Margaret Bennett and Jennifer Maiden, Workbook Questions: Writing of Torture, Trauma Experience. Penrith, NSW: Quemar Press, 2019. ISBN: 9780648555216
The aim of this workbook is to facilitate and help survivors of traumatic experiences and torture though writing them, under the guidance of planned questions as methodological tools (clinical perspective). The overall goal is to create a domain where communities that have experienced trauma can find their identity and self and interconnect with each other.
First of all, the discussion between Bennett and Maiden raises a variety of potential questions around trauma as embodied experience (trauma’s outskirts) – the emotions or the senses that were the result of traumatic experience. Maiden addresses the important role of emotions, sensations and events on trauma’s outskirts by asking about the survivors’ situation in a place, their feelings and how they can be helped to thrive.
The start of writing this useful workbook was dated back to South American women torture survivors, two decades ago. The questions were asked to them as a specific group of people. This group described their experiences (dates, geographical and historical moments, etc.) and they were free to write and confess to anything around their traumatic experiences. This workbook aimed to free these women from their inner worries, anxieties and fears, and gave them back their voices that had been kept captive for many years. In addition, the workbook ameliorated their expression, stylistic way of writing and their way to express their views and opinions openly. So, their writing skills and critical spirit were enforced and this oriented them in another liberating way apart from just writing their traumatic experiences as static moments or timelines of their lives.
Furthermore, logos (narration) of their traumatic experiences in the context of the past allowed them to distance these experiences in future. The play between the different time zones (past, present and future) can reveal an unusual and different character of their perspectives through their therapeutic orientation. The questions of the workbook are appealing today as each one of us can answer them as a vivid, representative of the way experience itself questions. Traumatic experiences can decode our inner world and create a field of questioning other experiences or memories of the past.
The workbook’s discussion is written in a spiritual and vivid manner, full of details and experiences. Thus, each reader can read the book at once to find the inner character of traumatic experience as embodied. The authors proposed a therapeutic way to recover all these traumas of the South American women and they analysed carefully and in details their behaviour in a traumatic situation and after it. A traumatised person embodies her or his trauma and expresses it through her or his ways of thinking, senses or even behaviour. Trauma is a state of loss, wound or even gap not only somatically but in a more mental state. The questionnaire of this workbook is descriptive and searches in details the inner world of each one that will fill it. The main core is to explore more in the trauma’s world and deepen our knowledge around the topic.
According to the authors the writing is a form both of practice and revealing-concealing of our thoughts at the same time. The discussion between the authors has autobiographical elements or an apparent link between the author and the readers. The writing was difficult for some members of the community, as some participants found it personally revealing or troubling. This workbook has a distinct character of forming and exercising creativity via different encounters with frames which might either represent the writer’s or learner’s subjectivity or not. We dive into the unknowing parts of our writer self and writing patterns.
In reviewing empirical research on creative writing of traumatic experiences, we can distinguish some approaches like the conception and practice of creative writing of trauma as methodological tool and the qualitative date that were exposed and conducted about participants’ experiences in practice. This workbook is an empirical novel addition in the current research in relation to creative writing on trauma. The authors would like to heal or recover participants’ souls through the writing, expression and critical view. As the participants searched and analysed their traumas, they understood their experiences and became more familiar with them, enabling them to face them radically. The radical character of authors’ research is obvious by their organisation and decision to help the participants face to face with their own traumas or tortures.
In conclusion, the purpose of this book is a double manifestation: to free from inner traumas in general and to form an individual narration about them in practice. The workbook offers new data over the disciplines of traumatic experiences and their practical recovery.
Nikoleta Zampaki is a PhD Candidate of Modern Greek Philology at the Department of Philology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. Her PhD thesis (in progress) studies environmental humanities, literary theories, and the phenomenology of M. Merleau-Ponty, in relation to comparative poetics (W. Whitman and A. Sikelianos).