Not villainous, not heroic but epic?

Tony Goodson found this article and Facebooked it: Terrorism, Trauma and the Search for Redemption.  It’s the remarkable story of Silke Maier-Witt, her traumatic upbringing, how she ended up in the Baader-Meinhof gang – and how she now devotes her life to working with victims of trauma in Serbia.

Trying to regain some kind of control over life in these circumstances is tough. I think it stands in stark contrast to so many of the formulae we see put forward for changing whole organisations, as if somehow that is easier than just person changing.

This idea particularly caught my eye.

Maier-Witt explains that according to trauma psychology, people tell three stories to explain their lives and make sense of their experience. There’s the victim story, which is the favorite. People love to see themselves as victims. There is the hero story. But trauma sufferers seldom cast themselves in the role of someone who has triumphed over adversity. And there is the epic, which is the healthiest story.

In an epic tale, life unfolds as an adventure. Every day you make the choice to accept your fate without trying to change everything about it. Your role is not to fight or to fix; it is to see and to experience. The goal is to become more aware and more sensitive. You change things by the example of how you live each day.

This makes enormous sense to me. We tend to use the word “epic” as if it’s a synonym for marvellous. Clearly that’s not what Maier-Witt has in mind here. It’s really about dealing with reality, day-by-day, without overdramatising, however tempting.

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