This week I was in Austin with a few of my colleagues, re-shooting videos for our PowerPoint® presentations and the new blended on-line learning (coming next year). I will never complain about having to teach Mandt again after having to do take after take to get the videos just right! At the end of the three days, we had a “cast and crew” party, and the director of the videos said he was doing sound for the musical opera Tommy. The Who were, of course, not doing the music, but the cover band was supposed to be great. Being a big Who fan, I accepted the invitation!

I was blown away! The director was able to craft a musical that showed the fracturing effects of trauma and the healing effects of forgiveness. They were able to bring to life John Bradshaw’s ideas regarding “inner child” and the isolating pain that comes from the deep woundedness of repressed trauma. If you don’t know the story of Tommy, SPOILER ALERT, stop reading.

As a young boy, Tommy sees his father kill a man. His father and mother tell him he did not see anything, did not hear anything, and will never speak about it. He becomes blind, deaf, and speechless, and is later sexually abused by an uncle and a cousin. They were able, in the play, to show the pain without passing it on to the audience. What an amazing feat!

The director merged the concepts of Alice in Wonderland with the great music of The Who to show the process of dissociation. The isolation that comes from repressed pain is incredible. After a workshop on trauma in a western state, one of the participants said that he was working with his father on their farm, and while his father was working a piece of machinery, the father accidentally cut off his son’s arm. After surgery, the first word this man remembers his mother saying were: “We will never talk about this.” And they never did.

With tears streaming down his face, he said that hearing me talk about my trauma history was the first time he was able to see how important it was to talk about what happened to him as a child. He works in psychiatric rehabilitation, and he lives alone, does things alone, and did not realize why he does what he does until he was able to speak about the pain. In the rock opera Tommy that I saw tonight, that process was brought to life in the most marvelous fashion.

The ways in which the audience was involved in the play, in the action, drew us in to the play, in to the drama, and set us up to be invited into the process of healing. The power of forgiveness was powerfully displayed, with an unbelievably high level of energy, joy, and hope. I left the theater energized to go and teach Mandt again, because I have another way, another story, to help people understand the power of being able to say that “in this place, and with these people, I feel safe™.
The play only runs until August 9th in Austin, Texas at the Zach Theater. If you have a chance, see it!!

Bob Bowen – SVP Program Development