I went to a beautifully eloquent lecture on trauma the other day by Daniela Sieff, at the RSA who has written an informative and accessible book about it – Understanding and Healing Emotional Trauma. Listening to Daniela made me realise that I need to slow down – there’s no point in rushing ahead unless you have the basics right. Rather than encouraging you to run before you can walk, what matters is that you get to the roots of whatever you’re struggling with, since any changes you make must be built on firm foundations.
Change takes time
You have to accept that change takes time – I cannot stress this too strongly. Change takes time and persistence – you have to stick at it, and stick at it, and stick at it again, and when you find yourself sliding backwards (which is inevitable), rather than beating your self up – be kind, be kind, be kind – just get back in the saddle, and keep going. Think of all the connections that have been made in your brain since you were conceived, and the ‘motorways’ (see post) that have formed, even without you being aware of them. Imagine how long it would take to rebuild an actual motorway – it will take just about as long to redirect your mental traffic from the existing motorways onto the new ones that you are going to build, and in the meantime, you must be kind to yourself.
Thanks to Daniela and Twitter, I have just found this brilliant infographic about self-compassion by Emma Seppala – have a look at her website – and have decided to reproduce it here in its entirety (with her blessing), as I can’t think of any better way to get self-compassion across to you than she has. I hope the drawings will help to make the importance of self-compassion stick in your mind.
Self compassion – an infographic
A new paradigm
The other thing that came to mind after Daniela’s lecture was an awareness that has been growing on me for some time, particularly since meeting Frances Ross (Frances is teaching me about working with the body), who has spent most of her career working in Canada and North America: that therapeutic thinking in the UK (and the public perception of psychotherapy), is still largely dominated by psychoanalysis.
In the UK, we are so steeped in Freud (as well as Jung, and others who have followed the psychoanalytic path), that we don’t even realise it – therein lies the problem! I don’t want to devalue what psychoanalysis has given us – I have spent many years learning about it, and it informs much of my thinking – but I now realise that there is more to learn. We are mammals, first and foremost, and in order to survive, and to relate to others, we use our emotions as well as our minds – to make instinctive decisions about approach and avoidance (who is safe and who is not) amongst other things, and our bodies to carry out the physical manoeuvres necessary to ensure our safety, and implement the instructions indicated by our emotions.
Despite a steady growth of Integrative, and other non-psychoanalytic approaches to psychotherapy, the UK has adopted a predominantly cognitive approach to human beings and their suffering – ‘the talking cure’, followed more recently by CBT – although there are now some eminent psychoanalysts (albeit mostly in the US), who have realised the limitations of this way of working, and are now leading the field in including both emotion and the body in their work.
In my opinion, those of us suffering from core shame or trauma cannot heal using cognitive approaches alone – core shame and trauma live in our feelings and our bodies (as well as our minds of course), and it is essential that we include work on these fundamental parts of ourselves if we’re going to truly heal.
This is perhaps a new paradigm – as a nation, we have been looking down a particular telescope for too long, and need to open our minds to a different approach I think. Maybe fear keeps us from looking at things differently – this has to change.
Finally, I’ve just found this fantastic piece on the benefits of touch – thanks again to Emma Seppala and Twitter (how did I ever live without it?)