Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Trauma Therapy

I had an interesting conversation with a woman at a wedding a couple weeks back. She asked me how I knew the groom and I said that he had designed the set for one of my productions a couple years ago. She then asked me a little about what I do in the theatre. I told her the basics of what I do and the companies I work for; the standard resume I use for non-theatre folk.

Then she asked me something I was unprepared for.

"What is it you enjoy about the theatre?"

It was not that I was unprepared for the question - I was unprepared for her to ask it in such a direct fashion. And I could tell that she did not want to know why I thought it was fun, but was probing for something deeper.

I explained that I felt theatre's importance came in the shared experience between the audience and artist. That when the two come together willingly and accept the invitation to imagine and to travel together, a much deeper story will be told.

My answer resonated with her.

"I'm a trauma therapist," she said and went on to talk about similar forces that come into play in her profession.

"As a nation, we've lost our sense of narrative." Narrative is important in the healing process. The central nervous system will over-load in response to stress. Much of the traumatic experience will be lost and segmented. By taking the time to piece together the fragments of the experience into something meaningful, we are able to better cope with that which has been assaulting us.

From the individual to the collective, we are all loosing the sense of narrative. Families no longer sit down to dinner together to tell the story of their day. National History is becoming bullet points on the Internet rather than a story. Cultural heritage is being lost as globalization leads to homogenization.

She is not condemning the technology that has allowed for better communication and better information sharing; all of which leads generally to improved standard of living. But failure to take stock in one another, not taking the time to work through our problems, communicating rather that sharing, and using the television as a babysitter are examples of a loss of interaction and a loss of culture.

When people are asked what they want for relaxation or entertainment, most will respond wanting something that involves an experience - or an interaction.

Her job is to put all the pieces together so that someone can look back on a complete experience and see it as a whole. It is healthy and healing at the same time.

Happy Birthday: Paul Gross (b. 1959)

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