It’s the 29th July 2018 and I have arrived at the Childhood Trauma Conference 2018, the second time that I have been to this event (I came in 2016). I arrived in the early hours of Saturday morning comforted by the knowledge that my lovely friend Saffina, who I go to Pakistan with to work, was here already and waiting for me. We meandered through Melbourne, desperately trying to stave off the hideous exhaustion and dizziness that jetlag brings so that we might be lucky enough to sleep all night.
I am going to share the Welcome Day conversations with you but it would feel incongruent if I also didn’t share what happened last night. I received a deeply distressed phone call from my son telling me that his father had died. I then had to phone my daughter and tell her what had happened. There are no words to describe the hours since that happened and the moment that I am in, writing this post. I am on the other side of the world on the back of a 24 hour flight and my children are in pain. After much discussion, we have all decided that I should stay here and that they will go to be with their father’s family this week. I return on Sunday.
So, I am at a trauma conference, enveloped in trauma.
Pat Ogden and Bonnie Goldstein talked in conversation about their work on sensorimotor psychotherapy.
Pat shared that it is more important than the speech articulation that we often look for, that we look at the what the body is telling us. For a child who has been ‘frozen’ through trauma, supporting that body to unfreeze or to push away or to set boundaries with body movements, is the experience that can shift so much. Pat talked about observing and noticing the body and also how one body interacts with another, for example, child and parent. Watching how each person creates meaning in those body to body conversations, being explicit about what is being observed so it is brought into awareness and working with it can begin. She spoke of openness and curiosity rather than ‘guiding’ and meeting the person exactly where they are at in that moment.
Bonnie spoke of noticing how the body moves becomes our inroad “oh I see how your body moves when that happens” and the importance of relational safety. Meet someone in the moment and drop into the energy that the person brings, in that moment and safety is paramount. She also spoke of the importance of self regulation strategies; self soothing, self touch and the vital role that play has. Play is so often compromised where there has been trauma and so we must learn to play ourselves to develop our awareness and to be able to ‘model’ play.
Ed Tronick, Marilyn Davillier and Lou Cozolino deep dived into what aspects of childhood they brought in to their work, the therapeutic process and the loss of meaning around words such as trauma and attachment. A long conversation was had about trauma being used to describe just about everything, losing sight of the complexities. Every relationship is new, every experience is different. The words trauma and attachment have lost the capacity to understand this complexity. Within systems thinking, the smallest things can have the greatest of implications. Ed also talked about judgement and how damaging and destructive this has been. I was literally just speaking to Saffina about how judgement has become a pastime of our society before the session started. It is quite awful.
Marilyn talked about being 5 or 6 years olds and asking the question to her parents, “how do I know I’m me” (a great question which is worthy of our personal enquiry I think) and that this led to her understanding that she had a desire to understand the inner world of humans. Being drawn to therapy, she said, is being drawn to inner worlds.
Lou spoke of his rebellious streak that he had had all of his life with a deep desire to look beyond the information he is given and question everything. This resonated with me and I felt in that moment about all the children in schools questioning everything and the importance of what happens, what response they receive, when this happens.
Ed has spent his life searching for meaning and the meaning that we all make of the world we are living in, whilst acknowledging that he did not know that he has spent his life thinking about this. Only now does he realise that this sits within everything he does and has now become his focus.
Each were asked by Joe Tucci, “what do you think the therapeutic process is?”
Ed – “The therapeutic change process is the active engagement of the individual with their external and internal worlds, that they then change the meaning that they make of the world.”
Marilyn – “The essence of good therapy is listening in a way that the other person feels heard.”
Lou – “The therapist must be willing to feel their own pain and then go on a journey with that pain. there is something about how much I am able to feel my pain and then meet you in yours.”
I’m sure you’ll agree that was a great start to the day. As I process the events happening in my life and supporting from afar the best way that I can, I will focus on self care; sleep, food, gentleness and allowing the process.
See you all tomorrow for Day One’s blog at the Childhood Trauma Conference 2018.