Watching Hakan: Muhafiz has been reminding me of things I saw, but didn’t really understand until some years later, when I worked in Turkey. This is an update of a post about one of those observations.
I was very surprised, when I lived in Izmir (aka Smyrna), to see how supportive Turkish women are of one another, even in cases that I found very surprising.
A coworker of ours, a young woman, was apparently rather heavily in debt, as she came crying into the office I shared with two colleagues, one originally from Istanbul, the other originally from Bulgaria, but of Turkish origin. Both of them turned to our younger colleague, jumped out of their chairs, and ran to hug and comfort the woman, as I tried to understand what was happening, and whether a doctor was needed. They explained that they had both heard earlier about her troubles, and that it was just something that needed talking out, and led her into a nearby empty classroom to sit down.
Within minutes, a dozen of our colleagues, all women, all lecturers of English, had pulled the chairs into a horse-shoe shape, with this young woman at the head of the U, tissue boxes at the ready, listening and commiserating with her as she cried and explained her problem of having too many credit card bills. I excused myself to go to the ladies room, astounded, at the time (2005). Now, in 2020, I look back and realize that this was essentially a cultural stand-in for mental health services. Untrained, and not trauma-related, of course. But it is something, still, a support system, which many people lack, especially in the United States. Especially those who struggle with childhood traumas or PTSD.
Ten years later, looking back on that, I found myself pondering social isolation and mental health from a different perspective. I found an article related to overcoming PTSD via new neural pathway creation, and wrote:
Bloody hell -so that’s how it works!!
While she doesn’t do any brain mapping herself, Chard says this altered biology makes sense based on the fact that, as children, we are only just beginning to conceptualize the world by organizing experiences into categories. She gives this analogy, which she uses with her clients: “You see a two-year-old run up to a dog and say, ‘Doggy!’ And then she sees a cat, and she doesn’t have a schema for cat yet, so she says ‘Doggy!’ Mom says ‘Kitty,’ but everything four legs and furry is doggy until the child develops more categories.
“And then I look at my clients and say, ‘Where’s the category for child abuse?’ When you’re five, there isn’t one. The brain doesn’t have a place to store that kind of event, so it ends up bouncing around—not stored well at all in terms of a past, processed event. So what we do in therapy is bring it up, process it, make neurotransmitter connections, make sense of it with a new schema, and put it away.”
Ok; now I see why it is important to re-call the experiences rather than either try to forget, or plan B. Thank nature that the brain is sufficiently flexible (I was diagnosed in 1994 with PTSD and still criticised by a partner in 2013 for looking around all the time and jumping when a bus went by, but I thought I was being discreet -at least I no longer have major panic attacks…)
March, 12015 HE
So, it turns out that social support can help, but with pre-verbal age traumas, talking can also help. So, yes, talking does help. Interesting…
Yassas, γεια σας! Salût ! Nos vemos! Görüşürüz! ! שָׁלוֹם
Action Items in support of literacy and hope that you can take right now:
1.) Search for two different representatives you can write to about local health care services.
2.) Ask your reps how to increase mental health care services in your area.
3.) Share with us in the comments, here other ways that you feel our society could Do Better, please.
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Shira Destinie Jones’ work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.