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  • Writer's pictureKaren Law

Traumatised people are all around us: how are we helping them? What works?

I recently watched a movie called Albert Nobbs, starring Glenn Close. I posted some of my thoughts on Twitter and now put them into this blog post. I don't have time to sit with this and make sure I have good references. It may read a bit jumbled. I just needed to get in into the blog and pad it out a little bit. I will return to it and edit as necessary, especially if any reader can provide more food for thought.

Glenn Close said in interview at the time of the film's release: “People desperately need connection. There's a danger now of getting further and further away from two human eyes looking into two human eyes.”

“The thing that I love is that we have evolved to be empathetic. We have these neurons called mirror neurons, which reflect what you see in other people's faces."

Please see the work of Peter Levine, Bruce Perry, Gabor Maté, Stephen Porges, Bessel Van Der Kolk to name but a few if you really want to understand what she said.

The other day I was struck by what a client was telling me about a hotel she recently stayed at which was so automated, they hardly saw a human being! Check in screens, key cards, self serve dining....

Where’s the humanity?

So, I come back to Glenn Close comments in that interview from 2011: “I think what every human being seeks is safety and connection.”

Absolutely! Everybody I connect with looking to make a difference with regard to trauma agrees.

Albert Nobbs, a film with trauma, women doing what they have to do to survive, set in the late 19th Century. We see glimpses into what live was like and what adversity children experienced. It's easy to see how intergenerational trauma snowballs down the ages when I think about the way people were so ‘proper', never speaking about feelings, just a few generations ago, and still today.

Filmmakers/actors try to tell the story of trauma (I watched the Soloist yesterday, so will bring that into this or another post soon), and many in Scotland are trying to break the silence but we need to ensure that services & appropriate treatments are available for the adults who’ve been hidden & silenced for too long.

Awareness is great. But not without sensitivity. Are we truly trauma responsive yet? I’m not seeing it in our MH services, I’m afraid. I’m certainly not hearing it from those living with unresolved trauma.

So I look forward to the What Works conference in Glasgow tomorrow. I’m looking for hope. That we are moving towards a more trauma responsive Scotland. That people will stop taking their trauma to their grave. We’ve still a LOT of work to do.

Because from my lay person perspective I can tell you what doesn't work: identifying the very reasonable biological responses to traumatic experiences, then giving them labels, medicating those clusters of symptoms to prevent the responses happening, categorising the individual as having a disordered personality or a mental illness and then wondering why, for so many, they are still no better many years later. In fact they are often struggling even more with their unresolved trauma but now have additional trauma caused by the medical system.

What will work, again from my lay person perspective, requires a paradigm shift in psychiatry, a recognition of cPTSD, more embodied therapies to allow bodies to release adrenaline of flight/fight response, bring people back into Window of Tolerance, bring them safely back to feeling after dissociation. It will mean taking a full trauma history right back to their time in the womb, or even before. They themselves might not recognise events in their lives as being traumatic, or even remember them, but those working with them should know the neuroscience enough to be able to identify life experiences which could contribute to their body's responses in the current time.

Close also says: “I've read about & met people who've had horrendous childhoods & they're the most enlightened people. They have a certain kind of soul." And this is why so many with lived experience are doing whatever they can to help others.

I say it’s about time they all got to shine instead of so many still suffering. Make sure their voices are heard at conferences and in research, pay them well for their time and energy, hear them, support them, learn from them. Make sure that person centred treatments are available to them to resolve their past traumas. This is why I am extremely keen to hear about the Comprehensive Resource Model from Dr Alastair Hull tomorrow, it's why I'm looking forward to experiencing Quantum Energy Coaching next week and collaborating to have Dr Melanie Salmon talk about her approach later this month. This is why I'm delighted to be part of a very trauma sensitive approach to massage, NO HANDS Massage. We have intensive ongoing CPD which is really developing ways to support our clients to release the trauma they are ready to let go of.

This affects ALL of us.

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