Ulster Logo
Link to facebook  Link to INCOREinfo on twitter  Link to INCORE rss feed    Linkedin link Linkedin link

The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest


Splintered Innocence: An Intuitive Approach to Treating War Trauma
Peter Heinl

Brunner-Routledge, Hove, East Sussex, 2001
256 pp., Pb. $24.95, ISBN: 0-41522362-8

The title of this book intrigued me, and I had hoped to learn some of the techniques for dealing with war trauma, particularly in relation to children, as that seemed to be the focus of this book. Given the number of violent conflicts raging in the world today, and the thousands of victims suffering from war trauma, this topic is indeed an important one.

However, in terms of providing insights into how to help ?heal? those affected by war trauma, this book is disappointing. It is mainly an account of the author?s work as a psychiatrist studying how childhood traumas experienced during WWII have affected adults. Through his unusual methods of using his own intuition to help draw out repressed memories, he has helped adults, mainly in Germany, to remember and thereby exorcise these traumas.

One of his techniques is fascinating but also questionable. In individual and group therapy, he begins with a standard therapeutic approach of getting basic biographical information from the patient. As their life story unfolds, he then uses his intuition to choose objects, and place them in a particular way to trigger the patient?s repressed experiences, for example of hunger, fear, and abandonment. The objects can be anything from teddy bears to black boxes, and he places them as the spirit moves him. He gives a number of case studies in which the patients are freed from their depression or other problems through this process.

Intuition, as he describes later in the book, is an important aspect of scientific discovery, and a strictly logical process may not uncover people?s deepest emotions. However, I felt uneasy with the fact that the process was dependent on his intuition rather than that of his patients. At one point he says he is ?not a guru? but in fact, it is difficult to see how his methods could be replicated unless another therapist felt equally intuitive. I would think a method in which the patients select and interpret objects themselves would ultimately be more useful.

One interesting approach he uses is to do ?geneograms? with his patients, which trace the effects of war trauma over generations. War trauma continues to affect the offspring of those who experienced war directly. They pass on their fears and insecurities to their children and in the most extreme cases, are unable to give them love and attention.

What I missed most in the book were any suggestions as to how to deal with war trauma experienced by children today. In his final chapter he gives an overview of ?children in current wars?, which mainly cites the research of others on traumas experienced by children during wars, without giving much indication as to how it is being treated. His final section is a heartfelt plea for war prevention, which of course would be the ultimate ?cure? for war trauma ? to prevent it happening in the first place.

Dr. Carol Rank, Centre for Forgiveness and Reconcilliation, Coventry University

Disclaimer: © INCORE 2010 Last Updated on Monday, 10-Aug-2015 12:20
contact usgoto the search page
go to the top of this page