Understanding and Managing Fear – Part 1
Monday 15 October marked the first day of Feminenza’s Trauma Healing Workshop, bringing together 14 youth workers from the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and Italy.
The day was full of new learning, storytelling, demonstrations, group work and a presentation on fear as we entered the first part of the Trauma Healing Workshop on Understanding & Managing Fear.
Participants experienced the ‘Field of Fears’, an experiential and private self-reflective process allowing each person to identify the fears that are active in them in a safe and neutral way.
“Fear is natural but a person can be stopped by not knowing how to manage their fears,” said Des O’Sullivan, one of the workshop educators. “Understanding is the first step.”
Participants learned that fear is natural, and fears can change during different stages of life. A person can learn the skill to bring fear to a standstill and take a conscious position about it. Anita Como from Per Esempio described the day as ‘full of hope’ and enjoyed the storytelling that illustrated depth and understanding about identifying and managing fears.
Understanding and Managing Fear – Part 2
After a fun warm-up session using balloons as props, participants were introduced to an exercise to help them identify their strengths and qualities, an approach that offers assistance in managing fear.
Everyone began by thinking of an achievement or success in their life, then asking themselves questions such as, ‘what qualities did I need to be able to achieve this?’
“Essentially it’s about learning to draw upon qualities and strengths to cope when fear arises within oneself,” said UMF educator, Sandra Maguire. “Even a small success is nevertheless a success”.
It’s an effective and practical approach where participants begin to resolve the fears they choose to work on, and build courage with the qualities and strengths that will help them, enabling each person to be more prepared and ready when dealing with fears.
Day 3 of the Trauma Healing Workshop focused on Forgiveness. Educators Mary Noble and Monique Weber led the group by introducing ‘The Seven Pillars of Forgiveness’, supported by stories, theatres, and reflective exercises.
“Forgiveness is a complex matter with multiple issues. There is an innate ability in us to be able to forgive,” said Mary Noble. “But life happens, all of us experience difficulties and pain and it is important to learn the skill of forgiveness and practice it so that when you need it you have the tools. Forgiveness is a journey, a process, not a one-off event.”
The first part of the day explored the importance of understanding. Making efforts to understand another, rather than deferring to judgment or ‘labelling’, forms the basis to begin a process of forgiveness.
A range of video clips, films, and real-life stories was shown throughout the day, illustrating the challenges of becoming responsible, through choices, and learning to set oneself free from the past as an important step in the journey of forgiveness.
One film was the documentary the Imam and the Pastor, the story of two religious leaders for the Muslim and Christian communities in northern Nigeria who were once bitter enemies, but now work together to teach forgiveness and respect for each others’ religion.
Participants gathered in study groups to discuss forgiveness stories such as Immaculee Ilibagiza who took refuge by hiding in a bathroom for 91 days with 7 other Tutsi women in Rwanda. In her book ‘Left to Tell’, she describes why she eventually chose to forgive.
Some were especially caught by the story of Eva Kor, a Holocaust survivor, who went through a transformational process by which she was able to forgive the Nazis at Auschwitz and especially her attitude that forgiveness is about self-healing, self-liberation, self-empowerment.
Participants also discussed freedom and responsibility, prompted by questions such as: ‘How can you forgive someone who isn’t remorseful?’, ‘Am I still imprisoned in the past if I haven’t forgiven?’, ‘What part does responsibility play in forgiveness?’
These and other thought-provoking questions surrounding the many facets of forgiveness are an essential part of the Trauma Healing Workshop Experience offered by Feminenza.
Days 4 and 5 of the Trauma Healing Workshop touched upon some crucial aspects of the process of forgiveness, allowing a deeper realization and resolve to occur in the participants about experiences in their own life.
Practical exercises, quiet reflective time and small group work helped participants understand the remedial influence of forgiveness and the importance of warmth towards oneself to be able to start the process of self-forgiveness.
“When we have been in receipt of a wrongful act, we can go through a process of forgiveness by starting to separate the person from the act they committed,” said Monique Weber, one of the workshop educators. “Forgiveness plays an important role for the community and groups that we are part of. Being able to let go of past experiences or of what no longer fits will allow a person – and others you are connected to – to move on”.
Groups reflected upon stories of long-standing conflicts that are passed on from generation to generation, with discussions around the question: What would be part of the remedy, and what would the first actions be?
“It’s also about working for the remedy in oneself in any situation,” said Mary Noble, CEO, and educator. “You cannot change the problems of the past, but you can be part of the solution today.”
One of the participants reflected that she could see why the workshop needed to be 5 days, so they could gain understanding and have the time and space to really consider the issues at depth. “It needed to allow the time for change to really happen, and for that to process as well,” she said. “So it’s been a journey, but nicely spaced, so you have enough information to go by each day, but there were stepping stones to get to the place of real understanding, compassion, and forgiveness.”
“For me, it was looking at personal stuff, but then I can really identify with a lot of the people I work around and their issues, and I’m thinking how they can benefit from this kind of workshop in their lives.”
By the end of the workshop, the participants recognized that they need to become the change, in order to allow change to happen in the young people they work with.
“The benefits of this project are not only for participants at a personal and professional level but also for the people they work with,” said Mary Noble. “We intend to apply for further assistance from Erasmus Plus to train youth workers to the next level, to further contribute to the mental health of Europe’s youth and community resilience.”
Educators from the Feminenza International & Participants from the Trauma Healing Workshop