November Monthly Event Recap

Kintsugi: Healing a Nation.

The way to move forward.

The primary principle behind Kintsugi is acknowledging the crack – hurt – bruise – within and finding a way to create a more beautiful, valuable, and meaningful piece. Most of us find ourselves related directly to a first-degree victim of the current turmoil in the country that needs repairing.

AWiB is a trendsetter, but this time, she was also fore-sighted. The good news of the peace agreement in Pretoria couldn’t have happened at a better time than November 2nd, right before the November event that AWiB hosted to discuss the future of our country – the need and strategy to heal a nation. More than 150% of the anticipated participants showed up at the event. “Harar Grill” was packed, vibrating, and full of passion, as witnessed during the networking session.

The panel started at exactly 6:30 PM. Sponsors of the month, ‘Wudassie Diagnostic Center’ and ‘Cactus Media and Communication’ introduced themselves to the audience via their representatives. Tigist Ambaw, the eloquent and masterful moderator, took the stage to reflect on Kintsugi in the traditional Ethiopian context. Then she introduced the panelists, Seble Hailu and Tigist Waltenigus. Both speakers are renowned psychologists/practitioners with more than a decade of hands-on experience, including in warzones. The panelists were given fifteen minutes each to reflect on the talking points of the subject matter. Both speakers underlined the value of the broken piece before even thinking about fixing it.

The moderator then threw a couple of questions for reflection.

  1. Can a nation be healed?
  2. How can we bring forth the traditional wisdom of solving problems with love, peace, and wisdom to the current conundrum?

Seble was asked:

  1. The current turmoil is clearly an end product; what could have contributed to this build-up?
  2. What do we observe in situations where there is adversity?
  3. Have our culture, society, and family contributed to the civil war?
  1. For there to be healing, the illness has to first be acknowledged. We are diseased as individuals, families, society, and a nation. I believe that intrapersonal conflicts (conflicts within) lie at the core of all conflicts. They come as a result of unclaimed and unprocessed emotions from multiple life misfortunes and upbringings as children. The unprocessed emotions manifest as body diseases, relationship problems, mental illness, trauma, and conflicts that may pass on to offspring.
  2. As adversity is an inseparable part of human nature, we acquire our own unique forms of adversity in distinct ways. When we hurt collectively as a nation, the pain is magnified, which requires more healing. Just like Kintsugi, the final piece repaired with gold is more valuable but also requires a great amount of detailed, tedious, and time-consuming work– a slow, conscious measure toward healing. Once, working in a warzone, I witnessed the devastating outcomes of war. The saying that goes, ‘only the dead have seen the end of the war,’ may be true, but I say the living see worse. What I witnessed was contrary to what we assume human dignity deserves.
  3. The shy nature of Ethiopians flamed by the weak culture of communication and dialogue may have contributed, among other things: to the race for scarce resources, the presumption of ‘unfulfilled needs,’ the violation of rights, and the clashing of ‘values’ or ideologies.

Questions posed for Tigist:

  1. Can conflict be a result of emotional instability?
  2. Ethiopian citizens, what characteristics do they exhibit in the warzones?
  3. Could you emphasize your emotions while working in warzones?
  4. How can you relate our society’s minimal communication and dialogue culture to where we are now?

Asking rhetorically, “Where did we all go wrong?” “Where did we forget to recognize the humanity in each and every one of us?” perhaps, giving the audience a second to contemplate.

Tigist responded: conflict is always related to emotional instability. By defining the physiology of our brain regarding responses. She went on to outline ‘trauma’ as something that happens when there is an abrupt disruption of routine. The coping mechanisms of our brains when faced with unceremonious trauma: Fight, flight, freeze, and surrender—further defining them with practical examples.

She asserted that though trauma is a residue of something in the past, its effects don’t cease there; they negatively affect our current and future lives. Such effects can be visible at any time, manifesting as relationship problems, boundarylessness, physical/mental ailments, and so much more. That is why we need to heal trauma.

Emotions demand to be recognized; they are naturally buoyant in the human body. So, if we deny them recognition and acknowledgment, they will find their own ways to poke out and seek the attention they are entitled to. That is what psychosomatic illnesses are, which are most commonly found in our society these days. The diseases were not caused by any other microbes. Forgiveness is one way of acknowledging severe emotions such as monumental pain, guilt, or anger.

15 minutes were clearly not enough to address all the panelists had to say. It was then time to take a few more questions from the audience, summarized as follows:

  1. With the mentioned severity of trauma in warzones and the small number of psychiatric practitioners, how can individuals be treated?
  2. Is it possible for people to self-heal without any intervention from an external source?
  3. As a community, how can we deal with collective trauma?
  4. Apart from traumas that happen outside of war zones, what has been causing such despairing deeds to humanity?
  5. Ethiopians desperately need professionals like you to heal them, especially children. How can we prevent future -possibly worse- traumas from occurring by working on the new generation?

To which both speakers answered:

  1. Everyone may pass through traumas, but the effect will vary to a degree. Due to the enormity of the damage, it is impractical for each individual to seek psychiatric therapy. That is when ‘transitional justice’ comes to a rescue; it is where mediators use collective healing. Acknowledging the injustices and damage done would be the first step in the healing process. Reinforcing the concept of compassion and forgiveness in societal institutions to reach the mass at large.
  2. It is possible to heal oneself without the need for external aid, but depending on the levels/degree of the trauma and damage done, it may not be bad to seek professional assistance.
  3. In order to reach the mass, political and societal parties need to come together for a common end goal. Initiatives that encourage the dialogue culture can significantly assist in accelerating the healing. Having compassion in lieu of any hate-filled opinions and instilling them into society. A healed nation is nothing but a bundle of healed individuals. So, everyone should take responsibility for healing her/himself.
  4. Unprocessed emotions will gradually solidify into thoughts, which will then become beliefs. These untreated emotions -along with all the grief, pain, and betrayal- will pass on to the next generation untreated and continue.
  5. We have developed a practical approach called ‘Community-based trauma healing,’ a community-led and practical technique already implemented in many parts of the country, including in Afar and Burayu. Compassion is the best ally for any conflict resolution. It is imperative to be open to multiple entertaining points of view.

As the session was coming to an end, the speakers concluded that self-reconciliation is the basis for healing an individual, a community, a society, and a nation at large. As a nation, we must focus our intentions on the people’s general well-being, development, and unity. Putting oneself in the shoes of those we consider indifferent, and developing the habit of empathetic listening genuinely for understanding grant us opportunities to practice humility and compassion, hence, the gateway toward everlasting peace.

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