Belonging Series Process: Trauma & Interviewing
At some point in most interviews, I am in the position of asking people to open up and talk about some kind of trauma. I am not a trauma therapist or any other kind of therapist. Luckily, I have a dear friend who is, and a good therapist of my own to boot. I also have the sensitive nature of an empath, which helps me feel my ways into these uncomfortable, painful places with love.
For the pilot episode of our series, perhaps because I have Michael for so long I was less anxious about asking him things. For Episode #2, I had a tremendous amount of anxiety come up around what I was asking Alicia, Antonio and their family to talk about. Even though my logic brain was telling me, they’ve agreed to be a part of this, they know that I’m going to ask them to talk about the trauma they've lived through, I still felt this unease about asking them the necessary questions. They have spent years testifying, talking, and being interviewed about the horrific torture and human rights violations they endured. It just feels so different when I am the one asking them to go there...again.
This past Sunday I completed the final interview with Alicia’s eldest daughter who was just 18-months-old when armed soldiers busted in the door to their apartment and took her mother away. They were not reunited for nearly four years. As a mother myself, that is the part that felt the most torturous in re-reading Alicia’s book, The Little School, the fact that neither mother or child knew when they would be reunited. The inhumanity of the tearing apart of families coupled with the paradoxical blessing that Alicia and her daughter were eventually reunited when so many others in their same situation were not so fortunate feels like it must be an open wound.
As I finally sat down with Alicia, I decided that I would not ask her to talk about the torture or what she endured. If it came out naturally, then I would of course bare witness. But I would not ask her to go there. Let her take the lead would be my mantra.
And like so often happens when I'm interviewing someone, a magical energy seems to take over with most of the questions I want to ask being answered without me ever having to ask. It’s almost as if by writing them down, the universe is able to communicate them for me, and so when I sit across from someone I become two big ears leading from a bigger heart. The answers flow without much prompting.
The interviews for Episode #2, despite my anxiety, or perhaps because of them, flowed with ease. I was a loving witness. And I hope (and was told) that the experience wasn't too triggering for any of them.
I do not believe in trauma porn. I think that’s the predominant virus in our media these days. Everyone obsessively focusing on all the dis-ease, the pain, the suffering, that we can’t let in the light, the solutions, the way through these seemingly endless traumatic times.
With this second episode of the Belonging series, I am returning to a story that is very near and dear to my heart. I spent 8 years (from 2001-2009) working on a documentary about the Dirty War in Argentina. And while I never completed that film, I consider that to have been my documentary boot camp, since I never did go to film school.
Interviewing the mothers of the disappeared (Madres de la Plaza de mayo), inviting them to talk about their children who had been stolen from them by their own government was among some of the most difficult interviewing I’ll ever have to do. I learned from them what truly matters in life. And returning to this chapter of our human history, the Argentine genocide, the extreme cautionary tale corruption, human rights abuse and the rise of hate over love unfortunately couldn’t be more timely.
When it feels like daily so many have forgotten how connected we all are. How when I hurt you, I am hurting myself, I am in awe of the synchronicity in my life that have led me to these stories that I am privileged to get to share with you. I am hopeful that together, through the telling and the receiving of these stories, we can create a better now and a better tomorrow.