Finally I am emerging from my travels to Australia and the Child Trauma Conference and also from dealing with matters at home so I am now ready to think about what I took away with me to further explore now I’m back home. There were three further reflections that I identified as conversation starters and areas for exploration. These were (a) creating resilient and robust systems, (b) the absence of men in the conversation and how this impacts across our services and the people we are seeking to help (c) my thoughts on how we sit in the mess’. Because it’s all messy and it seems to me that it is our ability to sit in the mess, in the grey areas, in the discomfort, that will ultimately create a place for healing ourselves, each other and our communities.
Firstly, thinking about creating resilient and robust systems came out of an observation that people were really starting to move away from the focus on the individual. Music to my ears. We are, not one of us, standing here in isolation of our relationships, our community and the society in which we live. Many threads I’ve seen on twitter have begun to air frustrations around how the ACE questionnaire is being used to further pathologise rather than help for example. The tension between staff and organisations is palpable as I deliver training to staff and it becomes abundantly clear that the organisation in which they work is about as far removed from being trauma informed as we are from a Brexit deal. The research on how we build resilience is clear; it is built in the context of our relationships, rather than something that is simply a personal quality.
It is there fore vital that when we are talking about being trauma informed we are clear that this is about every stakeholder; without emotionally available, self regulated ‘helpers’ we cannot be trauma informed and provide that relational opportunity for healing. What enables this? Good clinical supervision for a start, alongside relationship focused communication that understands that we are all humans having a human experience FROM all levels of staff TO all levels of staff. The other question that has to be asked is ‘does this service add to or compound the trauma that this person has already experienced?’ Understanding how this happens, while we cannot always change it (think child protection, criminal justice, mental health services) we can ‘own’ that we are a part of that and support ALL stakeholders in managing that.
Secondly, if you read my blog on Day Four you’ll have seen that I was fortunate enough to be on a panel with Gabor Mate, Peter Fonaghy, Bessell Van Der Kolk, Ed Tronick to name a few. I took the opportunity to ask a question based on experiencing deeply intense feelings about some of the ways in which content was being imparted. Most of the sessions I had listened to on attachment and interpersonal relational brain building had been delivered by men whilst simultaneously entirely focused on the mother. I was finding the underlying lack of congruence incredibly challenging. We know and understand that mothers have to be stress free and calm constantly to provide the most necessary environment for optimum growth and development. We have the research. However, where this becomes deeply mother blaming and woman shaming is when men are not simply just absent from the conversation, but those delivering the research (the men) are not part of creating and being in a movement that is about ensuring that women have those resources, that men and communities are educated to create that space. Many women are simply under resourced in a multitude of ways and then also feel bad for being so.
I was also curious about how men felt about their removal past their sperm contribution? For those fathers, brothers, Uncles who form part of that ‘tribe’ that supports Mama, the resounding theme completely lacks validation for that.
Finally, and this point is out of what happened when I questioned the panel about this omission of men and omission of a collective creation of movement, only Gabor Mate and Peter Fonaghy answered and they weren’t really clear answers. Peter did go within his own experience to offer a connection to the subject matter in hand but it all felt rather messy. The question is messy. The answer is messy. The academics that sat before me were not keen on the mess so sat quietly waiting for us to move on. This begs the question for me about how we approach things that are uncomfortable, messy and difficult to articulate. Maybe it is our ability to do this that enables us to heal? If we don’t get comfortable in the messiness of it all how do we ask ‘how is my service thinking about the role of men/fathers? Is it ignoring, alienating and/or disengaging men? Are we acting out mother blaming? Whose role is it to educate what the research tells us, understanding that this means ensuring that men are present in that education? How do we incorporate lived experience into all our work, interweaving it through what we think, do and say?’ We must never stop asking questions of ourselves and our services. Where are you in the ‘mess’?
Please share your explorations in the comments box as I am starting a conversation rather than being in a place of ‘knowing’ and would really welcome your thoughts that support my thinking.