When we’ve suffered abuse in childhood, we often experienced pain. And that pain was reflected back in the eyes of our abusers as pleasure. We then take that template and expectation into our adult relationships, expecting only to be able to get close to people or be approved of by them if we’re in pain. This is the topic of Carolyn’s blog post in which she draws on her own experiences in one particular therapy session.
For a number of years, Carolyn was a foster carer, looking after many traumatised and abused children whose trauma, although unremembered and unspoken, was plain to see. In this post she describes the impact on her of hearing the cry of one particular baby, and how this acts as a metaphor for our own inner child.
Trauma focuses our brain on danger based on the ‘there-and-then’, and one of the hardest, but most helpful, things to do is to be able to just notice and be curious about our present experience in the ‘here-and-now’. In this blog post Carolyn talks about her experience of learning to do this.
I used to struggle to understand what phase III could possibly be about, because my life was so consumed with just surviving, and then so consumed with working through traumatic material to neutralise it, that I imagined that therapy would always be like that, and that once it was no longer happening, there would be no more need for therapy.
When I first started therapy in 2006, I didn’t know much about trauma and nothing about ‘the three phase approach’. My counsellor didn’t know much more. So although I’d like to say that we started by carefully doing the Phase 1 work of safety and stabilisation, the reality was a great deal messier than that.
Much has been written about the work in therapy in stages I and II of the phase-oriented approach to treating trauma, but less so about the third stage. The work in phase III aims to consolidate the gains acquired in the early stages and to apply these to everyday life in order to develop ‘a life worth living’.