healing (4)

The healing of trauma, and the creating of room for growth in the nervous system of our children and other human beings, does not only happen in therapists’ offices. Our everyday lives present us with endless opportunities to heal—through the things we say and do, the harmful things we are able to not say and do, and the ways in which we treat ourselves and others. We all have the capacity to heal—and to create room for thers to heal. Our relationships, communities, and circumstances all call us into this healing.

(from Resmaa Menakem, 2017, p. 305 in My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies)

 

Today, September 18, 2020, I received my absentee ballot to vote in the USA elections from my home in Canada. The United States has been politically, emotionally, and spiritually shaken the past 4 years. The truth of its darkest side unleashed for the world to see. And yet many in the USA still do not to see it. Including some of my devout Christian American relatives who support the current White House resident.

Last night I reread the letter I wrote in the early morning hours on the day after the 2016 election in my desire to not be caught in the deep fear that I could feel so viscerally in my body. I could not imagine going to my office and teaching that day as “normal” so I wrote to my community of students and faculty at the university where I was teaching and administrating. After I sent this letter many told me that they kept turning back to it in their state of shock and despair in the days and weeks that followed.

In less than 2 months we will face the next moment of truth and I find myself preparing.

Dear WGSS Students and Faculty 

I will be sharing the regular newsletter later today but felt the need to share these early morning thoughts in the aftermath of the election. I am a Canadian who chose to become an American 7 years ago after coming to teach at SIU. I have found it hard to understand American thinking and ways of being on so many levels. As a new American I have experienced the significance and responsibility of voting that I never felt as a Canadian. There are many gifts to be found in America. May the peoples of American now become leaders in the recovery and healing of deep systemic institutionalized oppressions that perpetuate hatred and fear. May Canada and all the world allies come forward to join in. The presence of WGSS in institutions of education is an essential part of that recovery. The work is undeniable and we have the knowledge and tools. We teach them in our classes, share them our research. I echo many of my WGSS colleague words on FB. It is time to get to work. 

Barbara

November 9, 2016.

Reality and Recovery

Accepting reality is the first step in recovery. Last night I chose to go to bed before the final election results were known. Awakening this morning at 5am my thought was “Trump has attained the Presidency of the United States of American. This is a reality.” Immediately I moved into thoughts of what I could share in my weekly newsletter to the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies community in which I am the Director of at SIU. I realized what I do know is that a number of disenfranchised groups in America have risen and won over other disenfranchised groups in this current political system. The familiar win-lose binary that keeps racism, sexism, homophobia and every other oppression in place is alive and well. The backlash for the losers is excruciating, full of pain and horror. I feel overwhelmed and ill-prepared for what is to come. I wake my partner up in bed as I weep and shake and ask him for attention. Attention is what we can give each other as we do the conscious work needed to release the collective trauma that has surfaced so blatantly in this 2016 election. It is a trauma that invokes with its worst side the use of intimidation to silence us and keep us isolated and in fear. On its better side it asks us to keep moving from crying to singing. I know from my experience that it is crucial to not silence the voice even when words feel impossible and/or inadequate. While being held by my partner I shift from shaking to singing. As I sing, thoughts of how oppressed groups utilize singing in times of political, cultural and religious oppressions arise in my memory, both in mind and body.

I begin to ask myself questions:

How can I step out of this rampant political binary and step into what can be clearly seen as fearism now that all politically correct hiding strategies have been blown up? How can I model something else more unifying with diversity for those who are part of my professional and personal life? The WGSS conference that I am in the midst of planning with students and faculty is entitled “Allies Across Differences.” We have been preparing to address the binary of win vs. lose, us vs. them. We have an opportunity to offer a hospitable space on campus for the collective trauma that this political election has brought to the world’s attention. The fall-out from the election results calls for attention and healing. We have the opportunity to keep teaching truth to power in hospitable ways, and yet, not be cooperative with oppression.

I am grateful for my wise colleague Cade Bursell’s FB post in the hours prior to the final election results. Reminding us/me to continue the work; to not return the hate that we feel directed at us as women, people of color and diverse sexual and diverse gender identities. Instead let us stay connected, give attention to each other’s fear but do not succumb to projecting it back out as attacks. Stand up for each other. Gather allies, strategize and continue to use your voice and gifts to build allyships across differences. I grieve for and with the young especially as they have been born into this legacy of fear.

I begin this day with a simple commitment to remind people to sing [and create]. To keep walking the path with allies and those not yet allies with love and compassion. From chaos and destruction eventually comes new order. Keep teaching and speaking truth to power in your classes [and lives]. And remember that the formal political realm is one of at least three realms that make up our world. The others being equally important, the natural and the spiritual realms. Take time for recovery. Spend some time outside today and remember the unconditional life-giving forces that sustain us as humans on this planet. 

