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Recovering Our Hope and Our Humanity

Two weeks ago, MN Trauma Project partnered with Veteran’s Resilience Project and MN Peacebuilding Leadership Institute to host Army veteran and Peace Leadership Trainer, Paul K. Chappell for an evening talk entitled A Light in the Darkness: Recovering Hope in a Traumatized World. Mr. Chappell spoke eloquently about his own history of childhood trauma and the lessons learned in his time as a military officer and combat veteran. His current work for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation takes him around the world, lecturing and presenting a variety of groups, from high schoolers to adults, on how we can wage peace in a world that is bent on waging violence and destruction. He presents on peace literacy, how to increase our ability to see the humanity of the other and engage people from a place of deep respect and equanimity.

He described that the vast majority of injustice in the world comes from people feeling disrespected and detailed three basic forms of respect.

  • Listening from a deep place of empathy.

  • Leading by example and shedding any forms of hypocrisy.

  • Speaking to the other person’s potential – Always talking to people as though they have worth. When a mistake is made, identify what happened and help them identify what they are going to do to make sure that it does not happen again.

One of the most enlightening portions of his presentation was his description of basic human needs. He described those needs as:

  • Purpose and Meaning

  • Nurturing Relationships (trust)

  • Explanations

  • Expression of emotions and thoughts

  • Inspiration

  • Belonging

  • Self-Worth

  • Transcendence

  • Mastery (this was not on his list, but as psychologist, this strikes me as an important developmental need)

He then talked about the ways in which trauma frequently gets tangled up in these human needs and distorts them and in the presence of trauma, each of these needs can be subverted into something else that can be incredibly damaging to the person.

  • Distortion of Purpose and Meaning -> Meaninglessness and Nihilism