28 February, 2022
I am not a foreign policy expert. However, I do know what it’s like to grow up after a war, under Communist rule. To have my father be in hiding due the realities of re-education camps, executions and disappearances into the night.
I know what it's like to flee with my parents for our lives, to seek refuge. Where anywhere is better than this nightmare.
For those of us who have experienced open warfare and fleeing for our lives - whether personally or ancestrally - the war in Ukraine may be igniting body echoes of a familiar terror that lurks beneath the surface, hidden by ordinary everyday life.
For most of my life, I turned away.
I turned away from the Yugoslav wars, the massacre of Rohingyans, and the genocide in the Congo, all of which resulted in waves of refuge-seekers in my parents' home suburb, where I grew up.
I turned away because my nervous system did not have the capacity to meet the unresolved body echoes of terror. I was living in survival mode (and unaware of it), yet to have discovered the transformative power of somatic psychotherapies.
Yesterday, I grounded myself in ancestral love and strength, and sat with my body echoes, and allowed the constriction and tension to build. My body contorted into gut-wrenching sounds that were dis-allowed due to the survival imperative. You see, survival requires the discipline of silence, and fleeing requires the discipline of over-riding all other primal needs.
Completing the physiological responses of overwhelming terror restores the nervous system to homeostasis and, as a somatic trauma therapist, increases my capacity to bring heart-full presence to the terror of others.
Terror is always intermingled with grief and existential confusion.
Maybe one day, I will understand why.
In the meantime, I stand with the people of Ukraine. I share your terror and grief, and your hope for peace. You inspire me with your bravery and your humanity in the face of this nightmare.
I also know that it's not bravery when fighting or fleeing are your only options for survival.
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