Victims or the importance of form
In 2014, an armed conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine. Rinat Akhmetov was the first to provide unprecedented help and saved 3.5 million lives. To keep personal stories of these people, the Museum of Civilian Voices was created.It is the first and largest in Ukraine archive of eyewitnesses’ accounts of events in Donbass. The Foundation aims to make it the largest museum of civilian stories in the world. The museum has already collected about 2,000 stories of residents of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and internally displaced persons, and the Foundation plans to document 100,000 stories by 2025.
Psychologists who help people cope with the war trauma are involved in collecting stories for the Museum. Since 2014, more than 60,000 different-age residents of the east of the country have received psychological support from the Foundation. Olena Lukyanchuk is one of the Foundation’s psychologists who prepared a set of materials on psychological assistance. Let us present her professional viewpoint to you.
Today psychology topics are extensively covered in written sources. At every corner you can hear “close gestalt”, “awareness”, “psychosomatics”, etc. People know about psychological trauma almost from their birth. The current generation of parents does a lot to avoid traumatizing their children, sometimes even putting an overly soft cushion for them to fall on where it would instead be necessary to give them freedom or the opportunity to gain their own experience, even if they get some bruises in learning.
And again, a modern psychologist must be able to write and sell his or her services, and this is associated with a huge number of courses and training sessions on “sales for psychologists” and, as a result, a huge amount of psychological information pours out on us from the Internet. But does it help us to believe in ourselves, to adapt in a difficult situation, to understand why 7 years have passed since the beginning of the war, but many people have not come to their senses still, as if stuck in hopelessness, and against all the advice “to pull ourselves together”, they sink even deeper into hopelessness.
Some of the IDPs still live as if “not for real”, stuck in this trial version of life, sometimes not even trying to realize that this is the reality.
Why do we need different time periods to adapt to change?
War, pandemic, divorce, relocation, unbought candy from childhood – all this affects us in different ways and for someone it will be a trauma, while others will subsequently not show any emotional or cognitive changes.
Once one of the psychological publications shared a story of how terrorists stole a school bus and threw the kids in the dungeon. The pit had a central rod and a vault, which was held on this rod. Then something happened and the rod began to wobble. The children fell into a stupor. Many were frightened and began to cry, which is quite understandable, because the earth began to crumble on them, and they decided that they would die now. One of the boys suggested, ‘Let’s hold this rod and move the falling earth somewhere!’ He was fighting back. Although he was in the same situation as the other kids. When a year later they were all examined (they were rescued, and the terrorists were punished), that boy was the only one who did not have any clinical, somatic, or mental consequences from the damage, while various changes in the emotional and cognitive spheres were found in others. Although they were all there in the same conditions. But the boy fought.
And this story shows us in the best way possible that the adaptation of the psyche to the crises and horrors of our life is directly related to our ability to remain active, to have at least some power over situations and our lives, to our ability to realize that we have done everything we could.
In psychology, when referring to trauma, the term “victim” is used, but now sometimes another term is used – “sufferer” or an “injured person”. They differ insignificantly in context: both persons were in terrible conditions where they experienced violence to one degree or another. But the meaning of these terms is different. The victim is deprived of any power over himself or herself and the situation (this is the most traumatic element, since you do not control the situation and your life), and this feeling becomes very destructive later, as the person further doubts this ability to control his or her life.
When we rename the “victim” to “injured person”, we seem to return his or her power and strength over the situation, where even if he or she was powerless, but did everything in his/her power, the situation was just bigger than such a person. It is very important for a person to understand that he or she is doing everything that depends on him/her in order to win, adapt, withstand and control the reality.
For all of us the war is an event more than we are.
That is why it is so important to change the form, even for ourselves. Accept the fact that we can all be harmed or injured when life gets bigger than ourselves, but we do the best we can using all our strength. Forgive yourself for not being able to always be on top, do what you can every day, and notice it.
If the armed conflict has affected your life, you can also contact the Foundation’s psychologists for help by calling the hotline: 0800509001.
Your story should be known too! Tell it to the world! Follow the link https://civilvoicesmuseum.org/en/my-story and fill out a short questionnaire to make your input in the preservation of memory.