reconciliation. Building bridges of reconciliation Conciliation – the art of making peace, is normally practiced between enemies. When a society moves toward political changes related to peace, there is a need for adjusting the attitudes of the warring groups toward one another. Those formerly declared as ‘enemies’ will be transformed into ‘neighbours’, and hostility will be replaced by discourse. Ghandi’s slogan: “There is no way to peace – peace is the way”, has so far been an unsatisfactory guideline to peace educators seeking efficient methods to establish reconciliation (Keldorff, 1986). Studies on dissolution of prejudice and demonization (Lumsden & Wolfe, 1996) suggest that the process of changing attitudes toward the ‘other’ should start prior to the actual encounter between former adversaries. Before a curriculum for reconciliation can be launched, we have to confront two disturbing questions:
What are the psychological and sociological functions of ‘having an enemy’?
What are the psycho-dynamic processes and the educational practices which underlie the ‘creating of an enemy’? If we can decipher these universal queries, we will be better equipped to propose a psycho-social alternative to enmity, namely – reconciliation (Ayalon,1998).
Safe place : The conceptual basis for the present “reconciliation model” evolves from Lumsden’s analysis of the three zones of human experience. His contribution towards “Breaking the cycle of violence” (1995) encompasses the vast arena of the outer and the inner elements of the human experience (first and second zones), which are involved in destruction and in reconstruction of peace, while the potential for transformation and reconciliation is embedded in the ‘third zone’. First Zone refers to situations in the outer world and cultural systems which trigger and maintain the cycle of violence. This is the area that is visibly disrupted and damaged by violent social strife and war, and inflicts endless trauma in its wake. Dealing with social, economical, ecological and political issues that impact on these condition is essential for enabling a viable process of reconciliation to take place. Second Zone refers to the individual’s i er world, identity, sense of self and belief-systems. It harbors the ‘inner split’ that leads to the distorted projection and demonization of others. The second zone is the nesting place of all traumatic experiences. It must be healed as a pre-condition for reconciliatory attitudes to settle in. Third Zone is the transitional space, where change and healing can take place. This ‘third zone’ is an expansion of Winnicot’s (1971) concept of the ‘transitional space’: “it is the intermediate zone between the personal/psychological world and the social world”. Children use this metaphorically ‘safe space’ for play and creative activities. This ‘third zone’ provides a secure environment, where we, as children and as adults, confront our innermost conflicts by exploring their representations in the outer world through play and the creative arts. They give shape and form to externalized conflicts, thus allowing us to deal with them and gain control over them. The ‘transitional zone’ bestows symbolic security by providing metaphoric ways of expressing even the most ‘taboo’ emotions without criticism or punishment. The playful and creative ‘as if’ experiences allow flight from the dire reality into protective fantasy, and enable the creative power of the imagination to invent new solutions. These activities, performed by individuals or by groups within an accepting and containing environment, serve as therapeutically healing of the ‘second zone’ of traumatic experience’. New ideas in rebuilding a peace-oriented society can be tested here before they are implemented in the ‘first zone’ of social reality. In building reconciliation programs, this ‘third zone’ safe place is regarded as a bridge between the situational and the psychological elements of the traumatic experiences. It is the arena for attending to war-affected children, adolescents and adults, listening to their hidden stories, assessing their needs, using community human resources and the language of creativity and play to involve them in the process of recuperation. The” Middle East Children’s Association” as “safe place” n During 1996, in the midst of the troubled times, struggles, occupation and terror, two visionaries (Israeli co-director, Adina Shapiro and Palestinian co-director, Dr. Ghassan Abdullah) created “The Middle East Children’s Association” (MECA) for Israeli and Palestinian teachers and children, committed to provide opportunities for peace education both for Palestinian and Israeli educational systems. This association created an arena for bi-national joint meetings of group facilitators, teachers and school administrators, in order to counteract violence within and between these two societies. It aimed to enhance education towards values of peace and understanding, address the individual and collective stresses and strains of school children and further their capacities and opportunities to engage in learning. This model of a Palestinian – Israeli partnership was geared towards an ongoing confrontation with the challenges of the Israeli – Palestinian relationships in the region. Against all odds MECA kept providing for the teachers personal experiences of coping with diversity and trauma within the Israeli – Palestinian conflict in bi-national encounters, in times when most routes for such encounters were closing down by policy-makers. The political and security reality generated security measures, by which Israelis were not allowed to visit areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, and many Palestinians were denied permission to stay in Israel for a prolonged period of time. Thus, quite often the joint Bi-national meetings of teachers and of facilitators had to be moved to “neutral grounds” in other countries. It was contended that longer encounters, away from the Middle East stress, were more creative and productive in helping foster mutual understanding and create political relations that will outlive the times of crisis (Gerster, 2004) . In between the bi-national meetings, teachers and facilitators held Uni-national group meetings, trying to maintain the partnership’s agenda and develop the peace curricula. MECA developed the following guiding lines for uni-national and bi-national groups:
