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Renowned Trauma Expert to Speak

Posted on August 28th, 2006

September 11. Say no more, and horrific images of that day five years ago immediately spring to mind.

How do people process such violent acts, whether victims themselves or onlookers from a distance?

Kaethe Weingarten, a renowned trauma expert, psychologist and Harvard Medical School faculty member, will give several presentations on the theme, “A Compassionate Response to Violence, September 11 and Beyond,” on Sept. 11 and 12 at Eastern Mennonite University.

Kaethe Weingarten

“People are inundated with images of others experiencing various levels of trauma, from observing gruff interactions in the grocery store to televised news reports from Lebanon,” noted Ken L. Nafziger, vice president for student life at EMU.

On the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11, “We wanted to provide some tools and learning opportunities for people – especially students – to figure out what to do with the intensity of feelings and other reactions they have as witnesses of trauma,” Dr. Nafziger explained.

Weingarten’s presentations at EMU are funded by a Lilly Endowment grant and will aim to “give participants realistic hope in light of the plight of others,” he added.

In addition to her work as associate clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Weingarten is founder and director of the Witnessing Project – an organization that helps people move from passive witness to effective action (www.witnessingproject.org) and teaches at the Family Institute in Cambridge.

Weingarten will speak 7 p.m. Sept. 11 in Lehman Auditorium on “From Fear to Hope: Individual and Collective Contributions to a Post-September 11 World.” Her presentation is open to the public and will link with EMU’s vision statement from Micah 6:8 to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.”

An opportunity for dialog with the speaker will immediately follow in the Common Grounds coffee house on ground floor of the University Commons.

Weingarten will speak 9:30 a.m. Sept. 12 on “Hope in a Time of Global Despair,” in Martin Chapel of the seminary building at EMU. She will present seven actions that “make doing realistic hope easier, assisting us in sustaining a compassionate and affirmative life amidst the pain and suffering we hear about every day.” Seminary chapel is open to everyone.

EMU faculty and staff will attend a luncheon talk noon-1 p.m. Sept. 12 in the west dining room titled “Extending the Circle of Compassionate Care to the Caregivers.” While noting that caregivers choose to expose themselves to the pain of others, Weingarten will offer suggestions on how caregivers can include themselves in the circle of care.

A central component of Weingarten’s time on campus will be an afternoon workshop 2-5 p.m. Sept. 12 in room 211-212 of the University Commons for student leaders, “Practical Steps to Enhance Resilience and Sustain Hope.” Participants will identify their unique “resilience profile,” learn how those strengths can be used in a team approach to healing and hope, and learn ways to sustain hopefulness over the long haul.

Weingarten’s most recent book “Common Shock, Witnessing Violence Every Day,” received the 2004 Nautilus book award for social change (www.commonshock.com).

A reception and book signing for the speaker will be held 7:30 p.m. Sept. 12 in the Brunk-Maust lounge on the ground floor of EMU’s Campus Center.

For more information, contact the student life office at 540-432-4135.

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