Friday, April 9, 2010

Why the Inuksuk?

Those of you reading this on the website (as opposed to the feed) will note that we have a brand new Quarterback look.  This has a lot to do with me being on Spring break more than anything else, but it also allowed me to add a picture to the masthead -- an Inuksuk (or, more precisely, an Innunguaq, which is an Inuksuk in a human form) -- which I've been wanting to do for a long time.

If you're not familiar, an Inuksuk (this is the preferred spelling, not the more common Inukshuk) is a stone marker constructed by the native peoples of the northern tundra and arctic circle.  Inuksuit are used to mark paths, hunting grounds, food caches and the like.  You may recall seeing one as the basis for the logo of the 2010 Winter Olympics.  So, what's a nice Jewish girl like me doing with a native rock formation on her blog?

Inuksuit are left behind by those traveling before you, to show you the way.  The people who build them are not necessarily any smarter or better than those who follow, they simply are sharing their experience so others can make use of it and not have to do all the discovery themselves.  In that sense, I've long thought that the Inuksuk was the perfect symbol of early crisis response.

When I talk to people about what I do, and about what I can do for them or their organization, I often explain that Critical Incident Stress Management, at its core, is simply the combined experience of those who have been through traumatic events.  Each school Principal, for example, even if she is unlucky, might have 3 or 4 critical incidents affecting her school in an entire career.  She can learn all there is to know the hard way, or she can turn to someone with more experience for help.  But "more experience" still isn't much, so it's key to have someone who not only has been through this themselves, but also has gathered wisdom from many others.

I am not any smarter than the colleagues I help or the community organizations I support.  I have no magical talents or even particular instincts.  What I do have is the accumulated wisdom of the many who have gone through something like this before.  With that wisdom, I try to build an Inuksuk, to point the way for those experiencing a traumatic incident of their own.  If this blog, or my consulting and training work, or my work on CISM teams, points the way for just one person and prevents them from wandering the "tundra" alone, I'll consider that well worth the effort.


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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at
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