I first heard people speaking about healing in my mid-twenties (I'm over 50 now). At first it sounded kind of strange to give it a name. People threw the word around like some kind of secret code. By using it they assumed I would automatically know what they meant. I wasn't comfortable risking letting them know I didn't really understand, so mostly I listened for clues.
Yet, without realizing it, I was already well on my way. I just didn’t use the word healing to describe it. The way my 20 something year-old self would have put it was setting things straight.
Using documentary to start a long-overdue conversation about my brother's suicide was not a cool thing to do in film school. While my professors allowed the project to move forward, they had a hard time supporting it. Mental health wasn't much of a conversation in the 1980's and they probably didn't get any training on how to handle it. But that's what I did. And it was hard. I was misunderstood and there was backlash.
Through that trouble, there were two things I was certain about.
1/ I was hurting
2/ I loved film
It made sense to put those two things together.
For 30 years now my work has centrally been about healing. I've used it with myself and with many others in production and teaching for people and communities all around the globe grappling with Anxiety/Depression, PTSD, Trauma recovery, Natural Disasters, Social Disasters & Sexual Abuse. It feels right to do this work.
Trauma has been likened to the feeling of being frozen inside an invisible prison. Healing from the Trauma of childhood sexual abuse has for me been a profound journey out of darkness.
For 34 years the Trauma had a grip on me. One of the most difficult parts was not knowing what it was. Calling it out by name lessens its power over me. It's funny because it might seem that by talking about it gives it power, but the opposite is true in my experience. Just like a light is dangerous to a vampire, words and talking take power from Trauma.
I still struggle with the symptoms. But now I have it, not the other way around. My experience is one of Emancipation.
One thing stands out in the hundreds of interviews I've done with trauma survivors and world leading experts: the path of transformation is unique and deeply personal to them all in a most profound and meaningful way.
Just as the trauma robbed them of things that were most valuable, the transformation that naturally arose during a healing journey gave other things that were equally meaningful. It didn't replace the things lost and it didn't lessen the grief and suffering. But it did provide new opportunities. My experience is parallel.
I believe it's no coincidence that the duration of the struggles to express myself in film and music exactly match the time spent in dark unawareness about Trauma. Once I broke my silence and connected with a community of survivors who educated me about Trauma, I also broke through creatively in both my film work and music. For this I am deeply grateful.
Thank-you for sharing that.
Those are the most common words I hear which let me know that inspiration is alive and well.
Inspiration is a living thing. It is a temporary state of being that can be passed from human to human. I believe it is also contagious. It's how audiences can roll. A question I wonder frequently is how to generate it in a way which is both meaningful and sustaining. In this way I consider myself fortunate to have the opportunity. I don't take it for granted and I work hard for it.
It's a double-headed beast. It's about me in as much as I am the one attempting to use my skills to generate it. But ultimately it's more about the people who are watching and listening.
I have always believed I have a role to play on a stage somewhere. But for a long time I wished myself invisible. Those contradictory feelings were a heavy burden. I don't feel that way any more. But I don't forget how hard it was.
So I have a good reminder of how fortunate I am to have had the opportunity to heal and the people to help me do it well. They are my inspiration and I carry that forward.
In this moment I am also reminded of those who have succumbed. People who were sidelined, pushed out or put down, marginalized, punished, re-victimized or worse, misunderstood, misrepresented or forgotten. I also carry a sense of justice as inspiration so that their pain and suffering were not for nothing.
This is the big question.
But first...what do I mean by this? I am talking about a better future for humanity. I do not pretend to know the answers to questions like global warming or war or poverty. But what I do know is that we need all hands on deck right now.
The harm of Trauma is double-edged because the initial damage experienced from the incident(s) that triggers what are often long term symptoms which can range from mild to severe and at worst, debilitating. By creating more trauma-informed societies, the answers for how to provide better care in health, financial, justice and educational institutions will become obvious or at very least conspicuous by their absence.
TRAUMA IS AN INJURY AND SHOULD BE RESPECTED AS SUCH.
The financial costs of not becoming more Trauma-informed at the societal level are already evident. I believe the reason why changes have not been made yet to properly accommodate Trauma survivors is because we as a species are largely Traumatized or closely related to people who are. In other words, we are all in the thick of this together. What's missing is conscious, compassionate awareness. But it's not something that can be achieved well through anger (although it's justified) or violence (yes, we have learned great lessons from South Africa about Reconciliation).
I believe that the greatest opportunity to reach people is through the two most powerful mediums of humanity: music, the most primal of connections between people and filmed media, the most popular tool of our age. Ultimately, the expression of our voices and the sharing of our stories using these two mediums is the best way forward that I have access to. I also believe that the most powerful use of these tools is through the expression of the two together. And that's why I have spent the last 40 years developing my skills in both. We all have a role to play, this is mine.
It's about me. And it isn't.
I grew up listening to the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Elton John, David Bowie and the Rolling Stones on my plastic GE record player with a broken lid on the basement floor. The music called. At age nine I answered.
Then at fourteen I saw Ingmar Bergman's Oscar winning Fanny and Alexander. The extraordinary performances captured by the amazing cinematography of Sven Nykvist sealed the deal for me. I wanted what seemed impossible. Both.
Musician and Filmmaker
My brother Mark Buffin (1957-77) was my first teacher. It took a lot of persuasion because he was much older than me. But he relented. And then he was gone. When I play I feel close to him.
I am fortunate and stubborn enough to have seized the opportunities around me and have a career in film and tv. After decades of technical work on other people's shows, I'm now focusing on my own.