This is a free virtual book club for trauma therapists and will be conducted through zoom.
This program free but is intended to benefit a number of social justice and anti-racism organizations.
On July 9 we will be discussing:
The Age of Overwhelm: Strategies For The Long Haul by Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky
Whether we are overwhelmed by work or school; our families or communities; caretaking for others or ourselves; or engagement in social justice, environmental advocacy, or civil service, just a few subtle shifts can help sustain us. Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, bestselling author of Trauma Stewardship, shows us how by offering concrete strategies to help us mitigate harm, cultivate our ability to be decent and equitable, and act with integrity. The Age of Overwhelm aims to help ease our burden of overwhelm, restore our perspective, and give us strength to navigate what is yet to come.
Fee: This Zoom workshop is free. Womencare is proud to be offering this free book club in order to help support anti-racism organizations. Please register for free below.
Donation: In lieu of of a registration fee, we would like participants to consider donating to one of two charities listed below:
Click on the link below to download the application. Please note that the document is enabled so that you can directly type your responses on the form.
TEACHING CHILDREN ABOUT LOVE
Excerpt from Baffled by Love by Laurie Kahn
Why don’t we take the time to teach children about love? Imagine if a teacher began a class by asking her students a simple question: “How do you know if someone loves you?”
The lucky ones might say, “When my daddy makes my lunch and puts my favorite snack in my bag,” or “When my mom kisses me goodnight,” or “Love is when your mom puts balloons all over the house on your birthday.” Others, like my clients Kate, Jessica, and Suzy, would have darker responses, if they knew how to answer at all.
Kate never had a birthday party when she was a child. When she was six years old, she slept with a kitchen knife under her pillow. She was afraid that when her father returned home drunk, he would hurt her or her sister. She might say, “Love is when you hug your teddy bear and the house is quiet when your dad is asleep.”
Jessica might say, “Love is when your older sister rocks you to sleep at night and whispers in your ear, ‘It’s going to be all right. Close your eyes. Just don’t think about what happened; don’t think about it.’”
Suzy would be unable to answer. She does not know how to tell when someone loves her. When she was six, she asked her grandfather, “Why do you touch me down there?” He replied, “Because I love you, but don’t tell your mother.”
Love is not just a feeling. Love is a promise, a commitment. We should teach our children that love is not about keeping secrets. We should teach them that love is not supposed to hurt or frighten them. Love relies on affection, care, protection, accountability, kindness, responsibility, and respect.
The teacher could write these words on the board and give the children copies of the list to take home. Love, she could tell them, must include a commitment to another’s well-being. It is incompatible with abuse.
The students might not understand the meaning of all these words, but it would be good to give them a definition of love. Then, of course, the teacher would also have to show her students something about love, because children cannot truly learn about love with just words.
By CTA or Metra
- Take the Purple Line/Evanston Express or the Metra Union Pacific District North Line and get off at the Davis Street Evanston stop
- Walk west on Davis or Church
- Cross to the west side of Ridge
- Turn right (north) to 1740 Ridge. It’s about a 2-block walk.
By Laurie Kahn
In February I returned to South Africa as part of a delegation studying post traumatic stress, and as a speaker at the First African Congress on Traumatic Stress. It was our charge to ponder the nature of trauma in a country undergoing dramatic social change. On a similar delegation three years ago we visited trauma clinics in Johannesburg and Capetown, and I had the privilege of seeing this captivating and beautiful country. The coastline of Capetown had remained a picture postcard that seemed imprinted in my mind: a beach surrounded by cliffs, white sand, and waters the richest colors of blue. When I first saw the coastline I noticed a figure emerging on the horizon. As it came into focus I could see a person riding a horse. The magical moment stayed with me. More than once I had dreamt of the abandonment and ecstasy of riding a horse on the beach.
