Trauma and Hope in Iran – Dr. Noshene Ranjbar (PART 2) – HPP 127
In part two of this series, we’ll continue our conversation with Dr. Noshene Ranjbar about the trauma and hope surrounding the fight for freedom in Iran. We’ll discuss the Farsi-speaking Empowerment and Trauma Relief Program that Dr. Ranjbar and her colleagues at The Center for Mind-Body Medicine helped to create. We’ll also talk about the challenges that Iranians experience in forming community and support groups due to government interference.
A Mission to Heal – 1:06
So the science and the essence of mind body medicine is that trauma has the potential to disintegrate our mind, body, emotion, behavior, connection. So in order to heal that trauma, we need to bring ourselves back together into a whole being through that process of support, training, skills, time, connection, and it can take many different forms, whether it’s various therapies that are present within integrative psychiatry for treating trauma individually.
The Resourcefulness of Young Minds – 4:21
So one day it was not working, and we went to Google meet, and one day Google meet’s not working, and we went to Emo and I mean, I have learned so many apps and text things, not very well. But thank goodness for the capacity of the young minds to try to get around. So they’re doing just fine, but they could use additional support for sure.
Strengthening Group Support Towards Healing – 6:43
So it’s giving, providing educational healing tools that are already within all of us within a safe space, and then allowing people over time to practice on their own terms, in their own way to continue to build and connect. But I would say that the group support is probably the foundation, and then all the other techniques and the ongoing nature of the need to heal are going to be continuous.
Merging Traditional and Modern Practices – 9:15
I see it as a marriage, a potential for marriage between the left and the right side of the brain, the science and the arts, the indigenous and the modern, because we need it. There’s no way we’re going to survive with one and not the other in this world. And it’s an opportunity to honor what has been true and tried for thousands of years like breath practice and body practice and music and arts and the science of neuroplasticity and the science of mind-body medicine.
How We Can Help – 11:35
And then as far as advocacy is concerned, there are opportunities to share people’s stories, be people’s voices. I’m working on a storytelling campaign of several women in Iran who one by one will be telling their story and we’ll be publishing these. I started with mine as practice a couple of days ago. So share people’s stories, because stories alert people and to heal people, and they bring us together.
Dr. Will Van Derveer, Dr. Noshene E. Ranjbar
Dr. Noshene E. Ranjbar 00:00
You know, my hope is for the continuation of what’s happening. The whole world is coming together around the Iranian people for truth and light to overcome the darkness and the alternative facts and the fake news that is trying to confuse people.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 00:30
Thank you for joining us for the Higher Practice Podcast. I’m Dr. Will Van Derveer with Keith Kurlander, and this is the Podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health. The weird blessings of pandemics and other tragedies, right, that paved the way for these folks, these beautiful souls to be ready to enter the situation and spread the practices. It sounds like your teaching skills. Is that how it works for the most part?
Dr. Noshene E. Ranjbar 01:06
Yeah, so the science and the essence of mind body medicine is that trauma has the potential to disintegrate our mind, body, emotion, behavior, connection. So in order to heal that trauma, we need to bring ourselves back together into a whole being through that process of support, training, skills, time, connection, and it can take many different forms, whether it’s various therapies that are present within integrative psychiatry for treating trauma individually. But then there are also group and more community based efforts that meet the needs of larger scopes because you’re never going to have enough therapists and psychiatrists to meet the needs of millions of people in such a short time. And so it’s an empowerment model where in a circle, people get to experience, learn the science basic of various skills, whether it’s a variety of type of meditations, to use of arts, drawings, writing expressive sharing of their life and their stories, as well as things like autogenics and biofeedback and the use of simple rituals and ceremonies and dance and movement. And imagery, mindful eating imagery. So there are about 10 or 15 techniques that people learn first to practice for themselves within a safe space of the circle of 10 people, but then they can learn professionally how to facilitate these circles for their school, for their community clinic, for their community center for kids, or adults. So that’s kind of the model that can be then scaled up like a ripple effect.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 02:58
Dr. Noshene E. Ranjbar 03:00
And the beauty of it is that anyone can learn it. So you don’t have to be a doctor, or have an advanced degree, a teacher, a community activist, a rabbi, you know, priests or whoever can learn the materials, a mother, you know, whatever can learn. Older students can learn it and teach the younger ones. It’s a community based intervention, not medical, biomedical intervention.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 03:25
Beautiful, and within this oppressive regime, are there problems with access to video conferencing? Or can you actually use Zoom to spread the word within the country?
