Thursday, December 30, 2010


We are just about to enter the new year of 2011. How are you feeling??????
Feelings have been sorely neglected and never invited to a civilised dinner by some theorists who write about trauma. They suggest, “We do know we have some poor relations called the affective variables but we don’t know where to seat them because they are often so uncouth. We do know they have primitive origins and are clearly beneath us”!

Feelings have often been simplified into models that assume that the traumatised person’s present and future is determined by their biology and/or their psychology. Such viewpoints leave little hope for lasting and fundamental change by adults who have survived traumatising events. Unfortunately, feelings have often been disembodied, dehumanised, depersonalised, and permanently demoted to the status of blue collar cues, responses, and unmanageable fear networks which refuse to be wrestled to the ground.

Feelings have also been reduced to chemical imbalances and transmissions requiring control and very careful management with drugs in case they burst out and frighten someone. This is a very real problem in cases where the person who is frightened is the treating professional who has, “done a lot to help”. Feelings have even been sent on anthropological expeditions, possibly “never to return”, because they are just so frustratingly subjective, complex, and universal.

In fact, feelings are very good news, even when they are very painful, because they tell us that we are alive and also a whole lot about what is going on with us. Sometimes it is very difficult to know whether current feelings are about now or whether the intensity is tied to disconnected traumatic experiences. Feelings of profound vulnerability, terror despair, rage, disgust and shame can be especially difficult for traumatised people and their supporters because they are excruciating and often associated with experiences involving a profound lack of safety and any authentic sense of power.

Constructive, selective, and safe expression of extremely uncomfortable feelings is one essential part of ongoing psychological development or evolution following any distressing life event, especially events that involve life and death, impossible moral dilemmas, and complete helplessness under threat of psychological and physical annihilation. Such discerning expression of feelings when combined with deep compassion and containment for the entire self can allow the opportunity to eventually develop new ways of understanding and responding to such life events. These new and evolving personal theories are reflected in changes in the neural processes and structures that underpin the ways we function in the world.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Self or other sabotage by direct perpetration and /or active or benign neglect is a critical factor to the actual existence and the quality of our lives as human beings on this planet.  In many countries we have access to a huge amount of information. We have enough material and physical resources to sustain every living creature. We have already generated thoughtful and creative solutions to many of our major environmental challenges. We now know a lot about how to resolve conflict constructively without blowing each other up. We know a lot about what helps to fundamentally sustain us even during the toughest of times and yet we are currently in very deep trouble. How come?

There has been a proliferation of self-help books with the arrival and growth of the baby boomers generation in the affluent world. The bookstores are literally bulging with such materials. Latter day gurus and speaking tours abound throughout our capital cities and our regional centres. Courses and resources are available online and offline.

If we know so much how come we keep doing more of what doesn't work?

There are real issues associated with being challenged by the prospect of change - especially fundamental change. Change can elicit profoundly uncomfortable feelings and our ability to anticipate and predict our worlds.  We sabotage our potential for transformation as humans because we are frequently terrified by the vulnerability that occurs when we change in fundamental ways. Such change represents a marked threat. Indeed, we may be far too threatened to let go of hierarchies, huge gaps between the rich and poor and our notions of inferiority and superiority as they pertain to class, race, gender or species. If our hearts are closed then our capacity for genuine compassion for ourselves and other creatures is constricted and numbed.

The notion of becoming an active intervenor and creator of our own destinies in those areas over which we have control is exceptionally challenging for most of us. We often far more comfortable in being life-long victims, martyrs, aggressors or passive bystanders (re-creating the stories of active or benign neglect) rather than learning how to act out of healthy wise selves and define ourselves by who we are and how we behave, rather than what we think we have or we own.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Committed intimate relationship with self: An opportunity to evolve with trauma?

We sacrifice our lives for them (literally or figuratively). We spend huge amounts of money as individuals and as a society. We do ‘crazy’ things. Our committed relationships (self, partner, children, siblings, parents, close friends) can touch us to the core. It is in these relationships that we have been seen as sick, furious, out of control, looking and sometimes behaving at our best and at our very worst. They become the mirror for us and we often simultaneously feel love and hate. There is intensity and energy there - or a deadness and disconnection that can only come from losing hope and meaning when dreams of the highest order are shattered. Many of these relationships that are initially born of love, joy and trust, can result in a sense of utter devastation.

Many of us grow up with very little effective psychological parenting. Our own parents may not have received such psychological parenting and they simply did not have it to give it to us. We may not have received consistent and developmentally appropriate love, emotional tracking and firm limits. We continue to seek to have these needs met through our intimate relationships with other people- often almost exclusively. However, these other people will most frequently have many of their own unmet needs. As part of the process of not internalising a healthy, wise boundaried psychological parent to meet our own needs, we look to each other. We are inevitably disappointed!

Truly facing ourselves- wherever we are- and taking real responsibility for our own bodies, feelings, thoughts, behaviours, relationships, finances and living circumstances can be very painful, frightening, challenging, exciting and liberating. If we learn to treat ourselves in the way we would ideally like the people in our intimate relationships to treat us then we cannot go too far wrong. These bodies we live in are precious, fragile and mortal. They need safety, love, compassion and integrated exercise, nutrition, water, soothing and maintenance. They enjoy safe touch, warmth, laughter, and time in nature, fun and excitement. When respected and kept safe and healthy, they love touch, sensuous and living food and personally tailored movement. Learn what your body loves and be generous, gentle and firm with this inherently beautiful and unique home - most especially when it is neglected, battered, terrified, despised, bruised, flabby, starving, sore, painful, poisoned or sick. Such a choice does not have to cost you any money. Be creative!

Our feelings are embodied. Learn to read this language of your body. Listen carefully. Identify and constructively express your feelings, rather than indiscriminately dumping them on other people or internalising them and unwittingly contributing to the precipitation, maintenance and severity of your own physical and psychological health challenges. You might: write in a private journal in an unedited way and then respond from your wise adult, check in with yourself several times a day about your feelings, needs and wants and as soon as possible meet these needs constructively, and regularly say a few encouraging statements a day to you- just for being, rather than doing.

The foundation of evolving with trauma lies in your committed intimate relationship with your body and your feelings. Consider being present, safe, loving, gentle and firm with you.