Network seeks healing for wounded spirits

We see many people on our streets who were crippled in the liberation war or in one of the rounds of violence since then. What we don’t see immediately are the psychological wounds, the inner trauma associated with all this violence.

The intensity of this inner trauma is not measured by the length or depth of visible wounds. Some witnesses of violence are more traumatised than the person actually being beaten or tortured.

Some people estimate that some 10% of the population, nearly a million people, have experienced some form of torture or violent assault. Many more suffer from inner trauma.

We have found much trauma in areas that were affected by those events which at first sight might not seem to bear any relation to the political violence which has been such a blight on our country. But in this atmosphere of violence, certain deeper threads run: misogynism, a masochism that says a man proves he’s a man by being violent (whereas the opposite is nearer to the truth: the man who can control himself is a real man) and these threads cannot be separated from the political.

So from whatever standpoint you start, reducing the level of violence helps to heal the deep social ills of our country.

Several groups are using the Tree of Life method, in which survivors of violence help victims to tell their stories in a group of people who have similar experiences. We reach across religious and political divisions, but for practical reasons it is best if a group all understand each other’s language.

The results of using this method are very encouraging. Over 95% of people who would normally be judged to need specialised professional psychiatric help have become once again able to handle their own problems and even to lead and inspire others. We recognise that the few we cannot heal need referring to professionals, but for them we have often provided a necessary ‘first aid’ and we refer them to people more expert than we are.

The groups using this method do not want to form a single big organisation. Those teams of facilitators who, when they have done some simple training and a certain amount of supervised/ accompanied practice, are able to operate independently are encouraged to do so. The idea is to promote the method. If independent groups are to do this effectively, they must co-operate, so a network is forming, of groups who keep in touch for mutual support.

Spinoffs which help this network co-operation include sporting activities. A number of football, netball and volleyball teams have formed, initially by groups of participants from different political backgrounds. Tournaments between all these teams have been held.

Of course, it would be ideal if the Organ for National Healing could help to make this kind of trauma healing a part of the national primary health care programme, but like so many branches of the “inclusive government” the Organ seems not yet to be able to act. – If you would like to participate in such a healing group please email :

[email protected] or sms: 0772 492 527

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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