Thursday, March 31, 2016

Trauma, an event or an experience?

My firm belief and experience tells me that you absolutely cannot determine whether someone is traumatised by listing out events. In addition, many events, or the experience of those events, cannot be remembered explicitly and put into a narrative because they happened in utero or very early in life. Instead, those same experiences are remembered implicitly, as body memories.

The key to developing trauma is experiencing an event as life threatening in some way, rendering us helpless. If we feel, or are, trapped on top of that, we have the recipe for trauma down to a tee.

We do not understand 'trauma' as an event but as a psychobiological 'wound' evolved in relation to a variety of coupled psychological, biological, social, and other environmental factors (Nijenhuis and van der Hart, 2011).

van der Hart, O., Nijenhuis, E. R. S. and Steele, K. (2005). Dissociation: An ins ufficiently recognized major feature of complex post traumatic stress disorder, Journal of Traumatic Stress 18(5): 413-423.

Nijenhuis, E. R. S. and van der Hart, O. (2011). Dissociation in trauma: A new definition and comparison with previous formulations, Journal of Trauma & Dissociation 12(4): 416-445.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


When you keep hearing about something, you have a fairly simple choice, listen or ignore it. I've chosen to listen to what I've been hearing about triggers lately because I've been hearing about them everywhere! And what I've heard makes a lot of sense as well as being really helpful to me right now.

Triggers are one way of knowing what needs to be digested. When something is stuck in our life, it hasn't been digested, we're metaphorically choking on it, and until it's assimilated, it will continue to cause us pain. However triggers are not the source of our pain, they only point us to our pain. A trigger can be anything, a smell, a noise, a look, a touch and if we're really serious about being at ease with ourselves, we'll take our triggers very very seriously and tap on them.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Connecting to the parts of yourself that are in pain

It can be really difficult to connect to the parts of us that are in pain. I first heard the term relational home by Robert Stolorow is his book, Trauma and Human Existence. Gabor Maté uses this term a lot too when he talks about the importance of connection. Connecting to others is vital, but it's also vital to be able to connect to ourself, especially the parts that are in pain. We need those parts held by others but we also need to be able to hold and connect to those parts ourselves so they can finally feel safe, loved and at home.

In his book The Good Psychologist, Noam Schpancer talks about the importance of stressing that a part of you feels a certain way, rather than the whole of you feeling that way. This empowers the part(s) that don't feel that way to be able to help the part(s) that do, what Internal Family Systems might refer to as the Self.

Try the following script and please customise it for your unique situation.

Even though I'm terrified of this pain, I accept how I feel (or a part of me is terrified -- what age is this part?)

Even though I just can't feel this pain, it scares me too much, that's ok (or it scares a part of me, what age is the part that is scared -- what age is the part that feels the pain?)

Even though this pain just won't go away and that makes me feel ... I accept how I feel about that (or that makes a part of me feel ... is this feeling familiar?)

Top of the head: This pain
Eyebrow: Will it ever go away?
Side of eye: I'm beyond sick of this pain
Under the eye: But it makes no difference
Under the nose: It's still here
Under the chin: And that feels ...
Collarbone: It's hard to connect with this pain
Under the arm: It's hard to listen to this pain when all I wish is for it to go away

Top of the head: I've tried listening to this pain but it hasn't worked
Eyebrow: It's still here
Side of eye: Nothing I'm doing is working to get rid of this pain
Under the eye: It just won't go away
Under the nose: Maybe this pain represents a part of me
Under the chin: Can I feel differently towards this pain realising that?
Collarbone: Can I be there for this pain/part like I would want someone to be there for me?
Under the arm: Can I give this pain/part a home? (watch out for any tailenders/objections and tap on them)

Top of the head: Can I answer the needs of this pain/part?
Eyebrow: Can I can be with this pain/part fully without wanting it to go away?
Side of eye: It's ok if I can't
Under the eye: No, it's not
Under the nose: Yes, it is
Under the chin: It's really really hard
Collarbone: I acknowledge how difficult it is to hold this pain/part
Under the arm: I accept how hard it is to connect fully with this pain/part

Top of the head: I know avoiding/distracting/dissociating from this pain/part is not working
Eyebrow: It only makes it scream louder
Side of eye: I know I need to connect with this pain/part
Under the eye: To heal it
Under the nose: This unfelt pain is creating havoc in my life
Under the chin: It's ok to connect to 10% of this pain/part
Collarbone: I don't have to do it all at once
Under the arm: I know this pain/part needs and wants to be heard like we all do

The attempt to escape from pain, is what creates more pain ~ Gabor Maté