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These pages of Peace News briefly presentsome of the thinking and strategies for dealing with "activist trauma" that have been developed in recent years by trainers and activists.

In defence of people, animals and nature ... and ourselves!

Activists often experience traumatic events: violence expressed towards themselves or towards third parties, or the fear and anxiety that can develop as a result of new and threatening situations. Minor physical injuries are common, but the long-term impact of trauma on activists has only recently begun to be discussed. Websites such as Healing Trauma (http://healingtrauma.pscap.org/) and groups such as the Aubonne Bridge network (http://www.aubonnebridge.net/) have started to provide materials and create spaces for activists to deal with trauma in the face of increasing repression. Starhawk has published some useful texts on this topic: See http://www.starhawk.org/activism/activism.html

In comparison to rape, perpetrating mass murder, or other terrible things, street demonstration is rel-atively less traumatic. However trauma is very much an individual thing and people can be severely effected by imprisonment, gassing, beatings by police, betrayal, or even unexpected behaviour by comrades or the state.

We can mourn little things as well as big things and it's healthy and we should. Spending time in the “sad space” intentionally allows us to delve deeper into the things we need to heal.

Many people, many activists, were imprisoned or held captive — or felt that way — through childhood and schooling. There is much to mourn and it's healthy.

When we as a culture can understand trauma we can see more clearly how much military training (basic training) is based on traumatising individuals in order to gain mind control — and we can counter it. Teach trauma healing!


This is an excerpt from a much longer article posted at http://healingtrauma.pscap.org/heal-quickie.html

Dealing with anxiety


  • Basil and Billie

    When traumatised, one thing that is very common in people is anxiety.

    There is much that has been written on anxiety, and it's all over the web. We just want to say here that if you are “triggered” (reminded of traumatic events and mentally brought back to it), you can de-escalate your anxiety with a few of the following things:

    Hundreds of people are killed every year during protests and demonstrations all over the world. Some of the most famous cases are - of course - those of western activists who have been involved in explicitly nonviolent direct action and frequently during blockades and occupations (though in some cases targeted by state agents or private companies during their day-to-day lives).
    • 1991British hunt sab Mike Hill was killed after being run over by a hunt 4x4 vehicle.
    • 199315-year old British hunt sab Tom Worby run over by hunt horsebox.
    • 1995UK animal rights activist Jill Phipps killed by truck during demonstration against live animal exports.
    • 1998US environmental activist David “Gypsy” Chain killed during tree protest while attempting to prevent logging. Activist eyewitnesses describe the incident as deliberate.
    • 2003US activist Rachel Corrie blockades Israeli military bulldozer with fatal consequences.
    • 2003British activist Tom Hurndall shot by an Israeli solider - after nine months in a coma, he dies in January 2004.
    • 2003 US activist Brian Avery shot in the face by Israeli soldier. (See http://www.palsolidarity.org/activists/ISMattacked.php.)
    • 2003 British activist Martin Shaw survives horrific fall after his - and Gesine Wenzel's - climbing ropes are cut by Swiss police during a G8-related blockade from a road bridge. Gesine survives, as fellow activists are able to grab her rope.
    1. Deep breaths
    2. Get some lavender essential oils, and either put a little dab under your nose, or get an aroma therapy diffuser and diffuse some near you, or boil a pot of water and put some lavender in it and breath the steam.
    3. Get some five-flower remedy (aka rescue remedy). This stuff is powerful and will quickly bring you back into your body and will help your anxiety not get out of control.
    4. Count backwards from 100, taking deep breaths the entire way down.
    5. 5-4-3-2-1
      This exercise will help you get in touch with the present moment, and with your physical surroundings. Identify five things you see (“a robin red breast, my hands, a blue trash can, ...”) , five things you hear (“a plane, my breath, power lines humming...”), and five things you physically feel (“my shirt on my back, the ground under my feet, cat whiskers tickling my leg...”). Then you say four, three, two, one. It is good to do this out-loud alone, or with another person. Hopefully by the time you are finished you will be feeling considerably more grounded in your body and in the present reality, where the trauma is not occurring.

Topics: Police