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  • Add new comment | Research Group on Collective Trauma and Healing
    boat without needing to know who will sail in it or where they might go you just know it can take them there Nobody Understands by Shaun Tan from The Red Tree Oil acrylic and wax on paper Image courtesy of Shaun Tan That s one reason why a lot of my imagery is surreal not so much to be strange or fanciful but to encourage an open ended reading For example the painting in The Red Tree of a girl trapped in a bottle wearing a diving helmet was originally inspired by the idea of a person being verbally abused and then becoming completely withdrawn If I had represented that in a more familiar way i e showing that literally happening it would open a certain set of readings but quite limited Some readers might relate strongly but others would not However when an idea or memory takes on an unfamiliar form while still preserving the same emotional tone or outline it becomes very open to all sorts of personal interpretations Even though as a creator I began with a specific idea I now look at the girl in a bottle image and can consider many other memories ranging from regret to grief loneliness fear self pity survival and endurance in fact the interpretations are potentially endless But at the same time there is a very specific feeling that comes across which I think keeps us all connected as humans We all know exactly what this image feels like even if we attach different memories and associations to it The older and more experienced I get as an artist and storyteller the more I make allowances for an audience that I will never meet and who have likely experienced things that I don t know about including significant trauma I realise that good images and stories are those that allow another person to respond creatively and even idiosyncratically They don t answer any questions or solve any problems necessarily but they can open up new pathways for thought and discussion It s interesting to note the extent to which The Red Tree has been used internationally by health professionals mainly as an indirect means of addressing issues with patients that might not be so accessible through a direct verbal interaction I never thought about this when creating the book my intention at the time was simply to find a way of representing personal emotional experiences in a way that strangers would also be able to share GN In The Arrival there is a beautiful moment where the main protagonist encounters a shape a spiky tail in his place of arrival that recalls its terrifying analogue in his place of origin In the new place however the tail belongs to a friendly entity Could you expand a little on the creative possibilities of repetition which is often regarded as a hallmark of traumatic recall ST I guess it s interesting that objects or events and the feelings we associate with

    Original URL path: https://traumaandhealing.stanford.edu/comment/reply/49 (2015-06-03)
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  • Add new comment | Research Group on Collective Trauma and Healing
    Human societies adapt and change as do the social and collective lives of all species but we are perhaps unique in our self consciousness of that change We not only think historically we also dream of better futures and take action to reach them Historians study the details but we do so in order to describe the meaning and shape of the past Our material is only dimly and imprecisely seen and our descriptions of the object of examination are often better when they are done with the messiness of intuition that comes from complete immersion in the detail We cannot afford to work with a flawed understanding of the structural constraints of the human species One sociobiological approach posits that if our bodies evolve by the slow processes of genetic drift and speciation and given that our basic emotional responses are physiologically rooted in the brain then by a series of such connections the basic structures of society are bound to change on an evolutionary scale so very slowly as to be imperceptible at the historical scale Most historians protest against such a dehumanizing structuralism Some humanists accuse scientists of committing an error of determinism in seeing hard connections between biology and culture The error is not in seeing a connection between human bodies and human societies however for such is undeniable The error lies in assuming that each layer of the system fully determines what happens in the next layer Where such thinking exists it reflects a failure to grasp the full implications of the physical dictum of mutual effect Newton s third law bodies affect cultures and therefore cultures affect bodies The exact nature of these connections is only scarcely grasped and will no doubt provide material for centuries of human inquiry In fact the pace of history is not bound to an evolutionary time scale Human beings can transform their mentalities and shift their structural boundaries within a single lifetime societies can do it within a few generations Deep structures usually do change much more slowly than this on the scale of millennia perhaps We also share some basic structures with our mammalian cousins and it seems reasonable to suppose that we inherited them from our shared ancestors The amygdala does not appear much transformed it is in other parts of the human brain that we manage our complex emotional social and intellectual lives Our brains are of course also affected by our complex lives Thus we have learned that trauma can leave physical transformations in the brain changes that predispose the victim to negative emotional states and future fragility in the face of trauma We have learned also that some of these physical transformations are epigenetic changes that are heritable from one generation to the next so that the children of a trauma sufferer may be predisposed to such fragility Thankfully we have also read that some negative epigenetic changes may fade away after a few generations so we are not doomed to inevitable suffering

    Original URL path: https://traumaandhealing.stanford.edu/comment/reply/41 (2015-06-03)
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