Hunsinger_van_D_DeboE75689(1)A lecture from visiting professor Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger.  She was visiting Australia and was hosted by the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Otago for a week.  She proved to be an excellent speaker and gave a rewarding lecture.

Christians are called to participate in God’s care for the world through Jesus Christ, through prayer.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an inescapable stressful event that overwhelms our stress mechanisms.  The nature of the event does not guarantee a traumatic response.  None of us have the exact same experience.  Each of us is individual and our mental structure that enables the response is individual.  Each one is a valid experience.  “Get over it” is not going to work.

Any kind of emotional or physical shock has the chance of psychological consequence.  We have a high alert to threat.  When flight or fight are not options we enter the altered reality of freeze mode: time slows down, we become immune to pain, detached; quite literally an out-of-body experience.  It interferes with our narrative and memory.  The intrusive memory is split off from our consciousness.  It comes back in obcessive ruminations, in nightmares or flashbacks.  The memory is triggered by a smell or a sound.  We are left on permanent alert.

To keep the trauma at bay we constrict our worlds to avoid encountering its triggers, take up addictive habits.

What do I get from replaying the injury?  All violence is an effort to do justice or undo injustice.  Traumatic behaviour is cyclic.  The victim relives the trauma by recreating new victims.  How do we break free from the cycle?  Whatever we are afraid of requires our attention.  We need the company of another to piece together a coherent narrative to bear healing or mourning; to create a web of meaning while remaining fully connected to the listener; to connect to feelings without being overwhelmed.  We don’t know who or how we will come out.  Talking about trauma can make matters worse without being in a safe domain, anchored in the present. The slower you go the faster you get there.

Creating a spiritual framework to post-traumatic growth takes time, choosing life over death many times: understanding the self, facing pain, reaching the next level.

Christianity wrenches us inside out.  God is in hell — the victim and the risen lord of redemption who suffers on our behalf and for our sakes.  Trauma no longer separates us from God.  Healing is set in the context of God’s salvation — both for perpetrators and for victims.  One who died for all who do harm, love stronger than death or hate.  Overcoming the world Christ saves us.  We do want to forgive, to lay aside rational payment for pardon, but we don’t know to forgive.  Go down into the pain, the wounded Christ is our healer.

Our grief will be in community, restoring hope and trust, our worship the lament.  God bears what cannot be bourne.  While the churches appear as people who have got it all together, we still have to come back each week.