revealing the trauma of war

Excellent article in National Geographic about application of very simple, powerful approach of encouraging vets to make and paint masks as a way to express their pain, their woundedness.

As one says…

I THOUGHT THIS WAS A JOKE, I wanted no part of it because, number one, I’m a man, and I don’t like holding a dainty little paintbrush. Number two, I’m not an artist. And number three, I’m not in kindergarten.
Well, I was ignorant, and I was wrong, because it’s great. I think this is what started me kind of opening up and talking about stuff and actually trying to get better.”
– Staff Sgt. Perry Hopman, who served as a flight medic in Iraq.

and from elsewhere…

“We don’t call it post traumatic stress disorder, we call it post traumatic stress injury– because thats what it feel like – an injury”

– Iraqi war vets talking with Peter Levine

Sometimes – in fact most times – words cannot express the wounds within because our talking, thinking word-based brain shuts down.

“All trauma is pre-verbal.”
-Bessel van der kolk

When we find it difficult to muster words to adequately convey what we’re struggling to hold within we can find that others impose their words upon us, using words that lead to us being defined and categorised by those whose chief concern is defining and categorising and forget that there are no categories that exist outside the minds of those who observe and categorise.

Lets face it, words are overrated as a means of communicating.


“I had this muzzle on with all these wounds and I couldn’t tell anybody about them.”

– Marine Cpl. Chris McNair (Ret.)


We can instead turn to other forms of expressing and communicating what words cant and that predate words.
Mask making is trivialised in western culture yet remains a  deeply human way of expressing very human experiences.

Now we need extend the same and similar approaches to include all living with pain that words offer limited  inadequate  – the civilians and kids especially.

And lets not limit this kind of approach to those caught up in wars – as Bessel van der Kolk says:

“there are four or five times as many kids in grade schools affected as there are veterans returning from war.”

Original article and photos here




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1 Response to revealing the trauma of war

  1. Yes, because “disorder” presents the reality as “self contained” and apart from experience and Injury calls it what it is… something horrifying outside the person which happened to them and to others around them and which they had to endure without escape, which did them great harm. in other words; real life and NOT the “wrong” reactions.


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