Please contact me if you would like to set up spaces for dialogue. WGSS will do what it can to support initiatives and gatherings for recovering and generating creative and critical ideas and initiatives for the future. 

 

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Dr. Christopher Bollas, psychoanalyst-theorist

In 2016 the internationally renowned British (and American) psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas (one of my fav. of this school of psychology) has given an excellent lecture on "Mental Pain" and offers his decades of clinical experience, his creative original thought, and what I see as a profound wisdom of understanding the relationship of the self, to the mind, to the society (and history and politics). Go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9Frb4wMifw

 

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The following is a very brief version of a peer-to-peer counseling method that two or more people can utilize, without any necessity of either parties being "trained counselors."

I am offering below the simple explanation and process of how humans are hurt (focusing on emotional hurts) and how they heal. Everyone deserves attention when they are experiencing pain of some kind. That is a way to prevent unnecessary suffering. We are a social species that requires attention from a caring other during our distress. With confident support, all of us will destress, and more or less heal and recover our becautiful inner nature/self.

This short step-by-step process has an underpinning detailed theory which you can access in another blog I've written (see LPC) and an intro video I've made for how to 'balance' the peer counseling session so it is focused on the 'good' and the 'hurting' and not only focused on the hurting. There are many ways to destress from daily life, and how to heal and recovery our zestful and flexible inner nature/self.

Have you ever wondered why there is so much fear in people, perhaps in yourself, and in society overall? Fear that is toxic and damaging to our well-being and functioning as a society is due to excess hurting and over-reliance on "coping" as if this coping is better (more efficient) than healing. I am interested in us all moving from a fearful existence and life-styles of coping to to a fearlessness way of being that is truly liberating for all. I teach this peer-to-peer method (LPC) because we've grown to be way too afraid of the healing process itself. We've been taught to rely on professionals for healing (e.g., therapies). Sure professionals may be needed in some cases, but our first line of defense to prevent excess distress is to do our own work on hurts and help them heal, the sooner the better.

MAKING A HEALING CHOICE (At no cost)...

Most of us never learned in a coping culture how to heal our emotional wounds. Most of us are operating on attention deficit because we never received adequate quality of attention when we were emotionally distressed in our lives. "Hurting" is defined by this shortage of attention when we needed it. This shortage is more profoundly damaging to our well-being than the original injury we experienced as painful or traumatic. ATTENTION is key to everything good!

We never learned about hurting much...and therefore, we never likely learned that we have at least 10 natural healers:

1. laughing   2. crying   3. talking spontaneously  4. shaking and trembling  5. yawning and stretching  6. righteous indignation (anger)   7. spontaneous creatiion-making  8. sweating   9. dreaming/trance   10. deep breathing

In a coping culture we have learned for the most part to negatively judge all of the above natural healers. This is the first step we have to reverse. These are all positive functions and are "natural" to us but our culture tends to tell us otherwise. Being patient in accepting these natural healers again, in yourself and in others... is the first step to recovering who we really are deep inside--and, is the way to leading a more joyful existence.

"Healing" in this peer-to-peer counseling involves getting "attention" on what is bothering us but not getting advice! What this model is about is freeing oneself using the natural healers (one or more at any point in a "session") and letting them bring us back into a more balanced self-regulation where we will be able to then think better to solve our own problems. The peer helping us is there to listen deeply without judgement and trust and encourage the natural healers as first priority. "Let people heal" and be confident in them that they can do so, including yourself.

When you and/or someone you care about are hurting, and you see their distress is getting the better of them, or of you. You can potentially partner up and offer each other positive attention (sometimes called "unconditional attention"). In this peer-to-peer way of supporting each other, you both need to take responsibility to follow a few guidelines for a "session" (i.e., of destressing, healing, and recovery).

GETTING A "SESSION" (Beginning to build a healing relationship, and a healing culture)...

A "session" here is defined as a conscious choice for you and another to willinging do "peer counseling" which involves taking say 15 min.'s each to get positive attention from another person for the purpose of destressing, healing and recovering your inherent nature as a curious, loving, playful, and zestful intelligent and empowered person. Excess stresses and hurts if not manage well become barriers to your functioning inherent nature and well-being--and, thus distress will inhibit you being able to treat others and yourself well. We all have stress and hurts in life and typically in a coping culture we do not deal with this stress and hurting very well. We often suppress it. In peer-to-peer counseling you will reverse that habit of suppressing and "forgetting" pattern and move towards healing and recovery. 

