Sara Jacobovici – Telling My Story Part Two
TELLING MY STORY:
My story begins with music. Music was part of my life for as long as I can remember. The radio was always on the classical music channel, I started going to concerts from the age of six, I joined every singing group in school, tried out for any instrument, and then I started piano lessons. The piano was an extension of my voice. I loved the feeling of getting immersed in the music, it was a nice place to be. I understood things in the music that I couldn’t anywhere else and it was okay that I didn’t have the words to describe that experience.
Music made me a listener; I heard people’s stories. Little did I know that this was forming my path towards becoming a Music Therapist and then a Creative Arts Therapist.
I can see it now as clearly as if it were yesterday. It was painted a shiny gold and had a small black and white saddle bag hanging down in the back from the seat. My first Glider bicycle was perfect! I spent many a happy time on that bike. But it was what I found inside that saddle bag that most influenced the direction my life would take. I found special bicycle tools, five of them. I didn’t use them to fix my bike. I lined them up on the floor according to the tones they produced and “played” them, with a metal spoon handle, like a xylophone. I was seven years old. When my parents came to see how I was making the “music” they were hearing, they couldn’t believe their eyes. And then I heard them asking me: do you want to take piano lessons?
My Bachelor of Music degree didn’t teach me music so much as it taught me who I was. When I knew that I was a Music Therapist, I then went about choosing the graduate program that met my criteria of what learning and training I needed to become a Music Therapist. I found a program in the Creative Arts Therapy department of the Mental Health Sciences department of a medical university in Philadelphia, USA. That program not only taught me to be a Music Therapist, but it taught me to be able to articulate what kind of Creative Arts Therapist I chose to be. I can describe myself as a therapist who works with individuals from a developmental psychology, humanistic approach.
But it was my mother who worked as a biochemist that taught me who the future therapist would be. I was still in High School when I was helping my mother in her lab during my summer vacation. After giving me a tour and a quick explanation of what happens in that lab, I sat next to her as she sat at her microscope. She picked up a requisition and said, “See this piece of paper, it is a person, a human being. And if I am to help the doctors properly treat this person, I need to know everything I can about this person. Your job is to read to me all the information on this requisition that will tell me who this individual is.”
And it was my Aunt who taught me who the individual was that I would be treating in the future as a therapist. My Aunt was a rare sight in her medical school in Romania in the 1920’s; she was a woman and she was Jewish. She excelled as a doctor and influenced her little sister when she told her that the most important skill a doctor can have is to think; treat the person, not the symptom. Ask questions; why is this person exhibiting this particular symptom at this time? She didn’t rely on her having been able to memorize the list of symptoms and their origins. She used her knowledge as a tool to understand what was happening to that person she was responsible for treating.
I am in awe of this thing which we refer to as a human being; I am in awe of us.
This sensation was formed and shaped by the stories I heard from my parents and then as I continue to hear the story of each individual I have the privilege to work with; who allow me to witness their creativity, strength and courage to pursue life.
MY ALIYAH STORY; two questions
My returning to Israel makes sense to me. I know the why of what I am doing here. I know the who, who chose where to live and, retrospectively speaking, the when of this decision. Now I am dealing with the how.
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
First question: How do I live in Israel while my individual survival mechanism is being triggered every day? My collective survival mechanism, the one attached to my history and the history of the Jewish people has been activated many times in my life. This is one of the factors which influenced my decision to make Aliyah; a different experience from the day to day, present reality. This is not to say that they’re not connected or tied up with each other; they can’t really be separated.
That connection is never experienced more than during the chain of Yom Ha’Shoah, Yom Ha’Zikaron and Yon Ha’Atzmaut.
Just as I thank my parents for choosing life, I find myself thanking our soldiers for helping us choose life.
“…choose life, so that you will live…” (Deuteronomy, 30:19)
We have chosen life…
I feel like I am gripped in a vice between praying for our soldiers’ safety and the news of each life lost. I walk down the street and attach to the way people, my cohabiters, are choosing to go about their “normal” lives. They are sitting down in bus shelters that are covered with Israeli flags to mark the place where a stabbing took place. The streets are full of activity while there are added security vehicles with flashing lights patrolling those same streets. My friends and I console each other on the news we dread to look at in the morning as we wake up or right before we go to sleep. And then there is everything we hear from around the world in general and from family and friends who are in the countries from where we made our Aliyah.
