Treating trauma and PTSD the CHamoru way

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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.

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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.