Dr. Noshene E. Ranjbar 03:40
This is also one of those things where it makes you so sad and angry and then it also makes you laugh, because I have to tell you, so they’re shutting down the internet, the government of Iran is shutting down internet on a regular basis to keep people from organizing and from helping each other because, you know, there’s power in communication and sharing and telling the story, right? And this oppressive regime is not going to survive if people are together. So there’s that going on and then you have a young, brilliant generation of Iranian kids who are smarter than the government. They know how to get around. So one day it was not working, and we went to Google meet, and one day Google meet’s not working, and we went to Emo and I mean, I have learned so many apps and text things, not very well. But thank goodness for the capacity of the young minds to try to get around. So they’re doing just fine, but they could use additional support for sure.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 04:46
Wow. So obviously, or maybe not so obviously, at least what I was taught in my trauma training with Peter Levine and his folks at somatic experiencing was a pretty strong opinion about what can happen while people are still under threat and what kind of work is the right kind of work for people who are still, whether they’re in a war zone or they’re under a violent, oppressive regime, or what the situation is that the sort of philosophy that one needs to be off the battlefield before the deeper, more vulnerable elements of trauma resolution can occur. But it occurs to me that what you’re talking about this really deep community resource, and listening and you know, giving space for people to break the silence and also be with others, to me feels like a form of healing that’s much bigger than just what we sometimes think about in trauma resolution is, well, that’s just resourcing, that’s just the beginning of the healing journey. So I’m curious how you think about these things?
Dr. Noshene E. Ranjbar 05:58
Yeah, it’s definitely not a fix it solution. It is the foundation of a healing journey that for most of us takes a lifetime. So the safe space within which to begin to build trust and connect and have certain guidelines and boundaries as to, when is it my turn to share, I get to decide how much to share, I get to choose which techniques speaks to me and do more of that and save another one, learn about it but save it for tomorrow when I’m like, Oh, now I feel like doing a drawing but yesterday, I just did not feel like picking up the crayons, or music or movement. So it’s giving, providing educational healing tools that are already within all of us within a safe space, and then allowing people over time to practice on their own terms, in their own way to continue to build and connect. But I would say that the group support is probably the foundation, and then all the other techniques and the ongoing nature of the need to heal are going to be continuous. But once there has been at least one space created where some walls begin to come down and some degree of connection with the tears, the laughter, the hearing stories, the sharing stories, is allowed to take place, then that can become an example of more spaces to be created in one’s family and one’s community for ongoing support and healing, in addition to all the other resources and therapies and medications and supplements that might help in the process.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 07:54
That makes sense. And, to me it makes all kinds of sense. I mean, practically, of course, but also just from, you brought up integrative psychiatry, I think, you know, oftentimes we start at the top and go down, you know, with the fancy and, you know, the technological and the expensive and the this and then that when things that as you pointed out talking about Native American ritual, there are these technologies that have evolved with us over millennia that are very effective in many instances, and really don’t require even necessarily a Western framework or a western mind to figure it out. More, in some ways with Western medicine were late to the game in understanding even what illness is, and with all respect to Western medicine, and the technological advances which obviously save lives in certain situations, but we, I think, especially in mental health, we have, in my opinion, really overcomplicated many of the things that we try to accomplish, and we forget about the roots of culture and connection and community relationships that without which the healing is so much more difficult and complicated.
Dr. Noshene E. Ranjbar 09:15
I see it as a marriage, a potential for marriage between the left and the right side of the brain, the science and the arts, the indigenous and the modern, because we need it. There’s no way we’re going to survive with one and not the other in this world. And it’s an opportunity to honor what has been true and tried for thousands of years like breath practice and body practice and music and arts and the science of neuroplasticity and the science of mind-body medicine and biofeedback and you know how to listen to your gut and to your intuition like there is research behind these gut-brain connections now. So it’s an opportunity to bring us together back to wholeness, not just for the individual, but for our cultures, our humanity, our planet.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 10:15
What would you say to people who want to help who are listening and don’t know where to start as far as people outside of Iran who really care and don’t want to, you know, turn a blind eye and also don’t want to offer support that’s not supportive. What do you recommend?
