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The Memory of my Childhood. Transforming Trauma, Violence and Sexual Abuse

Opening words at the exhibition of Laurent Ziegler »Memories of My Childhood – Painting, Drawings, Photography« at Gallery Jünger in Vienna on September 16th, 2020.


'The Memory of My Childhood' delves into the challenging yet crucial topic of sexual abuse and ritual violence, exploring the pathways to healing through creativity, therapy, and expanded states of consciousness. I publish my opening words today to support Laurent Ziegler in his attempt to reissue the book in German and publish it for the first time in English. Laurent writes:


»The Memory of My Childhood« is a story of transformation and healing, my very personal path to the heart and to a lovable and livable existence. This publication is being created in collaboration with designer Clemens Schedler and provides insight into the processing of traumatic experiences of abuse that I have experienced from childhood onwards. Only decades later, through growing signs of depression and isolation, was I able to engage in the painful realization of these events. The book tells of the events through painting, drawings, texts, and photographs, giving the unspeakable a name, a form.

The first edition touched the lives of many, providing solace and courage to those who have experienced similar traumas. Now, as we strive to bring this invaluable resource which has been worked on pro bono by everyone involved to a wider audience, we need your help. By contributing to our fundraising campaign, you can play a vital role in covering the printing costs necessary for the book's reissue.


Every donation, no matter the size, brings us closer to our goal. Together, let's ensure that "The Memory of My Childhood" finds its way into the hands of those who need it most. Visit our crowdfunding page for more information on how you can make a difference. Thank you for your support.


The images in the text are from the newly redesigned English version of the book, generously provided to me by the author.

 


Die Erinnerung an meine Kindheit gleicht einer Welt ohne gewollt oder empfangen zu sein, einer Welt in der ich existierte aber nicht gesehen wurde. Titelbild Laurent Ziegler

Almost everything is too much. A process of Trauma Transformation


Dear Laurent,

 

We have known each other for a good number of years — 15 to be exact. I'm grateful for your continued existence in this world, a reality often not assured. Children who must navigate the sinister realms of pedophile rings cannot emerge unscathed. Some succumb and die, others are institutionalized with dissociative disorders, some seek solace in substances, while others resort to selling their bodies or become perpetrators themselves, trying to gain power in the same circles that abused them. Some wander aimlessly, their lives devoid of meaning, reduced to mere survival in this world. 


Laurent, when you asked me to speak at the opening of your exhibit, my answer was a resounding "yes." Yet, when sitting at home alone with your book, I found myself asking, what should I say?

 

I've witnessed your journey — the stages of fear, shock, despair, horror, shame, guilt, anger, and grief through which you have passed. I’ve lived through them with you time and time again, but to see them vividly depicted in your book left me breathless. The sheer terror overwhelmed and numbed me.

How do we find words for the unspeakable? This is precisely what makes your book and art so extraordinary. It is the endeavor of a remarkable artist to wrestle words from horror, to render it in images, making it tangible.


I briefly considered whether I should hide behind an expert lecture, providing definitions of trauma and ritual violence, reciting statistics on sexual abuse, child pornography, and child trafficking. Whether I should explain how the survival mechanisms of dissociation works, which often lead to memories only surfacing into consciousness years later.

 

The question is not, "Do such things really happen?" or "How can people do this to others?" We know such atrocities occur. The ongoing Bergisch-Gladbach trials in Germany provide a glimpse into the emotional, physical and sexual abuse and torture captured on video that are almost impossible to watch causing sickness even for the police officers whose duty it was to review the videos.

 

Books, films, research papers, and news articles attempt to address these issues. Perhaps our minds can begin to comprehend the words we hear and read about the abuse of children, child pornography, and child trafficking. However, only those scarred by violence can truly understand the profound impact of growing up under such conditions. The real question is not "Can this happen?" but "How can a child survive and, beyond survival, embrace life?" How can a person who has never experienced closeness, love, and intimacy, but instead encountered them in the distorted forms of fear, guilt, and shame, build a fulfilling life?