So there I was in Capetown, staying in a hotel with serious and well-informed therapists in the field of trauma, and all I could think about was riding a horse on the beach. Two members of the delegation, Joyce and Sharon, agreed to accompany me as my personal “”dream team”. We arrived at the horse farm, my body filled with excitement and anticipation. We selected and mounted horses. Inside I was like a little kid jumping up and down with excitement. Externally my joy could only be recognized by the silly grin on my face. The beach opened up ahead of us; it was beautiful as I had anticipated. I began riding, galloping; I love the energy of a horse beneath me…The horse’s gait intensified – he began racing down the beach indifferent to my presence. My excitement gave way to fear.
The next moment I remember I was lying on the beach. Joyce was leaning over me telling me not to move. Blood was on my face, arms, and ear, and I was covered in seaweed. I lifted back onto a horse and we slowly walked back to the barn, and from there driven to the emergency room in a small hospital on the outskirts of Capetown.
My friends and colleagues remarked “Laurie, you went to South Africa to study trauma, not to experience trauma.” I was puzzled by their reaction. Yes, my body was shaken. I had broken my hand in three places, yet the moment of fear and helplessness when I was thrown off the horse was not what I most remembered. My colleagues Joyce and Sharon had transformed into loving companions. They stayed by my side, advocated for me in the hospital, and provided constant care and warmth. As I returned to the delegation I was greeted with hugs and smiling faces. My bruises were evident, yet the world had remained a kind place. Twenty-four hours after surgery I spoke on a panel with women from South Africa and Israel. Words were spoken, experiences shared and boundaries melted as we shared our wisdom and our vulnerabilities working with trauma. I returned home triumphant, proud of my resiliency, feeling well held by the kindness of strangers and friends.
In South Africa the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had come to a close. A major task of the commission was to bear witnessto the victims of human atrocities. The survivors of torture and the witnesses of the murders of their sons told their stories. The voices that had been silenced during apartheid spoke and a nation listened; the victims surrounded by compassionate faces. My hand would heal in a few short months. Healing in South Africa is daunting, the wounds less visible and more penetrating. My core beliefs about self, the kindness of others and safety in the world were intact, theirs shattered.
Many in South Africa dream of and work toward national healing. Their example and my experience in South Africa continue to deepen my belief in the power of community to buffer wounds to the body, soul, and psyche.
By Laurie Kahn
Maria walked into my office for her first appointment. Her complexion was untarnished by life’s worries, acne or damage of the wind or sun. Her hair was pulled back, almost glistening. Tall with long legs and not a hint of body fat, she shook my hand, smiled and sat down.
Maria began by telling me, in slightly accented English, that she was visiting the United States to finish a graduate degree. She was nearing the end of the program and had been an excellent student. She was living with her fiancé, who she described as a wonderful, handsome man who was from one of the wealthiest families in her country. I began to wonder – why is this woman in my office? I am not used to clients with fairy-tale lives, in which the prince really does show up.
As the session continued, I became restless. I asked her, “Can you tell me something about your family?” Perhaps there was some dark secret, a betrayal, loss of a mother at an early age.
She said she had grown up in a loving family and always felt very well cared for. Upon further reflection, she recalled having had some arguments with her mother during adolescence.
Maria continued that people in her home town were excited about her upcoming wedding, knowing it would be spectacular. The plans were proceeding on schedule – a full orchestra had been hired, the flowers were ordered, with white roses as the dominant theme. As my impatience and envy began to blend into an unfamiliar mix of emotions I blurted out: “So why are you here?”
Her eyes filled with tears. “I am having a terrible time getting along with my future mother-in-law.” That’s it? I thought to myself. It sounded like a challenge for Dear Abby. Reluctantly, I agreed to another appointment for the following week.
The next week she arrived exactly on time for her afternoon appointment.
I noticed I began to feel self-conscious, thinking of my wrinkled clothes, my hair that I hadn’t brushed since that morning, just before I ran out of the house with a pop tart in my mouth. I looked down at my hands to see my nail polish half chipped off. She looked like a model, the kind with the natural look.
“My fiancé’s mother is so pushy and demanding” she began. “I know she wants the best for us”, she added, probably in order not to appear too negative, “but she keeps taking over the wedding plans. I want a wedding that is simpler and not so elaborate.” “So what happens when you express yourself?” I asked.
“She gets mad and stops talking to me.”
