Book and Presentation Review
Valerie Sinason, poet, writer, psychoanalyst and psychotherapist
22 December 2017
This article is an excerpt of an larger piece in the ESTD Newsletter. The whole newsletter is for subscribers only. You can make a yearly subscribson here. This piece is published here with premision from the writer.
… One of the many parallel themes that echoed the interface with external reality was a session devoted solely to survivors. Peter Saunders from the UK, the Founder of NAPAC, the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, began the session in an inspiring way detailing his own profound trauma and the way he was able to transform it. It was a moving moment in the opening plenary when Alexis Jay warmly referred to him.  He was followed by Finland’s first DID survivors’ group who were launching their first book in English. They were moved by Peter’s account and thrilled to meet someone else who had used his own trauma in the service of others. They did not know of First Person Plural or PODS in the UK or of groups anywhere else and had been extremely lonely.

Seija Hirstiö had launched the project that was her vision, to co-write a book on Finnish participants’ lived DID experiences “by hanging round in internet chat rooms” and it took her a year to find five people. In her written introduction, she says how hard it was for them to write the book with different people disappearing along the way and then returning or being found. There were suicide attempts, inpatient periods, but the group managed to stay together and write the book.  The way in which they all introduced themselves also replicated the “co-equal” community they have created together and the book, their shared project. There are no names on the cover. Their beautifully illustrated 218-page book with its large print, colour paintings and drawings, poems and thoughts as well as non-gratuitous biographical details was presented by four of the five survivors with Seija, the founder of the group, quoted in her absence. When they first raised the idea of a book there was a proud decision that no-one would be excluded. Whoever wanted to write would have a space. The whole book is like a message in a bottle. You can feel something of the loneliness and pain of all five participants as well as their new hope for each other and the world.

When the authors were contacted afterwards through their website, Kaisa Klapuri wrote, and gave permission to print here: “We feel that by our work we have a meaning, a purpose in life. To live for something bigger than oneself, e.g., helping others, is the essential key to a happy life. We are deeply grateful that we got the chance to bring forth the voice of survivors themselves. We are living examples of the fact that trauma can be healed. One of the members of the public commented on our presentation the following way:

“Thank you for managing to make the hope more attractive and the pessimism less inevitable”.

In the audience, Ellert Nijenhuis also suggested that they write a book to educate psychiatrists.
One of the participants of the conference, a survivor too, wrote to her therapist: “There were many people at the conference, who engage, like you, for us and who try to ameliorate the situation, to help human beings to heal and who recognize what we had to survive. All this has a name and is recognized by you and I never experienced this in this depth. I felt perceived and this overwhelmed me and impressed me deeply. I listened on Saturday afternoon to the lecture of the survivors of Finland and England. It was absolutely new for me to meet people, who stand for their dissociative disorders, who experienced healing and who support each other. Apart from this I only know people, who did not have done it yet. Normally I can’t speak about my life without creating fear, helplessness, lack of understanding or overwhelm. So I learned not to speak about it (expect with you or other therapists).”

The name of the mentioned book is: Five Survivors, A Hundred Lives – Stories about Trauma and Dissociation, editor Kaisa Klapuri, Peaceful Impact Publisher, Helsinki, 2017

This book has the honed poetry of processed lived experience. Nothing is gratuitous. Treatment has been crucial. There are ups and downs, different levels of therapeutic journeys. However, the combined effect is a work of art of great honesty that will aid survivors, professionals, and those who are both.
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