Photography by Brian Moody
In 1991 Sue Hanisch was caught up in an IRA bombing at Victoria Station, London, England. It was the first bombing on the mainland for several years, which tried to bring attention to the IRA as the 1st Gulf war was beginning. 40 people were injured that day and Sue lost her right leg and suffered severe permanent injuries to her left foot, as well as to her right hand.
After the bombing my recovery was slow and painful. Physical healing took place as a matter of course, but the damage done to my heart and soul by such violence I still carry today. For years it felt like the trauma had ripped my soul out of my body; there was an incredible feeling of detachment, fracture and fragmentation of my entire integrity…..between body, soul, mind and spirit. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is such a debilitating condition – capable of disabling our bodies and thinking alike. The soul needs to be loved back into being, and given the opportunity and space to return in its own time when the conditions are right.
I compare the feeling of sensing loss and feeling lost to the experience of jet-lag. The body flies for hours overseas, but it is days later before the soul catches up. The body goes through the motions of getting back to “normal” in everyday life, but there is a considerable delay before the inner, cellular adjustment takes place. I realise that for some this process of re-integration is never complete. I suppose the sensations are similar to an adolescent identity crisis, many feelings are completely alien and there is a very strong sense that you do not know who you are anymore. It is a lonely, frightening time, one of withdrawal and detachment from people and surroundings. For me the sense of my soul being ripped away was shocking and terrifying; the need for hyper-vigilance was intense.
Only nine years later did I get any relief from the intense trauma by using the ‘rewind technique’, which was administered to me by a Human Givens practitioner. Previously I had received hours and hours of person-centred counselling which had only made matters worse. We would go over and over what had happened to me….we would try to normalise my belief system and try to reframe all my experiences….but still I felt even more hopeless about any permanent relief. Thankfully, in the technique used by the Human Givens approach, the traumatic memories from the bombing and all the negative body-image/self-worth issues were effectively de-traumatised and I was able to stand back at last and see the bigger picture of my life and its meaning.
I believe my soul was nurtured back to life by experiencing once again acts of kindness, seeing things of beauty, experiencing trustworthy relationships with real, honest people of deep character…..even singing to my soul…and dancing with my life. Abraham Lincoln said “encouragement is oxygen to the soul”. In all I do I appreciate encouragement from others and when it does not come from external sources I have to ensure I encourage myself. Until we get the offences in our lives out of the way there can be no progress.
Through my experience I have come to believe that we are all equally capable of being the victim and the perpetrator, and sometimes we can be both at the same time. In normal daily interactions we all need to be heard and need to listen, there are always at least two sides to a story. Each individual act of violence is a separate act from every other and whether we choose to forgive it is a personal, private, individual decision, which should not be forced or expected by another. The choice to forgive is counter-intuitive and counter-instinctive, but when it happens it is a moment of true transformation and grace. A miracle has taken place before our eyes and in our hearts.