I searched unsuccessfully for an empathic response. Then I realized: Maria had no experience with adversity. No experience standing up for what she believed in the face of someone’s disapproval. No experience soothing herself after taking a risk and appearing foolish. No experience recovering from rejection and reclaiming her self-worth. She lacked that secret supply of confidence that only evolves from having slain some of life’s dragons.
I felt my heart warm as Maria and I began to discuss the challenges of developing resiliency and finding a voice.
My next client typically arrived ten minutes late. Her childhood had more in common with the fairy tale Cinderella, the part before she gets to go to the ball. In grade school she would get herself and her younger sister up for school while her alcoholic mother was passed out on the couch. At age eight she learned to talk to creditors on the telephone to try to keep the phone and electric service from being turned off. For three weeks during the summer of her eleventh birthday, she was left home alone in charge of her younger sister with grocery money and a three-mile walk to the nearest store.
As a child and adult she had routinely performed acts of courage. Her resilience and tenacious spirit were unquestionable. What she lacked was a belief in happy endings. For the first time, she was dating a man who was kind and loving. She had remarked to me that she used to think people were lying when they said they had good relationships. Now she was beginning to think it was possible. As she said this, she had smiled like a kid who had discovered a new flavor of ice cream.
I have witnessed many clients build good lives out of the ashes and cinders of broken dreams. I’ve admired their ability to regain faith when they have been betrayed. I have been inspired by their willingness grieve losses and transform their lives. Some might willingly change places with Maria. Yet, it is comforting to know that in the dark moments that we have the capacity to persevere, and to triumph in the face of adversity.
By Laurie Kahn
I have returned to New York many times since September 11 and always find myself wandering back to the damage. The streets surrounding ground zero are littered with memorials. Teddy bears with red white and blue ribbons around their necks. Plaques with the names of police and firefighters who died in the World Trade Center. Street corner memorials with wilted flowers and names of loved ones scribbled on cardboard with frayed edges. A bicycle chained to a lamppost, draped with flowers and a red scarf, and dedicated to a bicycle messenger. Construction workers with pictures sewn on the back of their work clothes of a friend lost in the disaster. Circling the streets you know something horrific has happened. Grief is in the air. Maybe a little less palpable now than in September or October but it is undeniable. Every time I revisit the memorials it is strangely reassuring. I worry as I age I may become one of those people who spend their spare time going to funerals of people they barely knew. Communities gathering, praying, grieving and collectively honoring their losses – it soothes me. Pain mitigated by the embrace of friends and neighbors.
It is the unwitnessed losses that trouble me. The ones that are hidden. Where communities don’t gather and tears are not shed. The places in which there are no memorials.
I am haunted by the unnamed losses of my clients. The loneliness that comes when your public cheeriness is camouflage for the pain inside. The isolation that comes when the stories of your childhood are riddled with violence and abuse, and don’t make good dinner conversation. Not knowing the comfort of friendship because your desire for closeness is coupled with fear. The loss of pleasure because you experience shame with sexual desire. Not finding relationships that nourish because again and again you choose ones that mirror what you learned in an abusive family. The loss of not having had the comfort of an adult when you were in pain. The loss of not being a virgin when you chose your first lover.
My heart aches and I wonder where are the memorials, the teddy bears, the plaques with the names of those who lost their childhoods. Those who have had to resurrect from the ashes a capacity to love, a sense of self and dignity. I sit in my office behind closed doors. I companion my clients; together we walk through the debris of betrayals. I know there is a need greater than what I can provide. My compassion and skills are not adequate to the magnitude of the developmental and psychological scars of their traumas. The stories are hard to hear, yet I wonder why are so many people willing, even clamoring, to witness the site of the terrorist attack on New York and so unwilling to know and witness the losses suffered by childhood abuse.
I want to assure my clients that their grief is not theirs to bear alone. It belongs to all of us. I want to tell them that there should be a moment of silence every day in every community where a child’s spirit was lost. That child we all know or have glanced at or have been ourselves, the one whose eyes stopped sparkling with curiosity and wonder. I want to tell them if they listen very carefully they can hear a village weeping.