Developing a complex identity as an individual and a collective (gender, nationality, religious, citizenship, profession etc.);
Encouraging curiosity and question asking;
iii.t Respecting diversity within the classroom and in society;
Assuming responsibility for ones actions and for societal change. Among the focus areas considered relevant for MECA’s objectives were: Human rights, oral history, arts, literature, history, mathematics, English as a second language, Arabic as a second language (for Israelis) and early child education. Teachers of both nations were encouraged to devise a similar or parallel learning themes and processes for each subject, according to the students’ age, with special emphasis on issues such as: discrimination, prejudice, freedom, equality, fear of terror, the limits and devastation of occupation, human rights and the role of the media in democracy in troubled times. Teachers were encouraged to allow their students to express their experiences of the political reality in which they live and discuss issues such as equality, defining their identity and loyalties, developing responsibility, mutual respect and self reflection as antidotes against traumatization and demonization. The agenda of creating parallel teaching and learning units to be taught across the border was often hijacked by current traumatic events that overshadowed previous planning: the carnage of suicide bombing on Israeli territory, military retaliation raids, killing and destruction on Palestinian territory, the issue of the “wall” and the road check-points, the ambivalence around sharing grief with the “perceived perpetrator” and showing compassion to the other group, competition for the right to be acknowledged as a victim, etc. While the Israelis largely assumed that they were working to have an impact on classrooms, enhance pupils’ resources for coping with adversity and developing a partnership with Palestinians, for many of the Palestinians the primary agenda was somewhat different. There was somewhat less interest to collaborate with the Israelis in creating a joint product – than in sharing experiences and voicing their grievances, hoping to recruit the Israeli teachers for the cause of making an impact in their society. The following voices reflect some of the disparities: “The challenge that MECA takes on itself is coping with the experience of chaos. The inner experience of the two groups meeting and each group realizes how it is seen from the other side is chaotic. As soon as we have Israelis and Palestinians in one room, we have a chaotic experience. MECA is like a social laboratory, where people experience chaos, be completely aware of what’s going on and try to do something about it. Here we are in a violent conflict. To create an organization that is able to hold that gives respect to the concrete experience that we are dealing with” (Israeli voices). “I think coping with emotions is a part of MECA that we need to address professionally, how do we deal with the emotional aspect of our work. I have my emotions, as a Palestinian or as an Israeli – how do I deal with that professionally. If the goal of MECA is to develop a method of learning about topics that are not necessarily political, where can the student achieve more. It is important to develop a methodology that includes this and to deal with this issue. Maybe in every workshop there can be a special session to discuss emotional issues” (Palestinian voices). “How do we define a strategy that we do not always feel that we are victims. How do we overcome victimhood? Maybe the strategic goal can incorporate survival methods, instead of always crying that we are victims. Regarding the issues that make us very emotional, such as “the wall”, there should be a methodology in order to air and in order to express and address sensitive political issues” (Palestinian voices). “We should have a set up in which we can learn from the other side in terms of experiences and in terms of emotions and not to start with this unequal relationship” (both Palestinian and Israeli voices). The amazing fact was that all voices were heard, respected and contained. Such a major project that deals with the issues of reconciliation must suggest some answers to the crucial question: How do we make the choice to move from being a victim to becoming a victor? The underlying attitude points towards the option to employ active coping styles: Becoming active in resolving the trauma, assuming responsibility for self healing, assuming responsibility for healing others, acknowledging the fact that different individuals adopt different survival strategies in the shift from victimhood to responsibility. BASIC Ph coping styles and corresponding methods. In order to encompass the different agendas that often emerge in reconciliation practices (Ayalon, 1999), a holistic multi-modal framework evolved that contained six facets of experiencing the world: Physical behavior, cognitive learning, imagination/creativity, social support, affective expression and belief systems (Ayalon 1992; Ayalon & Lahad 2000, Lahad, 2000a). These in the reverse order created the acronym B.A.S.I.C. Ph. These six modalities merge into one fabric in our reconciliation training programs, according to the following guidelines:
Belief systems are approached indirectly, by means of narratives, stories and metaphors, in an attempt to modify stereotypes of the ‘other’ and de-demonization of the ‘enemy’.
