Independent Guahan addressed a serious issue within our community last week, breaking down violence and how trauma plays a big part. In this report, we take a look at how PTSD is viewed and how it could be treated in the traditional CHamoru way.
Grief recovery specialist Terri Francisco says trauma alters one’s construction of reality and changes one’s beliefs about self and the world. Whatever people believed before is dramatically changed.
“Everything they believe about themself can be over-generalized and changed and everything that they believe about the world can also be affected,” Francisco said.
The person begins to feel anger derived from feeling powerless. There’s a need for control, a loss of self-worth, trust is lost primarily with people, intimacy becomes a problem and so does feeling safe.
Francisco, however, stresses that you are not your trauma.
“Chamorros also believe that you are not your illness. So in Western thinking, your medical condition is part of you. But Chamorros don’t believe that. They believe this is more of a passing thing, we believe that its more of an internal suffering, and a lot of the treatment is focused on changing that … giving purpose to the suffering,” Francisco said.
While western treatment is focused on coping with the symptoms, indigenous practices are more focused on re-alignment of the overall well-being.
Dr. Edward Santos says it’s about healing the spirit and strengthening the circle.
“With our therapy, part of it is to develop and strengthen the circle, strengthen that hoop. With trauma a lot of times there’s a wound in the soul and it gets filled with other things and that would be family violence, that’ll be substance abuse that’ll be other types of oppressive behaviors,” Santos said.
He shares that this is the generation of healing within our people, stressing that the condition is not your identity especially when it comes to trauma.
“It’s an evil spirit that’s kind of come into our soul and that we need to cleanse from,” Francisco says.
Both Francisco and Santos say that healing can occur if we listen to the trauma of others, remember that our behaviors are observed and absorbed by our children, and understand that the more we are exposed to violence the more normalized it becomes.