Three Quick Quotes and a FREE resource – 24 March 2021
This week we have quotes from Christine Courtois & Julian Ford, Jennifer Freyd and myself – all with a theme of trust and betrayal after childhood trauma. In case you missed it, we are also currently offering £10 off our CSA: Hope for Healing course, so please do check it out if you haven’t yet completed this important training.
Our free resource this week is the PDF version of our poster ‘Staying Safe: Relational Strategies’. The poster can be found here, and a low-ink version can be found here – and there’s an explanation further down of what the poster is all about.
Read to the bottom of this email for my ‘snapshot of the week’ and five things I have learned during lockdown (including, but not limited to, Spanish!)
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And if you missed any of the previous editions of this email, there’s an archive page of all our weekly ‘Three Quick Quotes’ emails, along with the weekly free resource, at www.carolynspring.com/three-quick-quotes.
“Complex trauma survivors have ample reason to mistrust other people. They are frequently suspicious, sometimes coming across as paranoid, though it is best considered as ‘realistic paranoia’. They expect mistreatment and exploitation and so may be surprised and apprehensive when treated with respect and kindness. In terms of attachment style, many survivors show simultaneous signs of relational withdrawal and excessive self-sufficiency (a ‘dismissive’ or detached style), neediness and dependency (a ‘preoccupied’ attachment style), or both, in unpredictable and inconsistent vacillations (a ‘disorganised’ style). Rather than seeming simply insecure in an obvious sense, they often appear to be conflicted and ‘disorganised’ in their feelings about relationships – torn between avoiding the dangers of being close to others and their desire and underlying need and longing for connection.”
“I struggled at first to accept that I had suffered child sexual abuse, to identify myself as a victim of such monstrous crimes. I had to own those experiences which previously I had banished to the far reaches of my mind. I had to lay hold again of those memories, those beliefs, those thoughts, those feelings. But then I would disown them. And own them again. On and on in a spiral of ever-deepening rings. But eventually I could place those experiences outside of me, in a right way. This is what someone did to me. It is not who I am. I am more than this. I am not the sum of my experiences. I am a person in my own right. Having done that, it is easier to stand back from the trauma but still own it, to view the abuse as experiences I have had, rather than as determinants of my soul. Abuse defines the abusers more than it defines the victim.”
this week’s free resource
In the ‘Working with Shame’ course, I talk about the physiology of the trauma traffic light and how the three neurobiological states (green zone – ventral vagal; amber zone – spinal sympathetic; and red zone – dorsal vagal) each produce their own characteristic behaviours in an effort to stay safe.
In the green zone, we seek safety through collaboration and social engagement, by getting on well with others. In the amber zone we seek safety through threat and attack – through the fight response. And in the red zone we seek safety through helplessness and freeze – through behaviours which make us meek and submissive.
This week’s poster, ‘Staying Safe: Relational Strategies’, (available here) provides a summary of this built-in, instinctual behaviours. Being able to frame the way we’re responding in terms of safety-seeking, rather than our ‘personality’ or our ‘character’ or ‘who we are’ can be a really helpful first step in developing more self-compassion and, ultimately, bringing our behaviours more under conscious control. Find out more on our shame course here. And for a low-ink version of the poster click here.
snapshot of my week
It’s been a year since the first lockdown and like Pepsi, for all of us, the world has turned upside down. Here’s five things that I’ve learned over this year of pandemic.
1. Skin hunger is physically painful
During the first lockdown, I went 69 days without being in the same physical space as another human being. It impacted me deeply. I couldn’t at the time put it into words: a daily scraping sound in the soul, like fingers down a blackboard, a sensation that I couldn’t locate or quantify. Eventually I realised how much I missed the bodily humanity of others.
Living alone during lockdown I could count on one hand the number of times I physically touched someone. I’m not a super-touchy-feely person at the best of times, but skin hunger is real, and skin hunger hurts. Over the last year we’ve been trained to think of people’s bodies in terms of contamination, of keeping our distance, of not touching, of risk. And yet it’s as if my skin is reaching out for them, rebelling against the directives of social distancing, and the compliance of my front brain. There’s a yearning, a longing for human contact, for the warmth of skin on skin. It’s lonely and painful to never touch another human being. It hurts – physically.
2. I used to do an awful lot of things I didn’t enjoy doing
I know this because there’s a lot of things I’m not looking forward to starting up again after lockdown ends. Life has been a lot less manic. I enjoy the quiet, thrumming peacefulness of an evening of solitude. I don’t want to rush out again, to fill up my diary, to bustle and hustle and do things I didn’t really want to do. There are so many things that I do miss but I feel almost panicky at the idea of my time and spaciousness being squandered by the activities of duty and social nicety. My life has become simpler, sleeker – less cluttered with unwanted activity. I don’t want to lose that. I’ve used lockdown as a proxy for saying no … as we emerge from our cocoons of solitude, I will need to learn the art of an active boundary again.
3. Little lifts are more resourcing than I’d realised
People-watching in Starbucks, mirror-chatting with the hairdresser, folding fajitas with friends in Chiquitos, the wonderful waste of a weekend in IKEA … It’s not until you lose these things that you realise how much they reset your mood. I’m not naturally prone to boredom – certainly my mind never is – but my body is. I don’t need much, but I realised how much I appreciate the energy shifts that come from a shift in environment. Monotony is draining. Over decades I’d learned the skill of oscillating back into my window of tolerance, back from the too much of amber or the too little of red, simply by a change of scene, by social engagement at a comfy and controllable distance. A year without little lifts has strained my resilience.
4. We cannot predict the future
We never have done, but we like to believe otherwise. Like most people, I had plans for 2020, none of which came to fruition. The beginning of lockdown felt like starring as an extra in a slow-motion disaster movie: an apocalypse of lack – of loo rolls, of hand sanitiser, of paracetamol, even of pasta. I’d always assumed that having delivered 170 training days by March 2020, I would in the remainder of the year deliver 20 more. Life looks so different now to 365 days ago when Boris said so sternly, ‘You must stay at home.’ Did he really mean for nearly a year? I’m glad I didn’t know. It’s easier to grieve the losses when they drip slowly away. Here we are a year later, hopeful but wary, knowing now perhaps more than ever that we cannot predict the future.
5. It’s okay just to survive
I used to assume that to survive I needed to thrive. That last year has shown me that surviving on its own – no frills, no extras, no side dishes of accomplishment – is enough. I didn’t die of Covid. I didn’t die of loneliness. I didn’t die of collective trauma, or the grief of shattered dreams. I didn’t die of bewilderment at this world turned upside down. I’m still here, and I’m grateful. I’ve been learning Spanish (339 consecutive days and counting) – not because I ever imagine I’ll use it, or because it makes me a better person, or because it’s the epitome of thriving. I’ve been learning Spanish because in the midst of chaos I simply needed something to aim for. I won’t change the world with my language learning. It’s just something that has helped me mark the passing of days, the achievement of survival, another tick and ‘ta-dah’ of triumph that today I spent ten minutes doing something that I did yesterday too. It’s okay not to do great things. It’s great that I’m alive. It’s okay just to survive.