Jun 28, 2022
Join Jenny Atlee as she opens us to the world of accompaniment amid violence in Nicaragua, Honduras and beyond. Jenny’s experiences and learnings invite us into the world of personal and collective trauma, followed by stories that highlight pathways to healing and peace, especially through equine therapy.
From Jenny’s interview:
“Trauma is exposure to overwhelming events when you cannot keep yourself safe. What your whole body is operating out of is an automatic nervous system response, which is to fight, to flee to collapse, to play dead. Those are survival responses in overwhelming situations; it can take many forms. It can be physical abuse, emotional abuse, an accident natural disaster; it can be witnessing trauma or abuse or violence. And so as individuals, we experience trauma.”
“Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, a Native American woman gave us the definition for historic trauma, which is the deliberate perpetration of violence and harm against a people, over time and across generations. An example of that would be the genocide that happened against indigenous people in this country or slavery in this country. These are historic traumas.”
“Then there's collective trauma where a group of people experience an overwhelming traumatic event. So Uvalde in Texas, Buffalo, New York, those communities are right now in the full blown collective trauma. That will be working itself out as we move forward.
Then there's intergenerational trauma, which is how trauma can get past individual or collective or historic, and can get passed down through the generations. Thomas Hugo has been a great leader in this, has done a lot of work in Germany. Documenting how the Holocaust, that huge historic and collective trauma, is intergenerational and that it tends to get more complex and compounded as it moves to the generations, if it is not attended to and resolved.”
“The word trauma is so valuable because it shifts the key question of trauma from what's the matter with us and what's wrong with us, to what happened to us? And that's a pivotal shift when we're looking through a trauma lens. What happened to us? Why do we have nightmares? Why are we hypervigilant? Why do we have no energy? Why are we exhausted and burnt out and can't ever recover? What happened to us can sometimes help us find answers and not pathologize people who've been traumatized. A lot of this also has to do with systemic injustice and systemic violence that perpetrates collective and historic trauma.”
“I think they [horses] are a mystery, these huge, enormous animals. You know, 1500 pounds. When they choose to connect with you and come and place their enormous head right on your heart and tears come forward and memories come out that you didn't even know you had, there is mystery about that. How did they know to touch that? And we always say, it's so potent and efficient, their healing. They go right to what it is that most needs attention that often we're trying to protect or push aside or no, not now, or not that or tuck it behind us. We'll talk about this for that. And they just go right through and say, how about this one? How about we just talk about this one? And it remains a mystery how they do that. They are prey animals and human beings are predators. And as prey animals, they know things about how to be together and stay safe together that we can learn a lot about as human beings. … They need to stay safe in their social unit, with very sophisticated systems of communication and collaboration. … They can operate as they are meant to operate as a herd. We have so much to learn from them about a peaceful way of communicating and being with each other. We see that lion lamb unity when we partner with horses.”
“We don't know all of what the horses are doing. We know that they're grounding, that they're regulating heartbeat, regulating breath rate. Their large nervous systems are training, our nervous systems into a wave that is more regulated and more grounded and more healed so that we can remember what that feels like. In trauma we get stuck in our flight-fight and we forget what it feels like to feel: oh, there's peace here too. They take us back there so we can remember it and then we can access it again. Some of what trauma does is it takes that away. We don't even know how to get back to it and they give us that back in our bodies.”
“In terms of my essential nature, where I am is,really a contemplation intuition story. This is where I am, this is where I'm most at home. And yet my path and my work in the world has been one of action and analysis, where I needed to have facts and figures, and I needed to be able to document things in such a way that they would stand up under the utmost scrutiny. I talk about it as two wings of a bird; we need both wings to be strong in order to fly and to have that balance. One is more my nature, and one I have to work to develop more than other; but I have really needed to rely on both. Both have their place in my growth and integration of experience and making meaning and articulating my experience so that it can transform and evolve. That's how I see it, as two wings of a bird and they partner together in a very strong way.”
“Seeing the world through a trauma informed lens can help us to start to tend to this trauma field that we're living in. No one is immune from it; it impacts everybody. And create safe spaces where we can recover a felt sense of peace and safety and power that we can trust and heal this culture. I think that Franciscan spirituality, indigenous spirituality, trauma informed lens, and all the teachers and mentors who are resourcing, provide some links for developing this work. And for me, ultimately the horses. This is what will help us heal our culture so that we have a chance of finding peace. Horses, for right now, are leading the way, and we'll continue to struggle to find the words to communicate their mystery.”
For a full transcript, please include episode number and email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sanctuary Movement of the 1980’s: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanctuary_movement . This was an ecumenical movement inspired in part by Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad: https://www.nps.gov/articles/harriet-tubman-and-the-underground-railroad.htm
Judith Herman’s book Trauma and Recovery: political violence impact on individual and collective trauma; see https://www.amazon.com/Trauma-Recovery-Aftermath-Violence-Political/dp/0465061710/
Red Thread, Jenny’s book on resilience and trauma, tells stories of the people she accompanied in the midst of political violence in Nicaragua: https://www.amazon.com/Red-Thread-Spiritual-Journal-Accompaniment/dp/0918346258
Honduran military coup, June 2009: https://www.amazon.com/Trauma-Recovery-Aftermath-Violence-Political/dp/0465061710/ .
Honduras Accompaniment Project: accompanies the nonviolent social movement in Honduras https://friendshipamericas.org/programs/honduras-accompaniment-project/
Historical Trauma, work by Dr Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart: https://blog.nativehope.org/understanding-historical-trauma-and-native-americans#:
Intergenerational Trauma, work by Thomas Hugo: https://www.amazon.com/Intergenerational-Trauma-Ghosts-Times-Past/dp/152386558X
Equine Therapy model of Arenas for Change (ARCH): https://arenasforchange.com/ - partnering with horses to help heal the violence in our culture so we can all have more peace. Another model of is called Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA); see https://www.eagala.org/index
Saint Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio: Read in The Deeds of Blessed Francis & His Companions XXIII, FA:ED, vol. 3, pp. 482-485 at: https://www.franciscantradition.org/francis-of-assisi-early-documents/the-prophet/the-deeds-of-blessed-francis-and-his-companions-1328-1337/2386-fa-ed-3-page-485. A contemporary exploration of this story in light of care of creation: Befriending the Wolf: Blessing all God’s Creation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNHbgnAdaVk