Learning Mindfulness

by | 20 December 2018 | 5 comments

‘Have you tried mindfulness meditation?’

The therapist is asking the question without humour or irony and yet I laugh explosively in response. I imagine a cross-legged hippy and am only vaguely aware of my stereotyping. I really do think that is what she means.

‘Not my kind of thing,’ I say curtly, suddenly realising that she is being serious.


And then there is silence between us. It becomes uncomfortable. In normal conversation, we would turn to something else. ‘Did you see The Apprentice last night?’ But this isn’t normal conversation. This is therapy. There’s a reason for this silence, although at this moment I can’t fathom it. It starts to itch. I want to make eye contact, and at the same time I have an urge to run away.

Eventually I give in.


Find the complete article in Carolyn's new book, 'Unshame: healing trauma-based shame through psychotherapy', available now!

A word of explanation

I had therapy mainly between 2006 and 2015. These blog posts are not verbatim accounts of sessions, but rather the client equivalent of ‘case studies’ - amalgamations of various sessions, ‘narratively true’ rather than ‘historically true’. Although often written for stylistic purposes in the present tense, they are very much from a past period of my life. Ideally they should be read within the wider context of other blog posts, articles and my book, to give a more integrated and rounded sense of where I was at, where I’m at now, and the process that took place between those two points. I have been on a journey of recovery, and the difference in me from when I was in therapy (especially at the beginning) to now is testament to the brain’s ability to recover from even the most appalling suffering.

My primary work now is writing, followed closely by training therapists, counsellors and other professionals to support survivors of trauma. Regrettably I cannot provide one-to-one support but our charity framework PODS (Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Survivors) provides a helpline and a range of other services: please go to www.pods-online.org.uk for more information, and https://support.pods-online.org.uk/start-here if you are looking for support.

For training, please see our range of live courses at www.carolynspring.com/live-training, and our online courses at www.carolynspring.com/online-training. We also publish a range of resources to support recovery from trauma, which you can see at www.carolynspring.com/shop. My first book, Recovery is my best revenge, is available to buy at https://www.carolynspring.com/shop/recovery-is-my-best-revenge-paperback/




  1. “I’m triumphant. I’ve forgotten, for a moment, that all I’ve done is read about the insula. I’ve done nothing yet to improve its functioning.” That’s exactly what happened to me when I read this blog entry. Suddenly it all makes sense! Somehow I always find the right thing to read when I’m on your blog, the thing that I needed to read. I struggled a lot with depression and meditation today, but now I feel new motivation. My mind is still very much jumping around like a ferret, just like you described here. And I also feel like the old me is dying with trying to stop my old strategies and learning new ones. As always, thank you so much for sharing!

  2. The first time I tried mindfulness I went into a full blown conversion disorder reaction where I could move my body for 20 minutes!!!! I dissociate regularly, and it is hard to be focused on anything here and now. I am the queen of distraction. I recently lost my mother and I am more dissociated these days than not. I also lost my therapist. I am drowning. Will the pain ever end? F mindfulness. It feels so rather unreal and wasteful.

  3. I’m still nowhere near “there”. I just lost 2 weeks, I don’t know how it snowballed so quickly and I don’t know what happened. No memory at all. I didn’t leave my house, I know that. It seems to come to crisis, like a really bad dinner party in my head and just quietens down when it is done. I really have no control over this. That is even if I have an “I” anyway. Does anyone have any ideas about what to do in a crisis please? We think all over each other like a waterfall, so a thought is never finished, never mind a spoken thought, because there is never a whole one to speak, just everyone thinking at the same time. Does this make any sense?

  4. This post actually made me smile rather a lot! So me! And I’m stiiill doing headspace every day years later (along with much reading and research of course!)

  5. Carolyn, your words have helped me so much through my trauma recovery. Thank you so much.


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I can’t, I couldn’t, and I can

The freeze responses teaches us that we ‘can’t’, and it’s an instinctive, natural survival response that helps us by immobilising us. After trauma, however, it becomes our default response – a habit. We believe that we ‘can’t’ when in reality we ‘couldn’t’ then but we ‘can’ now.

Should we stop saying ‘commit suicide’?

‘Unfortunately, you’ve undone all the good you’ve done today.’

She was deadly serious and I was utterly perplexed. What was she talking about? I had spent the day delivering my training day ‘Dealing with Distress: Working with Suicide and Self-Harm.’ A tough day, but a good day. A day of hope for how to help people who see no other way through their pain but by taking their own lives. A day of guts-and-bowels emotion.

Be kind to yourself: self-care and the golden goose

For a long time, therapy sessions would end with a fairly typical exchange. I would express frustration at myself for not doing enough, and gently but firmly the response from my therapist would go, ‘Be kind to yourself.’

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