Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Trauma through the eye of my German ancestry

I has been two years since I have written another blog. I know some of you are eagerly awaiting another article from me and this one might not be what you have been expecting. Today the keys on my computer are just begging me and I feel driven to write.

I have been asking myself, why an issue has been emotionally impacting me so strongly. I think it has to do with a combination of me being an enthusiastic  trauma therapist, German and an immigrant.
I am talking about the incarceration of children and adults on Nauru.

As a German woman due to my heavy inherited past of the holocaust I always felt the need to speak up when faced by an injustice.  I believe because of this history being silent was never an option for me. It felt like my obligation to speak my truth even though I might be very scared to do so.  Being scared was no excuse for me. I owed it to my ancestors and to millions of victims to stand up. And so I am standing up today and sharing some of my thoughts.

These days I am proud of being German.  I had to have many counselling sessions for myself on the deep guilt and shame I carry even though the Hitler era happened two generations before me. When nowadays one of my clients comes to me and mentions his/her/their  parents having been traumatized by the holocaust, I feel honoured and humbled to be able to work with this client. The old shame no longer binds me.

I have to speak up today for a new kind of shame has hit me. This shame is created by the government of a country I have chosen to live in and call home, Australia. Attending a book reading with Behrouz Boochani who was present via Skype and reading his newly published book “No friend but the mountains” has opened my eyes to this new kind of shame . It deeply struck me when Behrouz mentioned that he and his detention inmates have lost all hope to ever reach freedom. Not having committed any crime other than being forced to leave their country of origin these immigrants are incarcerated infinitely.  I cannot fathom what losing all hope might mean. It is too big to comprehend. It is unimaginable to me. I have seen some very desperate clients, but they still had some hope, somewhere.

When reading the book it struck me how already severely traumatized human beings are being systematically traumatized in an institutionalized manner. The strict yet continuously changing, completely unpredictable rules on a micro and macro level are hard to believe and can only be described as cruel. The senseless suffering of families separated from one another. As a trauma therapist I know how deeply trauma can impact a life. How it can cripple the life force we are naturally being born with, how our nervous system can be altered in a way that every day life becomes difficult. The smallest things can then make a person collapse into a freeze state.  Our government is creating a new multi layered kind of trauma that generations later people will be able to analyse and study. Wasn’t the stolen generation of the indigenous people on this land enough? Hasn’t Australia learnt the lesson that institutional systematic traumatisation carries on into many generations that follow? Research claims that it takes 7 generations to heal from severest of trauma.

The immigrants on Nauru have been completely stripped of their identity. People are not registered by their name, everyone is given a number and they have to answer to these digits.  I cannot comprehend that the Nazi regimes tattooing of numbers onto Jews arms is being copied in this way by our Australian government in this day and age. I am utterly speechless and even writing this down feels hard and paralysing. It makes me very emotional and I cannot comprehend how humans can do this to one another without the presence of any threat.

I am an immigrant myself and there are days where my homesickness hits me unexpectedly and heavily. My heart seems to bleed for the loss of my country even though I chose to leave and I live here happily and of my own will. I can fly back to my country whenever I want and I could decide to even move back to Germany should I come to that decision. I have a choice and despite that choice it sometimes hurts being away from my country of birth, from my roots. Immigrants of Nauru don’t have that luxury. They can never return to their country, they indefinitely have to grieve the complete loss of their country. This is hard enough. Being imprisoned for life on top of this is incomprehensible, is beyond me to even grasp. Even writing about is seems trivializing it.

Typing these words while enjoying my freedom and a good life seems such a middle class thing to do. It is so little. So useless in the face of what is happening. Maybe I am doing it to make myself feel better. Maybe I am doing it to feel less helpless. I have the luxury of relieving myself of this helplessness a little bit. There are people who cannot do so. I hope that for them we can take action. Action at the next election. Action writing to electorates.

Talking to one another about this subject, informing the people around us what is going on. Sharing how we feel. And in the end we are all the same. Human beings on a planet that needs protecting.

With a heavy and hopeful heart,

Barbara Schmidt

Barbara Schmidt
Counselling Somatic
Trauma and Nervous System Recovery

If you want to find out more about your nervous system and the 
incredible healing of trauma I am inviting you to read the short 
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