Dr. Noshene E. Ranjbar 10:36
Thank you for asking. You know, I think there are so many layers of what is needed. So I can mention a few. And I think it’s important to acknowledge that none of us can do it all. So, you know, see what fits with where each person is at, and then see what else is possible. At the core of it is to continue our own deep inner healing work, each of us, because this is not just the problem of Iranians. This is an inner revolution for humans seeking wholeness. And so it’s needed in every part of America, or London or whatever, as it’s in Iran, or, you know, Ukraine now and elsewhere. So I think that is without question, the one thing we can all do is do our own inner work. And then as far as advocacy is concerned, there are opportunities to share people’s stories, be people’s voices. I’m working on a storytelling campaign of several women in Iran who one by one will be telling their story and we’ll be publishing these. I started with mine as practice a couple of days ago. So share people’s stories, because stories alert people and to heal people, and they bring us together, so consider signing a petition. So there’s like way too many petitions because the human rights violations are so extreme that there needs to be voices to UNICEF and to the UN and to representatives and organizations across the world to pay attention and do what they can to address what’s happening. And then there is monetary donation needed for a variety of efforts, whether it’s providing materials for internet connection to people who don’t have it. If there’s ever the Starlink possibility, they’ll need satellite structures to actually bring the resources to Iran. So there’ll be opportunities for that. There are going to be efforts for people who are striking against the government. So like the oil refineries and the government workers who are willing to go on strike, eventually, they’ll need some support to be able to continue the strike. Otherwise, you know, they’ll be forced to go back to work and put their families at risk. So those will be some of the things that will be coming up over the next couple of months as opportunities. And then of course, we have the Iran trauma healing program through the Center for mind-body medicine, which would allow for the training, continued training of hopefully up to 500 or 1000 Iranians across Iran, as well as Iranians who live outside of Iran. So they can begin to really network together and support each other through these trauma workshops and groups. So that’s another need. And I’m sure there’s more that I’m not thinking of, but more than anything, you know, continue doing our own work, because it takes a level of awareness and connection of consciousness for these types of revolutions to take a positive point towards something better for all of us. And that really requires daily inner work meditation, connecting with our intuition, ourselves as well.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 14:12
It’s very beautiful. Thank you for putting forward the doing our own work piece. It really deeply resonates with perspectives that I’ve learned about in traditional indigenous frameworks that some Native Americans, some South American, some North American, some South American and this sense that we’re all holding this collective shadow and trauma and violence and dehumanization. You know, it’s in all of us. As tech not Han said so well in his poem about being the rapist and the murderer and the everything. And I think it’s so important what you’re saying because there’s this kind of, I think reflexive tendency that we have of thinking like, Oh, that’s not me, like, I feel pity for the women in Iran and her, you know, and I’m not having that experience over here. And it creates more of the same, I think of this kind of us in them and this loss of connectivity between human beings and within what we’re already holding together as a species, as a group. And it seems like to me that whenever we do our own work, and we release, or we integrate something very deep in us, then we’re letting a little bit of air out of the balloon for the rest of us, you know. And that can’t not help to do our own thing. It’s like, clean up your own room, right, before you go help someone, or along with going in helping others, you know, but not forgetting that there is that work for us to do?
Dr. Noshene E. Ranjbar 16:06
It takes a village, many villages. Yeah.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 16:10
Yeah. I’m wondering what, probably very hard to answer this question, and maybe not the best question. But if we’re optimistic about where this is headed in Iran, where do you think this can go or might go?
Dr. Noshene E. Ranjbar 16:27
Great question. You know, my hope is for the continuation of what’s happening, the whole world coming together around the Iranian people, for truth and light to overcome the darkness and the alternative facts and the fake news that is trying to confuse people. And eventually there will be that tipping point of there being nowhere to go, but towards freedom and towards a new democracy that will help everyone except for those who have been hurting people, and hopefully they’ll find their way. And so whether that’s a few months from now, or a few years from now, I hope it’s sooner because the human toll, the trauma toll, the death toll, the children’s life toll is at risk. And so I think the more support, the more energies are brought together sooner rather than later, the chances that the toll will be more manageable when it’s time to rebuild is higher. But I hear tremendous hope from the people and from many outside of Iran. So if there’s ever going to be a time for there to be lifting of the veils of dictatorship, this is it.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 17:59
Thank you Noshene for standing in the middle of the place that you occupy and feeling what you’re feeling and running what you’re running through your system and transmitting to us what you know, and what is happening. It’s a blessing to get to make contact with you here.
Dr. Noshene E. Ranjbar 18:26
It’s an absolute privilege and honor and I wish us all continued empowerment and healing and our voices being heard and hearing each other’s voices. Thank you.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 18:40
Thank you. Thank you. We look forward to connecting with you again on the next episode of the Higher Practice Podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health.