The Art of Strengths Coaching

H is for Helping People To Move From Haemorrhaging To Healing And Hope  

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There are many models for helping people to manage a crisis. One approach is to stop the haemorrhaging. It is then to move on to healing and hope.

This latter part is crucial. People often gain strength to recover if they can focus on realistic hope. They must also see a way, however, that will enable them to achieve their picture of success.

Sometimes this involves physical recovery – such as recovering from an accident or illness. Sometimes it involves psychological recovery – such recovering from a trauma, redundancy or other setback. Sometimes it involves both physical and psychological recovery.

Stopping the haemorrhaging can take many forms. Sometimes it means stopping the bleeding after an accident. Sometimes it means moving on from an abusive relationship. Sometimes it means spending time with positive people rather than being exposed to constant negativity.

Healing can take many forms. It can mean spending time in a physical or psychological sanctuary to heal the body and soul. This then provides strength to begin shaping your future.

Hope can take many forms. It may mean people seeing how they can regain their health, retake control or have a better quality of life. This feeling must be based on reality, however, and people given practical tools they can use to achieve their picture of success.

Looking at your own experience, can you think of a person or a group of people that has been helped to go through these stages? You may have known those involved or have heard about them.

It could be a person who has been helped to recover from a trauma or personal setback. It could be a group of people who have been helped to reshape their lives after experiencing redundancy. It could be a community that has recovered after a natural disaster, conflict or other event.

What help was the person or group of people given to stop the haemorrhaging? How did they go through the process of healing? How did they focus on realistic hope and work towards achieving their picture of success? What happened as a result?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a person or a group of people that was helped to stop the haemorrhaging and then move through the stages of healing and hope.  

Describe the specific things that happened that helped them to move through these stages. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of them going through these steps.

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Different people help others to go through these stages in different ways. They may do this when working as a nurse, counsellor, crisis manager or in another role.

Many organisations also help people to go through these stages. Let’s explore one example. This is the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims. You can discover more at its website.

http://www.irct.org/

A person who is dealing with torture is often consumed by three kinds of pain. These are the remembrance of the past pain, the feeling of the present pain and the anticipation of the future pain.

Inge Genefke has devoted much of her life to helping such people. She is a Danish doctor who founded the ITCT in 1985. The organisation aims:

To rehabilitate people who have been tortured and to care for their families. 

To educate people in the treatment of torture victims. 

To contribute to the prevention of torture.  

Here is some background about Inge and the work of the IRCT. This is based on Thomas Larsen’s book The Meeting with Evil – Inge Genefke’s Fight Against Torture.

Dr Genefke became aware of the existence of torture while still a child during Germany’s occupation of Denmark in World War II.

With a father who was active in the Danish resistance movement there was a very real risk that torture would have a direct impact on her life.

Fortunately, that risk never materialised. But it had set a young girl on the path of remarkable journey. 

In 1974, after training as a neurologist, Dr Genefke, together with three fellow doctors, responded to a call by Amnesty International (AI) to help diagnose torture victims and produce forensic evidence that could help hold torturers to account in a court of law.

Forming AI’s first medical group focusing on the question of torture, the doctors began to see torture survivors who had fled the cruel regimes then in place in Latin America, notably Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, as well as in Greece. 

“After examining just the first 15 victims, we concluded they suffered horrible psychological sequelae. Of course we found physical sequelae.  

“But the worst sequelae were psychological: depression and anxiety, the inability to concentrate and the terrible guilt”, says Dr Genefke, who has personally provided direct treatment to hundreds of torture survivors.

In 1982 she founded one of the world’s first clinics specialised in torture rehabilitation, the Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (now the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims).  

Three years later, she founded the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT).

Ever since she has worked incessantly and with fierce energy to garner support for the fight against torture, countless times addressing politicians and loudly criticising those in power in a wide-range of countries- democracies as well as dictatorships.

Commenting on the so-called “War on Terror” she has time and again refuted the notion that torture can be a safeguard against terrorism:

“Torture is not about extracting vital information to make the world a safer place, but rather to break the spirit of dissidents.

“It does not prevent terror; it creates terrorists. When you torture, you create violent hatred.

“If my father had been tortured by the Germans during their occupation I’m sure I would have become violent” says Dr Genefke. 

The key to her remarkable achievements and dedication lies in her insistence that indifference and ignorance are the greatest foes of a world without torture: 

“Often I am asked how I can stand being involved in this field.

“I also find it painful hearing about torture, but rather that than be left in ignorance. 

“With knowledge, I can fight it.”

The knowledge and attention that her work has helped create plays no small role in the fact that across the world there is an ever-growing number of citizens who refuse to turn their backs on the mention of torture, let alone on its victims and those working against torture.

The IRCT continues with its necessary work around the world. It keeps the human spirit alive and has drawn the following response from the Dalai Lama:

Your organisation is actually compassion implemented.

There are many ways to help a person to stop the haemorrhaging and then focus on healing and hope. Imagine, for example, that you are helping somebody to move on from a distressing experience.

The first step will be to help them to find a place where they feel safe. Filled with self-doubt, they may need time to heal their body and soul. You can then help them to spend time in a sanctuary, shape their future and achieve success. Let’s explore these steps.

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People who suffer a setback often need to lick their wounds and begin to make sense of the experience. They need to spend time in a sanctuary.

Different people choose different kinds of sanctuaries. They may rest, sleep, write, listen to music, see a counsellor or whatever. People begin to heal and regain their strength.

Sanctuaries are great. But there comes a time when a person needs to move on, otherwise the muscles atrophy. They can then focus on what they can control and start shaping their future.

A person recovering from an abusive relationship, for example, can set short-term goals and get a success. They can spend time with people who are supportive rather than those who sap energy. Gaining in confidence, they can then take more steps towards shaping their future.

Looking ahead, can you think of a situation in which you may want to help a person or a group of people to take these steps? You may do this as a friend, counsellor, problem solver at work or in another role.

What can you do to stop the haemorrhaging? What can you do to help them to go through a period of healing and then focus on realistic hope? How can you help them to achieve their picture of success?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to help a person or a group of people to stop the haemorrhaging and then move through the stages of healing and hope.  

Describe the specific things that you can do to help them to move through these stages. 

Describe the specific things that may happen a result of them going through these stages.

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