All this is happening while we are witnessing the miracle of the in gathering from the four corners of the world.
Second question: How do I work as a Creative Arts Psychotherapist in a traumatized country with people, like myself, who are dealing with traumatic events?
January 1, 2016 will be thirty years since I started working in the mental health field, predominantly with trauma survivors. My work has taken place in three countries; the United States, Canada and over the last six years, Israel. The people I worked with in North America experienced a range of traumatic experiences, for example; childhood trauma involving physical, emotional and sexual abuse, witnessing violence in the home or community, adult survivors of rape or domestic violence, or even losing relatives prematurely due to accident or a disease.
As a trained therapist I know how to ensure safe boundaries and create a safe space for individuals to do the work necessary to heal from their traumatic experiences.
Working in Israel, I have had to adjust to an environment in which in addition to the traumas related to childhood abuse, accident, disease, and domestic and community violence, there now exists a whole new set of realities such as, all eighteen year olds are drafted into the army and wars with countries on all borders. This means that as sirens go off during one of these wars, the private me has to assist my mother make our way towards the nearest bomb shelter. And terrorism; terrorist acts that take place anywhere and anytime.
The private me learns to live with texting messages to check in with family and friends when I hear of any such events. I adapt to the reality of security checks at all entrances to malls, restaurants and public buildings. I learn that we’re all in this together. Literally, as when I hear that a terror attack ends with one person moderately lightly wounded thanks to the quick response of the Mayor of Jerusalem (a former paratrooper) who was present at the scene and overtook the terrorist.
The professional me learns how to work with individuals who witnessed or were injured in terrorist attacks, experienced high levels of stress due to living in a rocket attack zone, individuals suffering from combat stress, children who lost their parents, parents who lost their children and brothers and sisters who lost siblings in military operations or terrorist attacks.
The supports I connect with are organizations like NATAL: Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War. NATAL is an apolitical nonprofit organization established in 1998 with the aim of increasing public awareness of the results of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) stemming from national traumas.
Personal trauma and national trauma, is there a difference? From the point of view of experiences, yes, from the point of view of what is involved, no.
A traumatic experience shakes us up from the core. Our sense of self and the world we live in is “shattered into a thousand pieces”, meaning is lost. The work that takes place post trauma is a healing that involves rebuilding, reframing and redefining. Sometimes based on the age of the trauma survivor it means building, framing and defining for the first time.
Human development needs to take place in a safe, familiar and predictable environment, whether that means the internal environment within the self, the body, or the family, community or nation. The professional me is responsible for creating a safe environment for healing; a familiar and predictable place where the building, framing and defining takes place. I have chosen the medium of the creative arts because trauma takes place in either a preverbal or nonverbal level. I use music, the visual arts and movement to allow the communication and expressions of thought and feelings that are beyond words.
“The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma.” ― Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery
I want to be there for the trauma survivor to find his or her will to proclaim the traumatic experience aloud.
Understanding the culture in which the trauma takes place is crucial; the meanings, associations and expectations are all as important as the language. That is another reason I use the creative arts as a means through which the healing work can take place. The arts have the potential to transcend cultural and national boundaries, help to find that will to proclaim the horrible event and move the individual to that core in which healing needs to take place.
Born in Israel, grew up in Montreal, Canada, studied in the States, worked in Toronto, Canada, and made Aliyah in 2009. Sara Jacobovici is a 30 year veteran in the health and mental health fields as a Creative Arts Psychotherapist. She lives and works in Ra’anana, Israel. Sara specializes in the use of the creative arts in assisting you to verbalize what is beyond words and to re-view the script you presently use in a new light. Sara reconnects individuals with their first language, creativity. http://www.arts-
Sara Jacobovici – We All Have a Story to Tell; One piece at a time