A "session" in this model of peer-to-peer counseling is a unique opportunity to care about another person without getting "attached" and "submerged" in all their distress feelings and thoughts. You take turns. Use a timer (start with 15 min. each). You (as counselor) don't interrupt the person sharing when it is their turn to get attention. You will get your turn right after them. Timing the session, with equal turns, really helps to prevent over-dependency on another person for emotional care. Too much giving care to another creates a path to eventual "burnout" for the caregiver.

DESTRESSING

This is the most basic means of releasing emotional and physical tension that builds up as inner and outer conflict, with feelings of hurt, anger, sadness, grief, depression etc. Humans are designed by nature to have good stress to function well and creatively in the world--it is part of all problem-solving and growth itself. However, if you have stressors over and over that become accumulating that can lead to chronic distress and post-traumatic effects, where you are not recovering back to a healthy stress level so you can function well. 

The most simple "session" then for destressing is merely to take time in a session to process tensions, using any or all of the natural healers. What you are aiming for is to be more flexible in your body and thinking after the session---if not, take another session or book another session soon. Sometimes it will take several sessions to find a more peaceful and joyful 'norm' for yourself. There is no magical pill here that will make everything better all of a sudden. It takes discipline and practice to get well.

HEALING

This is more complex than merely destressing. It requires in a session that you as the client getting attention to put yourself in-charge and ask for exactly what you want (though, note: asking for advice from your counselor is not advised). You are to honestly face into and "feel" and use the natural healers to express and destress and keep going into what it is you feel hurt by--even if you have to guess what it is. You can 'bitch and complain' get angry and yet always notice that your aim is to recover your beautiful, natural nature/self. Healing requires the discharge of emotional and conflictual energy (i.e.., destressing) but also to then find clarity and rational thoughts that make sense for you in what is happening to you.

Healing involves dealing with the current hurts distressing you as well as looking at connections of how what you are feeling now may be related (in a post-traumatic way) to past unhealed painful memories and events that you experienced--or you even watched because other people were getting hurt. Healing fully is complex and requires this reconnecting of present with past--and, then rationally and intelligently planning out how you want to see your future and make your future the best it can be because you deserve it. Note, even thinking "good thoughts" about yourself at times will bring up pain, fear, shame, guilt and distress in general. You and your peer-counselor can work through this by you getting unconditional attention on it--and, at some point the counselor may offer non-judgmental observations from your session to bring more clarity to you (again, observations without advice-giving).

 

RECOVERY (Patience)

This is the short-term and long-term process of you taking charge to become the person you really want to be without all the negative thoughts and painful memories and habits that are so critical of yourself. The main thing in recovery is to journal on your healing and destressing sessions. To journal and keep notes on what you are doing well today, and when something doesn't go to well, ask yourself questions about how you could have maybe handled things differently with a better outcome. You have to be patient with yourself and say, "I'm still in recovery" and so are the people in a "session" that I may be assisting. We all have been brought up in a coping culture not a healing culture and so we have to recover a lot of our natural healing capacities and thinking rational capacities.

I always believe when you are in recovery it is best to not try to "change the world" or "change another person"--but focus on changing yourself for the better... and, that's a good place to bring more joy and intelligence to society--it will rub off.

 

Cautionary

When you first try this getting unconditional attention from a peer (who is informed in this model and guidelines)--there is the problem of finding it all very uncomfortable, and even the timing of the session--it seems to formal and not natural. This is a common complaint. My experience shows, the guidelines are very important to maintain vigilantly to make peer-to-peer counseling work best. Most of us have learned not to receive good quality attention--so, it will feel perhaps a little weird at first.

After the end of a "session" (say 15 min.) make sure you as client being listened to are coming "up and out" of the distress patterning and negative emotions and thoughts that may have come up in your session. Bring yourself to look around the room, and see the "benign" and "good" things in life right now in the moment--even though all is not perfect by any means. This is important also for the counselor to make sure the client is "up and out" and has some free and flexible attention for well-being and functioning in the world. Although, it is legitimate that a client also may want to rest after a session, have a nap, etc. It is important to give yourself some "space" from the day-to-day grind of responsibilities... because you want to let the healing effects of a session percolate and integrate a bit too. Again, you can always "book" another session with your peer-counselor and that helps for you to know that there is still good attention there for you.

Ultimately, all of the above guidelines and information are quite incomplete... so, seek further reading and study on this peer-to-peer method when you can make time for it.

If you wish to email me with questions on this material and method: r.michaelfisher52 [at] gmail.com

 

 

 

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Hello,

I would be very interested in a visual representation of the dialectics suggested in Wilber's model, between healing and growing, awakening and presencing.

I am not sure how to get started on this:  it brings up some fear, perhaps in part because Ken's work doesn't address trauma very well.

Durwin

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