I used to be so creative as a child. The walls of our kitchen were covered with my work, colourful paint splattered across every canvas I could get my hands on. But then something changed: it happened on the first day of the fourth grade. Our new teacher handed out beige notebooks with a little house on the cover, blotting paper between every page. I got to work with my usual enthusiasm, but when it was time to show our assignments to the class, I came to realise that my drawing wasn’t very ‘good’. Everyone was in awe of the horse that one of my classmates had drawn. And there was a girl who had made a beautiful, realistic portrait: eyes, lips, hair – all so perfectly captured. Until then I hadn’t had the faintest idea that I couldn’t draw, but there it was. Eleven years of art classes ensued, and how I hated every minute of them. Do schools kill creativity? In my case, they did. For sure. It took me thirty years to build up the courage to say: Master Henk, I won’t be coming back!
Deep down I knew that when it came to healing, I still had some work to do. I decided to dust off my copy of Trauma and Recovery by Judith Lewis Herman. Herman explains that the first principle of recovery is empowerment. That others may offer advice, support and care, but not cure. For any intervention, no matter how well-intentioned, that takes away your power is not in fact a healing relationship. So I really wanted to learn a way to heal myself, but I wasn’t quite sure how and where to start. And then, on a beautiful summer’s day in the forest I met a wolf. As I looked into her kind and wise eyes, I immediately felt that she was the one to ask for help. The wolf told me a story about how other animals process trauma. A deer who survives an attack will find a hiding place and start to shiver. This helps to shake out the excess charge in her body. Trembling is a natural response to trauma that some of us have unlearned or forgotten. But by trusting our bodies, we can re-member it again.