Recently I saw an old black and white photo of bed-ridden soldiers knitting at the Walter Reed Hospital around 1918. The nation had steadily been knitting warm clothing for soldiers during World War I. At some point, knitting became a therapy for soldiers suffering from severe trauma and what we have come to describe as post traumatic stress disorder. At the time, the term used was “shell shock” and manifested in panic, sleeplessness, physical disability, and even inability to talk and reason. Sometimes the term was used in a derogatory manner and connoted some lack of inner strength. Even, today, the stigma of anxiety and mental illness is not completely replaced with knowledge. Even though psychiatric medications and therapies have been developed to address the issues of traumas in the mind, some are reluctant to believe that mental illness is rooted in the chemicals and physical processes of our bodies.
The concept of body as dense mind can be helpful when understanding trauma. During workshops with Besser van der Kolk, a psychiatrist , author, and researcher in the field of post traumatic stress and complex trauma, I was amazed at his creative ways of making our inner worlds project into outer three dimensional space for lasting healing of long held traumatic memories and pain. One of the chapters in his new book, “The Body Keeps the Score,” is “The Unbearable Heaviness of Remembering.”
During this time of year, those with heavy memories, whether of battle combat or life combat, can hold hope that transformation of pain is a very real possibility. Whatever mind-body connection the therapy takes, it is never too late to begin.
Knit one, purl two—a timeless wisdom for moving inner anxieties of any kind out to make space for inner peace.