Deeper understanding brings people to a new place, where everything is the same and yet nothing is the same anymore (Tonya Alexandri – May, 2015)
‘The search for family is also a search for their true identity’ (Empty Cradles by Margaret Humphreys)
To begin with, the creation of this site stems from α need to communicate my work and experience to others; especially, to those, who have suffered violations of their basic inherent human rights, as well as, those working with individuals or groups that have survived all types of trauma. It provides a means to speak out against violations of rights and inhumane practices, to restore and seek justice. It is also a means of breaking the silence and fighting against all types of child abuse, because I believe that each time we traumatize our children an irrecoverable waste of human potential, talent and happiness takes place. There is a lot of evidence now that supports that the functioning and organisation of our brain reflect both the quantity and quality of experiences during the critical early years of development, and also, that all types of traumatisation and severe neglect in infancy and childhood lead to an increase in the release of stress hormones that destroy infants’ newly formed neurons and cause long term changes in memory areas of the brain. Therefore, I hope that this site will join the many voices around the world against all forms of abuse, torture and human rights violations and that it will enable me through my artwork and writing to discuss relevant issues, the detrimental effects of trauma, but also the possibilities of safety, healing and empowerment. One survivor writes ‘speaking out has been one of the most profoundly healing and terrifying things I have done in my life. I chose to be part of the solution, and do not want to be part of any hidden conspiracy of secrecy and silence which only enables child abuse to flourish’ (cited in Mullinar and Hunt, 1997). An additional reason why I decided to break my silence and create this site is the fact that to a great extent, in Greece, silence surrounds issues concerning trauma, rights violations and childhood abuse as if a great part of society is comfortably in denial of issues that should concern us all because of the detrimental repercussions of child abuse and early trauma on children’s development and the negative impact of unresolved trauma later on in adult life. Although society ‘permits’ neglect and exploitation of children and women and human rights are severely violated in many different contexts; it is talking about these issues that is not encouraged. Of course, denial is a universal human defence and response that protects us from being overwhelmed by both internal and external reality; however, in adulthood denial of our early pain and suffering can become crippling and can rob us of our vitality, health and creativity, and can also open the door to further ongoing victimization and manipulation in adulthood. Herman (1987) writes that data suggests that survivors are at great risk of repeated victimization in adult life because they are burdened by impairments in self care, in memory, in identity and in the capacity to form stable relationships and to trust. Moreover, denial does not apply at an individual level only and it does not characterize survivors only, it is a mechanism that also applies at a societal level. Repression, denial and dissociation are phenomena of social as well as individual consciousness (Herman, 1997). However, denial and silence come at a price because ‘silence and denial make us do things blindly’ (Alice Miller, 2001); whereas, healing and awareness of our past history enables us to stay grounded in the present and it decreases our emotional blindness, which enables us to establish healthier boundaries in relationships and make wiser choices. As we confront our denial and heal, a shift takes place in the dynamics around us and further healing takes place in the world. Finally, many psychological theories have overlooked the social contexts of abuse, violence and oppression and their significance as wider accepted social practices. However, discrimination, racism, misogyny, maltreatment of children for whatever reason should not be an inevitable legacy of the past, nor should they be accepted as social or political practices.
Secondly, this site has evolved into an online art project, a space where I can post texts and exhibit artwork on a frequent basis. It also provides a means of documentation of this journey and of memory processes and art creating. It is basically, a work in progress, and this is the reason why I felt it was necessary to rewrite this introduction from the place of awareness and knowledge I am today because our meaning making, art making and writing, are all situated in time and place. This is also the reason I may at times remove or add new material (articles, books, etc) because as one’s knowledge increases one’s critical appraisal of material available in the field may also increase. Additionally, as new aspects of memories or material are processed and as experiences are revisited our understanding and life narrative change dramatically. The passage of time alone and the acquisition of new knowledge and life experience change our understanding and meaning making. Initially, a lot of trauma related material may be fragmented and may seem out of context and it requires time, knowledge, courage, perseverance and hard work to make sense of the different aspects and layers of memories. So taking the above into consideration and within the framework that all experience is situated, all art exhibited in this site, including Let me be, must be viewed as products that represent the level of understanding I have each time and the dynamics in each particular phase of my journey. This is the reason I have over the years repeatedly returned to the images from that initial level of processing in consequent artwork. Let me be reflects understanding and meaning making of material and deeper dynamics from an earlier perspective. In some sense it reflects a more superficial understanding of both the dynamics of trauma and experiences because painful truths are often protected by lies, more trauma, memory distortions, fear and psycho-physiological mechanisms. In addition, when one is creating spontaneously various things find their way in one’s art like emotions and moods, expressed through symbols and images, all types of memories even narratives from books, poems and songs, film scenes and images, etc, which we have retained for one reason or another…. And as I have written elsewhere, images in one’s art could be considered as a form of symbolic speech that facilitates the expression of emotions, underlying truths and dynamics with greater economy and in a more indirect and symbolic way. Therefore, all my artwork should be viewed as part of a bigger whole and an ongoing process towards increased clarity and change. Likewise, my website is also part of the bigger whole and one aspect only of both my creativity and my ‘long walk back home’, back to my origins and beginning. To sum up, it is a documentation of a journey, of memory processes and workings of our miraculous brain and of deeper dynamics and politics of trauma and violation of rights.
– I have not contributed any articles, essays or artwork of mine to any other site and have no connection to any other websites containing the words trauma art alexandri.