Katharina Ley: Tell me your story - Storytelling in trauma therapy in a society of transition. The example of South Africa

While Storytelling is of course a cultural universal, it does seem to occupy a special place in the hearts of Africans. The way the stories were told and the manner in which lessons were taught create(d) a sense of community in African society. To focus on transition, the culture of Storytelling in Africa survived colonialism because of its intangible and universal character deeply rooted on our souls. Today some of these stories are interpreted in a way to display and facilitate transition.

In trauma therapies we are confronted with the social and personal impact of the mentioned history and a violent present. Trauma has an isolating impact on people (and stories). Through traumatisation the personal ability to symbolize has deteriorated. The own life story is shattered and lies in pieces. The cultural heritage of Storytelling and the own broken story exist side by side without a connection and without a nurturing strength. The broken life story is not rich and coherent enough to sustain actual and future life.

As a first step trauma work can be seen as the creation of a new own story which implies the traumatical event. As it is not possible to forget or exclude trauma from the own biography it has to be integrated in such a way that an alternative, coherent life story becomes thinkable and can be told. The therapeutical dialogue can enable one to create and enlarge the story or the storis as lives are multi-storied. As a second step the story after (or mostly during ongoing) traumatisation has to connect to the socio cultural frame and its stories to feel again connected with life.
In the workshop these steps have to be demonstrated in a case presentation about a trauma therapy.

(Workshop I at: 5th EFPP conference of all three sections, 4th to 6th July 2003, Stockholm, Sweden)


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last modified: 2003-01-20