The seminar had one required reading: Suzanne Rancourt’s article “Women Veterans and Multi Modal Post-Traumatic Growth: Making the Tree Whole Again” featured in the January 2016 issue of Combat Stress (pp. 72 – 85).
You can access the full issue online, which will allow you to hear Rancourt’s songs “The Sacred Light” and “The Wind.”
Experts from the article for discussion appear below.
Access Rancourt’s personal website to experience more of her multi modal works.
Quotes from Rancourt’s article for discussion:
“What we cannot speak, we sing.”
“Assess, adapt, and overcome has led me … only to discover I needed to ask others for help. Granted, my willingness to learn continues to help me understand my trauma and its effects on my body….Being open to new information is the key to moving forward in positive growth” (72-73).
Community as integral to healing: she notes the communities she belongs to that have offered her connection, support, and strategies for what she calls resiliency.
“Singing is a way to put into sound the emotions and memories that are unspeakable. One may not even know what the emotions are, from where they come, or to what they are ultimately attached … . Singing or reading our stories aloud can soothe the limbic’s ‘unsafe’ response toggles. From the inside out, quite literally, my singing soothed the vagus nerve and its numerous connections. I was unaware of the physiological effects of my self-soothing until recently.. ” (p. 73).
“tempo of guitar is incredibly slow. I began to realize that trauma events and memories get slowed down too” (74).
“In the act of art making, did I know have to first disassemble, deconstruct, my current beliefs, experiences and self to then reassemble myself through the metaphor of making this basket? Is this not another way for my limbic self to come back together?” (pp. 75-76).
“How do military women restructure the various roles and identities required of us within our military culture and the civilian culture? And when those roles are at odds with one another, what then? And what happens when the mental health professional has a cultural perspective that is buried within a rigid clinical distance and a limited repertoire of interventions which do not allow the practitioner to view a client’s narrative from any other perspective than the practitioner’s own?” (76)
“The telling of one’s military experiences are done through a variety of modalities, including song, stories, dance, drumming, and drama. Over time, without hurry, and with ample community support, we weave the various roles of self into a new structure, a new identity out of trauma (be it the effects of war, military sexual trauma, and/or physical injury), which has given us the gift of new form, new perspectives, and wisdom. In a process similar to harvesting, we select the parts of our experiences necessary for integration of our whole self that includes our military service. Does your current cultural membership honor this process and wisdom gained from answering the call to protect and defend?” (p. 76)
“These are all aspects that I include when I speak of the military women’s many selves. I am … . Perhaps, as women, our many roles allow us to multitask and require us to innately be aware of all that is happening around us and within our environment. What happens to the military woman whose many roles have been tampered by military training, and then assaulted with military trauma?” (p. 76)
“’The change occurs in the process of the art making.’ Experiencing the art making and all the emotions that resonate in the moment is integral to being whole and being authentic. Given responsible guidance and a safe environment, could this multisensory expressive arts therapeutic experience, be capable of transposing hypervigilence into positive, healing artistic expressions that emerge from within?” (80).
“For me, resiliency is being able to see the options…. . For me, balance and centeredness mean proficiency. As a human being I am not in perfect balance. No one is; so what do I need to do to bring balance back into my life? What strategies, tools, assessments, adaptations, are necessary to correct my human tiltedness?” (p. 80).
“hypervilience cultivated over time can be soothed into strengths.” Channeled into rhetorical acts. (81).
“Little by little, our memories of trauma and emotions attached to the traumatic event can emerge through the arts into a conscious narrative. This narrative allows us to examine the trauma, to consider how our beliefs about the trauma and our self can dictate our perception of self and the world and how this contributes to holding us back from full reintegration into self, family, and for veterans, into civilian culture” (82).