DATE: Monday, December 16, 2013
TIME: 12:45 p.m
PLACE: Room A, Ladera Lane campus
CANDIDATE: Glynda Lee Nickerson
DISSERTATION TITLE: "Getting to the Root of Suffering: Cross-Cultural Dialogues with Tibetan Refugee Ex-Political Prisoners about the Psychological and Somatic Sequelae of Trauma"
PROGRAM-TRACK/YEAR: PhD-O; 2005
CHAIR: Dr. Mary Watkins
READER: Dr. Jennifer Selig
EXTERNAL READER: Dr. Patricia Cane
Nickerson, G. (2013). Getting to the Root of Suffering: Cross-Cultural Dialogues with Tibetan Refugee Ex-Political Prisoners about the Psychological and Somatic Sequelae of Trauma (Doctoral dissertation, Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2013)
This liberation psychology study included several years’ immersion in the Tibetan refugee community in Dharamsala, India, where the researcher offered Somatic Experiencing sessions to ex-prisoner refugees. During the course of conversations with refugees, this study shifted from an investigation of Somatic Experiencing as a trauma healing intervention to a cross-cultural dialogical approach to the healing of the psychological and physical sequelae of forced displacement, imprisonment and torture of Tibetan ex-political prisoners. 17 participants (7 females, 10 males; age range of 22-38) took part in a two-day Freirean-inspired dialogic workshop. Participants identified sequelae and processes of amelioration, as well as responded to a Western somatic trauma therapy, Somatic Experiencing. 12 participants (7 females, 5 males) were interviewed after the workshop about their experience and views, and 9 (6 females, 3 males) volunteered for Somatic Experiencing sessions. Data was analyzed by thematic content analysis.
Emotional sequelae included: (1) loneliness due to separation from friends and family in Tibet; (2) feelings of helplessness to assist Tibet and Tibetans still in Tibet; (3) sadness when reminded of the Tibetan situation; and (4) the distress of non-being brought on by occupation, displacement and unofficial refugee status. Physical sequelae described were (1) digestive problems, (2) difficulty breathing, (3) pain and tightness, and (4) dizziness, weakness and fatigue.
Mental health strategies identified as most helpful derived from Tibetan Buddhist practice, including reflection on karma, generating bodhicitta (“awakening mind”), and inquiry into the root of human suffering, which participants contrasted to Western psychotherapeutic goals of symptom reduction. This Buddhist approach was distinguished from Western psychological methods as a dependable route to mental health, and was highlighted as unique in achieving lasting rather than temporary well-being. Collective goals of helping other Tibetans, resolving persecution in Tibet, community interdependence, consolation among friends, and Tibetan Buddhist culture preservation were privileged over individualized trauma healing approaches. Implications include potential for increased sensitivity to cultural invasion (Freire, 2007) in international trauma fieldwork and to the need for psychosocial accompaniment (Watkins, 2013).
Keywords: Somatic Experiencing, Trauma, Tibetan Ex-prisoner Refugees, Torture survivors, Dialogue, Freire, Psychosocial Accompaniment, Tibetan Buddhism Please note: Parking is available on the Ladera Lane campus. Shuttle service is not available to that campus.