A Support Group for Allies Working on Distress Related to the Holocaust

At a Jews and Allies Workshop this last November, I realized that until allies get a chance to do our own discharging about the Holocaust, we will not be well prepared to counsel Jews on their distress. I was pleased to discover that others wanted to work on this also, and I found myself leading a support group for Allies Working on Distress Related to the Holocaust. We broke into two sections because there were so many of us. For my section, I prepared the following notes, which my support group urged me to commit to writing:

  • The Holocaust is one of the most terrifying and restimulating events in human history. Although no one in this group had lived through the time period, all were raised by parents who had lived during that time.

  • We often hear the adage not to talk about sex, politics, or religion-the Holocaust is about all three.

  • Working on distress connected to the Holocaust often involves figuring out how to discharge terror, anger, and grief-all at the same time. The terror is usually extreme and can be disconcerting at first.

  • We need to pay attention to maintaining a balance of attention, using everything we already know about that in general, and with respect to specific clients.

  • It can help to work lightly, irreverently.

  • Try to work early-connect to the client's earliest incident of terror.

  • Respect the person, not the distress.

  • Physical symptoms may occur: headaches, nausea, etc. They are a signal to pay more attention to the balance of attention.

  • It is important to balance deep, heavy work with extreme present time, and to make sure that at the end of the session, the client comes back to present time completely, whatever it takes.

  • One place to start: what is your first memory connected to the Holocaust in any way?

  • As with early sexual memories, it can be helpful to work in groups no smaller than three.

  • We need to be gentle with ourselves and our clients. We have all the time in the world to do this work. The crisis is over.

  • This is a pretty dependable way to access some very strong feelings.

    People in the group were eager to get a chance to work on these feelings. I look forward to calling similar support groups in the future.

    Linda Ann Fair
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    (Present Time No. 110, January 1998)

    Last modified: 2016-08-22 02:11:22-07