Jul 24, 2012

A resource for accompaniers (and others) dealing with trauma exposure

I highly recommend the book
Trauma stewardship: an everyday guide to caring for self while caring for others
by Laura Van Dernoot with Connie Burk
(I was happy to find that the CPT team in Colombia had this on their shelf, though I don't know how often it gets read or practiced!)

They write about some of the
warning signs of trauma exposure response: 
(which many accompaniers may relate to)
  • feeling helpless and hopeless
  • a sense that one can never do enough
  • hypervigilance
  • diminished creativity
  • inability to embrace complexity
  • minimizing
  • chronic exhaustion
  • inability to listen/deliberate avoidance
  • disassociative moments
  • sense of persecution
  • guilt
  • fear
  • can’t empathize/numbing
  • anger and cynicism
  • addictions
  • grandiosity: one’s identity becomes solely about work

The book is full of tips for self care in this situation:
  • coming in to the present moment
  • trauma mastery (read for more on this)
  • where am I putting my focus? (+ -)
  • creating a microculture
  • practicing compassion for myself and others
  • finding balance
  • gratitude
  • daily centering
Of course they say much more about each of those. 

One of their arguments that really resonated with me was that people may come to think that only by suffering themselves can they express solidarity with those who are suffering, that feeling happy is somehow a betrayal. Somewhere between ignorining people in crisis and internalizing an ethic of martyrdom lies balance. It helps to understand our own personal response to trauma exposure, our patterns and how to respond. (page 61).

I also liked their argument that it can be easy to confuse being amped up, attending to crises, a sense of being needed with being awake, living life.  This can make it hard to slow down and we find ourselves keeping very busy even on vacation, or we get sick on vacation from adrenalin crash (page 123).  We can get stuck in fight or flight. Animals shake it off/out afterwards. It can help your parasympathetic nervous system kick in to move energy out like this.  Move. Walk. Breathe.

They recommend that when you start the workday you stop and ask yourself, why am I doing what I am doing? Breathe. Remind yourself making a choice to do this work. Regularly write down why you are doing it, what your intention is. Remind yourself what it is about for you, and what it is not.  This would be a great exercise for accompaniers, if not daily at least once in a while.  Maybe right now?

Jul 16, 2012

accompanier getting slapped makes the nightly news in Colombia

One of the basic premises of accompaniment is that a bigger deal will be made if an accompanier is attacked than if the person being accompanied is attacked.  That was dramatically illustrated two days ago when this video made the news (see the bit starting at second 30) of a Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) accompanier being slapped while accompanying the community of Las Pavas, who are defending their land against invasion by an oil palm company.  Yet despite the media coverage, and several government agencies speaking out against it, the invasion continues.  The people of Las Pavas are resisting nonviolently, putting their bodies in front of the palm tree tractors.  Please hold both the CPT team and Las Pavas in your heart as they continue working for peace in a very explosive situation.

Jul 11, 2012

new video on accompaniment, and IPO training

Below is a video by IPO, the international peace observatory, about accompaniment.  Unlike other accompaniment groups who often avoid using the term, IPO starts out by saying that accompaniment is a way of doing solidarity.  And this video will give you an honest sense of the kind of transportation accompaniers regularly take! A lot of accompaniment is about being with people while they move from point A to point B, so if you hate bus rides, it's not for you. Love the truck on a truly bad road at around minute 5, which also gives you a sense of the gorgeous mountains these bad condition roads are often going through.

IPO is one of the only organizations that takes accompaniers for short stints.  If the video sparks your interest in IPO, they are doing a training for potential accompaniers on July 14th in NYC, more info here.  Sorry for the short notice, but if you're interested, they will hold another in the fall.

Jul 1, 2012

great resources on facilitation and consensus and more

The fabulous British group Seeds for change has a great collection of handouts on consensus and facilitation here.

I have a consensus question for you.  If a group comes to consensus that they want to do something, say, accompany a particular group, but then after some time some of the members no longer want to do this action (say, accompany that organization, or in a different context run a community school, or what have you) - does there need to be consensus about pulling out? Or is the fact that there is no longer consensus for staying in enough to end the project? Certainly those that no longer want to be involved could just leave - but what if they have serious doubts about the viability of the project and want the entire group to pull out? What is the consensus process for that? Any suggestions or comments much appreciated.