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October 8, 2007

05 Oct
It’s funny how you don’t always learn about your impact. Years ago, after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, we donated several hundred Healing Trauma tapes to the school (yes, we were still using those quaint cassettes back then)…
Greetings again.

It’s funny how you sometimes don’t hear about results for a very long time. Years ago, after the April 1999 Columbine High School massacre, we donated several hundred Healing Trauma tapes to the school (yes, we were still using those quaint cassettes back then). A few faculty and students used them, and one social worker really loved them and tried to get students and faculty to listen to them, but mostly the people in charge didn’t quite know what to do with them. I’m sure they found them a little odd. So, in spite of our best efforts to explain what they could do, they sat in boxes, gathering dust in somebody’s office for quite some time.

Later on, when I tried to get feedback from the school personnel I’d worked with, I couldn’t find them. They’d been so grief stricken and devastated by the attack and the fact that they couldn’t protect their kids (unrealistic as that expectation may have been), that they wound up taking leaves, retiring, moving or just disappearing. So I never did hear if the tapes did any good or not. (We’ve since learned that this is pretty typical for after a disaster.)

OK, so now, fast forward 8 years to our workshop in Rochester, MN last week, Reversing Panic Attacks, Acute Anxiety and PTSD: Powerful, New Solutions to Formerly Intractable Problems. A participant reported that her close friend from the Jefferson County Mental Health Department told her that several months after the attack, state law required that the school hold a fire drill. Even though the administration had the wisdom to have the drill without sounding the fire alarms (which were going off nonstop that day), nonetheless, by virtue of the fact that the kids had to once again exit the school quickly and en masse, it unleashed the trauma of that horrific day. Kids were having massive jolts of terror, melting down, crying, shaking and throwing up. It was a real horror show. The kids again became highly symptomatic, with nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, insomnia, concentration problems... the works.

Somebody remembered the guided imagery tapes, and gave them to a few of the kids he or she was working with. Evidently those kids started telling other kids about them. Lo and behold, the box was soon emptied, thanks to student word of mouth. According to this participant, the school and the mental health center have since become great guided imagery enthusiasts, and have ordered CDs in large quantities. Guided imagery is now a staple in their mental health tool kit.

It was such a delightful surprise to hear this, after all these years! I guess the lesson is, don’t assume something didn’t help, just because you didn’t hear anything, and especially after a catastrophe.

We hope the kids at Virginia Tech will also feel free to avail themselves of the free imagery downloads we’ve set up for them. We’ll keep the VT button up on our left nav bar, so they can find the page quickly and easily. It’s inevitable that some of those kids are going to be triggered by something during the year, and there’s nothing like guided imagery to help get them back into balance and return to them their sense of being in control.

We have one more workshop to go, coming up in Danbury CT on November 3-4 on Reversing Panic Attacks, Acute Anxiety and PTSD: Powerful, New Solutions to Formerly Intractable Problems. Come join us! You can register online here.

Okay, take care and be well.
All best,

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award