May our paths cross many times as we bring love and health to the children of the world --Drs. Tinker and Wilson
BUTTERFLIES AGAINST BAD MEMORIES
How Albanian Children have been helped.
By Astrid Wirtz
Hemer-Kosovo is far away from the idyllic Hemer which is nestled in-between the hills of the Sauerland. To Mirlinda and the other 81 Albanian children who came here last spring this is a peaceful place. They have found refuge with their families in a refugee camp set-up by the Maltese. This peacefulness is comparable to the once known home that was once visited by birds which flew like round-faced airplanes towards the sun. This is how Mirlinda painted her wonderful world, which was then overshadowed by other pictures, this weighed heavily on this nine-year-old’s soul. This became obvious only a few days after she arrived in Hemer.
After the initial relief of being saved from the war, the memories came back; pictures of burning houses, of soldiers and tanks, of screaming airplanes in the sky, of beaten and murdered family members. “Many just sat there and stared into space”, Christine Moller, the psychologist, reports. Men, women and especially children could not sleep, they could hardly eat, the slightest noises scared them and they dreamt of their past experiences over and over again. Modern psychology calls this condition “traumatization”. To the layman this is a wounding of the human soul, which just does not want to heal. The experience of intense fear, helplessness and anxiety has been stored in the mind and all conventional strategies to repress and deal with this fail.
There was a need for professional help in Hemer. Through the Institute for Traumatology in Cologne the Maltese psychologist was able to contact the American research team headed by Sandra Wilson. The psychologists came for three months to apply a yet relatively new method to treat traumatic experiences in Hemer. It is a short-term therapy, which produces obvious yet unexplainable successes. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) has been tested in over 100 research projects and since 1992 it has been used in 55 different countries. The last time it was applied in Germany was after the tragic train disaster in Eschede and the Oklahoma City bombing in the USA.
The starting point for this method is the understanding that while sleeping peoples’ eyes move rapidly during the dream phase. It is understood that experiences and also psychological problems are processed during this time. “The brain has been wonderfully programmed to help itself. But we must push the right buttons in order for it to do so”, says Sandra Wilson. It seems too easy and surprising how she “can push the buttons”. The patient’s eyes follow her finger horizontally back and forth. It is assumed that through this motion information processing is altered in the brain. Wilson has modified her method for the children. They cross their arms in front of their chest, close their eyes and make a butterfly motion with their hands. While they do this they tap with their hands on their shoulders, first right and then left. Pictures of past horrors change to positive images in their heads; and speaking visually, they fly away like butterflies.
Wilson says: “With the left-right stimulation emotions move in the brain. That which is frozen in the brain starts to move and the person is able to distance his or herself from the emotion.” It is assumed that the unprocessed events sit in the right brain hemisphere, while the left brain, where the speech center is found, seems to be turned off. “It is to us also unexplainable how this works”, says Sandra Wilson. “We still do not know quite why it does.” Based on brain measurements one can document definite emotional changes.
For Mirlinda and the other children the effects have been amazing. Within three days, in between treatments, not only did their pictures lose the evil face of war but also they were able to sleep, eat and started to gain weight. They attend school and can once more concentrate. This is even for the layman a measurable success.
From WR-12/16/99 Refugee Children from Kosovo in Hemer. (WR-picture archive)
CLAPPING HANDS AGAINST NIGHTMARES OF WAR By Jurgen Schon
Hemer. (AP) Tanks, soldiers, a burning house: Mirlinda (9) has recorded her worst memories of the Kosovo war with fat colored pencils.
Since April she lives with her mother and two younger siblings in the refugee camp in Hemer. Recently, and American psychology team has come to help Mirlinda and 81 other children to overcome their war trauma. The surprising results: only thirty minutes and three pictures later a near idyllic place has unfolded on the sheet of paper, and Mirlinda once more can sleep again.
Thanks to the Spencer Curtis Foundation Mirlinda can be helped. This is an American based foundation, which helps traumatized children throughout the world. Two psychologists and two assistants were sent to Hemer who worked there for a total of three months for free.
The method used is called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and is obviously enjoyable to the children, who take turns drawing or crossing their arms in front of their chests and then tapping their hands on their shoulders.
EMDR was developed in the early 1990’s and is based on the theory that people process their experiences in their dreams. While dreaming brain activity is indicated by rapid eye movement. Sandra Wilson, founder of EMDR, turns this process around; she alternately stimulates eye movement in wake people from the right and then to the left, this results in reactions in the brain. The results of the EMDR practitioners show that the patients start processing unconscious memories in their brain with their own information processing system. “They were able to heal their psychological wounds as if they were physical ones”, Wilson said.