 

Children subjected to brutality instead of love struggle to differentiate between perpetrator and victim. The conclusion they draw is that there is no such thing as safety in this world. Whatever horrors they endure are seen as their own fault because they are not worthy of love. The ensuing shame can lead to the development of coping mechanisms such as the adoption of roles and masks, twisting and contorting themselves to conform with societal expectations while obeying the taboo of silence, to ensure that their true selves remain hidden, even if this means living a life in complete isolation.

 

Laurent, in crafting this book, embodies the utmost courage—the courage to discard masks and to reveal oneself, naked, in moments of fear, guilt, and shame.

 

The greatest gift we human beings can offer each other is to listen without judgment. That's what we're called upon to do today—to be still, quietly attentive, to open our hearts, to engage with Laurent as he unveils his world, inviting us to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. For that is exactly what his art achieves; it engages all of our senses.

 

If this seems overwhelming, if the words and images are "too much," acknowledge this feeling, connecting with someone who has managed to survive. Let it in, for this is the emotional burden that survivors must carry in this world, without being able to lay it down.


My mind saved me when I was little. Beispiele für sexuellen Missbrauch und rituelle Gewalt sowie Überlebensmechanismen in der Kindheit aus dem Buch von Laurent Ziegler

In modern life, for trauma survivors almost everything can seem "too much” — the demands that society places on us, at school, at work, and in our interpersonal or other relationships. Other people can be intimidating. They may trigger the instinct to escape, to hide or run away, to diminish ourselves into invisibility. As a result, there is an urgency to do something, anything, quickly before the anxiety returns, bringing with it the sleeplessness, unbearable pain, stress, and tension, and other dreadful emotions so strong that it makes it hard to breathe. Manifesting in panic attacks, feelings of emptiness, futility, depression, and even self-harm, these emotions leave one without a reliable compass to navigate a seemingly alien world. The outside world filled with laughter and joy is only visible through a dim window, offering no hope and no entry point. It is this overwhelming sense of "too much" that can ultimately lead to a complete breakdown, halting life in its tracks with screeching finality.

 

This inner process involves navigating the threshold between life and death.


It becomes paramount in one's healing and self-awareness to discern between two distinct states of consciousness… The one being: "I can't stand this pain any longer. It's all too much! I don’t want to be in this world anymore. I want to die." The other asking the question: "Who or what wants to die? Is it me or some facets of me? I want these emotions to go away. I want those aspects and parts of myself that are ensnared in the horror, reliving physical trauma, and drowning in feelings of isolation and futility, to die and find peace in their demise”.


By allowing ourselves to confront and conquer our personal demons, as Laurent has done, we can rediscover life with such intensity that it can resemble a state of rebirth.

 

No one can avoid an eventual confrontation with the inevitability of death. In fact, for human beings, nothing instills more fear than the fear of death. It is this unconscious fear that pursues us through life, unleashing incredible powers. Confronting and surmounting this fear enables us to evolve into lives of self-responsibility and empowerment. The life force, once liberated, can manifest itself not as fear but as a path for creation. The perpetual, forceful "doing" may then yield to a serene state of being.

 

Laurent's paintings and writings make all of this tangible and reveal the incredible beauty of the human soul intertwining the beautiful and the ugly, the good and the bad, the light and the dark. Human capacity lies in embracing this duality, experiencing it as a whole. As Carl Gustav Jung once wrote: "Those who can perceive their shadow and light simultaneously can see themselves from two sides and can thus arrive in their center."

  

Dear Laurent, your book exemplifies this journey. Your will, echoing Viktor Frankl's "yes to life, in spite of everything," allowed you to confront inner demons. You transformed fear into trust, guilt into sensitivity, shame into self-empowerment, and embraced compassion not only for yourself but for all beings, even the perpetrators. It is this love that enables a deeper connection to oneself, others, the greater whole, and the essence of being human and alive.


I thank you for this gift, hoping the world will benefit, serving as a testament to your inner triumph and shedding light on the "wonder of life." This miracle we all may experience if we look inside. I invite everyone to use this moment to do exactly that, to lower the barriers and celebrate this wonderful, exuberant, crazy world, with all that it encompasses, its darkness and light.


Der Weg geht nicht mehr in die Dunkelheit, sondern ins Licht.  Zur Transformation von Trauma im Buch von Laurent Zielger.



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