The Affective mode legitimizes the expression of a wide range of emotions. With the help of verbal and non-verbal expressive methods, such as projective/metaphoric cards, for example, we try to access repressed emotional experiences and projections and contain emotions that are deemed inexpressible, such as irrational fear of the other, hatred, retaliation wishes, and also attraction to and identification with the ‘enemy’.
The Social/interpersonal mode is tapped by accepting and acknowledging the ‘other’ as “different but not strange”, by methods of reaching out, building trust, and by exchanging of practical ideas for the implementation of reconciliation projects. This channel stresses in-group and between-groups connections, opening routes for dialogue across perceived adversarial national and personal narratives.
The Imaginative/metaphoric mode is the key to many of these activities, as it circumvents censorship and judgmental stances. It also allows people to create a vision of a better future in the midst of dire reality of strife and conflict. Imagination is interwoven in most of the reconciliation training activities through use of guided fantasy, mutual story-telling, ‘right brain’ drawing and sculpting, playing and interacting with projective cards and small objects.
The Cognitive mode involves learning facts and figures of recent history of the two nations, and also broadening the knowledge-base on conflict resolution and problem solving strategies as a way to gain control over a chaotic situation. The Physical mode is used to build a flexible mastery of balancing tension and relaxation, establish body-boundaries and re-examine the relationship between personal space and trust. We have found the multi-modal approach most effective in helping people cope with trauma and negotiate toward resolution of conflicts
(Ayalon, 1987), in situations of violent armed conflicts (Ayalon & Lahad, 1990), suicide prevention (Ayalon & Lahad, 1992), death and loss (Lahad & Ayalon, 1994) and domestic violence (Ayalon, 1997b, Lahad, 2000b). Creative means toward psycho-social aims of reconciliation “Only if people can visualize their daydreams for a better world, can we find a path to it” (Boulding, 1995).
Following are two examples that try to put some flesh on the bones of the theoretical arguments leading to our reconciliation methods used with children, after having been experienced by the teachers themselves.
Children are faced with three levels of difficulty facing trauma. These levels can be described as relating to needs for personal security, for a sense of connection with others facing the trauma, and for giving voice to the personal meaning that the traumatic situation bears for each child. Each level of difficulty deserves close attention. Teachers are encouraged to bear in mind all three levels while trying to help their students cope with the trauma of the current situation (Flashman, 2003). These tasks, which sometimes are unattainable by direct approach, are greatly facilitated by the use of metaphors. One of our most effective tools in eliciting healing metaphors are a set of illustrated cards called COPE Cards , that belong to a specially designed genre of associative cards (the OH Card series). These cards enable their users, whether playfully or therapeutically (or both!) to access flexibility and imagination and touch deep feelings. By using COPE Cards participants can learn to identify their own particular ways of coping with crisis, stress and trauma. The experience of randomly selecting cards and dealing with the associations they evoke can open up the richness of new ideas and possibilities instead of repeating familiar patterns of thought and response. COPE Cards can help us reach our i er pain and discover our inner strength. A sort of “virtual training” takes place in dealing with challenging situations, in surfing beyond time and space, in experimenting with possible solutions to conflict laden issues – all within the safe world of image and metaphor (Ayalon, 2003). The main considerations of working with children are these: * A child has a limited ability to verbalize and process information cognitively. * A child’s attention span is short. * A child is endowed with spontaneous imagination. * Play is the natural language of children and functions as a spontaneous “auto therapy “.
The FEELING WHEEL is a method for giving name to pain. Children are offered a circular format, on paper, on a large sheet on which they can stand. In the circle the children write the names of their feelings. Younger children may be offered a wheel with names that they can recognize. In this way a “wheel” is created with room for all feelings, and the feelings are given a place and a name. Cards chosen at random are often used to transcend the lexical meaning of words and trigger a personal/subjective narrative. In the classroom, children could be asked to plot the first thing they felt on hearing of a recent terror attack, military raid or any other threat and injury to their respective communities. In mixed bi-national groups the use of the feeling wheel enables each group to listen, accept and contain the feeling of the other group without interruption, blame or guilt. This activity is informed by the following coping modalities: Affect, Cognition, Imagination, Physiac & Social interaction. Foe or Friend: Changing attitudes toward the enemy Storytelling, as a nerrative intervention, directly and indirectly influences moods and states of minds, attitudes and behaviors. The therapeutic value of a well chosen story lies in the fact that the audience may find in it some solutions that seem tailored for them and their unique internal struggles. This applies to the explicit content as well as to the implied messages. The use of metaphoric stories involve specific tasks, by which the participants re-narrate the story to own it (Gersie, 1997). Participants fill in the gaps in the story with their own images, projections and experiences. The tasks are designed to facilitate personal expression, and trigger memories, knowledge, wishes, and expectations for the future (Ayalon, 1993; 1996). The tasks create a ‘potential space’ (Winnicot, 1971) within which new alternatives can be negotiated. They also encourage a dialogue on two levels: interpersonal dialogue among members in the therapy group, and intrapsychic dialogue between the different inner voices of each member. The narration process invites the listener to actively participate in weaving the story-plot, while maintaining a protective distance from personal unresolved painful issues. This activity is informed by the following coping modalities: Affect, Cognition, Imagination & Belief systems. When stories are chosen for reconciliation training, the current conflicts between national loyalties and humane commitments are shifted to a remote time and place. For example: Pearl Buck’s story “The enemy” (1950), which is placed in Japan in World War 2. It tells the story of a Japanese doctor during the war who is confronted with a moral dilemma, whether to cure or kill a wounded American escaped prisoner. When faced with the scorching dilemma of clash between two contradicting value systems, one that demands patriotic loyalty and the other demand adherence to the medical oath of saving life, the ‘hero’ of the story has to make a choice between these two sets of values. Participants are asked to play the role of a ‘metaphorical advisor’ and re-write the story-line. Each participant’s story subtly reflects moral concerns and conflicts regarding the issue of communicating with ‘enemies’. The newly created stories are then shared and discussed in the group, within the safe space of the metaphor, as a prelude to dealing with real life situations. Examining value-laden dilemmas from the safe distance of the metaphoric space enables participants to gain more flexibility and tolerance than might have otherwise been possible. The transitional space of ‘as if” reality enabled them to leave entrenched images of the enemy and negotiate new alternatives. The structure and process of metaphoric story-making (Gersie, 1997) in dealing with unresolved issues, provided the participants with a potent tool for future endeavors in reconciliation work within their communities. Conclusion It is crucial to help people understand that they might be caught in the trauma vortex; to help them re-ignite hope, and reestablish dreams; to help them direct themselves towards life-affirming beliefs; to provide knowledge on how to cope best with trauma. There are healing methods that will help traumatized individuals manage their hyper-arousal and contain their explosiveness and hyper-sensitivity. This can be done by shedding light on the pull of the trauma vortex, shedding light on the need to encourage the healing vortex through support groups and safe forums to vent anger and frustrations, helping people develop or reconnect with their individual or national resources. It is imperative to understand the nature of traumatic reactions and how individuals and countries oscillate between the two vortices from hope, optimism, energy, and altruism to fatigue, frustrations, disillusionment, and polarized thinking and back again.
References העמותה כל פעילויותינו מתקיימות תחת חסותן של קרנות ותורמים פרטיים וממשלות זרות. מתוך מגמה לשמור על פעילות עצמאית ובלתי תלויה, העמותה אינה נתמכת, על ידי גורמים רשמיים, פלשתיניים או ישראלים. בין תומכינו נמנים:
The Konrad Adenauer Foundation The Flemish Government UNESCO The Helen Bader Foundation U.S. Wye River People-to-People Exchanges Program United States Institute of Peacen The European Union People-to-People Program The Swiss Government The Geneva Municipality Alfred and Isabel Badernnnes