Three Quick Quotes and a FREE resource – 17 February 2021

Hi there

What weather! But despite the cold, there are signs of spring!

In this week’s ‘Three Quick Quotes’ our free resource is the PDF version of ‘The brain on trauma’ poster. A low-ink version can also be found here.

If you enjoy this email, please forward to colleagues and clients and ask them to sign up to receive it here – where they can also get their hands on a free copy of our ‘Emotional Resource Guide’.

Stay safe!

three quotes

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“A secure attachment combined with the cultivation of competency builds an internal locus of control, the key factor in healthy coping throughout life. Securely attached children learn what makes them feel good; they discover what makes them (and others) feel bad, and they acquire a sense of agency: that their actions can change how they feel and how others respond. Securely attached kids learn the difference between situations they can control and situations where they need help. They learn that they can play an active role when faced with difficult situations. In contrast, children with histories of abuse and neglect learn that their terror, pleading, and crying do not register with their caregiver. Nothing they can do or say stops the beating or brings attention and help. In effect they’re being conditioned to give up when they face challenges later in life.”
“Throughout most days, Katie engages in ‘manipulative’ behaviours. Parents often respond to these behaviours poorly. They experience themselves as ‘being used’ by the child. They experience the child as being deceitful and they experience the overall behaviour as being ‘bad’. It is helpful for parents if they are able to remind themselves that such ‘manipulative’ behaviours were very adaptive when the child was living in circumstances of abuse and neglect. The child could not assume that the parent would naturally anticipate and meet the child’s needs. She could not assume that if she made a direct request for something that she wanted and needed that the parent would respond positively. As a result, the child had to devise strategies for ‘tricking’ the parent into meeting the child’s needs. If the child did not become proficient in ‘manipulating’ or ‘intimidating’ the parent, she might have suffered unmet needs. Keeping this in mind is likely to help the parent not to respond to ‘manipulation’ with rejection and anger or even consequences. ‘Manipulation’ is likely to decrease if the parent is able to respond to it with a playful, accepting, curious, and empathic attitude. As the parent is able to increase the child’s sense of safety and confidence in the good motives of the parent, the child be more direct and open in her requests. In the meantime, the parent might simply acknowledge the apparent motive for the behaviour and then grant or deny the hidden request.”
“Suicide made sense, whilst living did not. What I didn’t realise at the time was that I was wearing a blindfold. So while well-meaning people were telling me that ‘It’s not all bad’ and ‘Things will get better’ and ‘It’s time to move on’, I couldn’t see what they were talking about. When people talked about having a hope and a future, I didn’t know what they meant. Under my blindfold, all I saw was the blackness. All I could hear was the silence. There was no future that I could see. There was no laughter, no joy, no hope, no potential ‘acts of triumph’. My current experience was all that I had, and I lived it under the strictures of a blindfold. So I didn’t believe people. I thought reality was all that I could see. I discounted their vision.”

this week’s free resource

You can download the resource here. Trauma is not about feeling distressed at something bad happening. Trauma is something that directly and enduringly affects the brain, and this poster spells out 7 key areas: attention, threat response, altered states of arousal, timekeeping, memory, self-awareness and integration. Trauma takes us out of daily life mode and into danger mode, where our back brains dominate instead of our front brains. This simple piece of psychoeducation can help trauma survivors realise that they’re not mad and they’re not bad – they’re simply experiencing the logical, natural and automatic impacts of trauma. The  low-ink version is available here.

snapshot of my week

Less of a snapshot and more of a journal entry!

This week I met Sheila.

I was out walking Peps and just dealing with the back-end (literally) of a particularly unpleasant poo episode (Peps’, not mine) when I came across an older lady lying in the snow. Next to her was a young mum with two small children. I assumed that they were together.

For a split second I also assumed (I have no idea why) that the older lady was choosing to lie down in the snow. I approached with that very British sense of ‘Oh I don’t want to interfere’ but gradually it dawned on me that the lady had fallen and that the young mum was particularly ill-equipped to help her up given that she was carrying one toddler and trying to stop another from jumping into a nearby pond. What I realised next – and what I should have already known having been in this situation myself just before Christmas, when embarrassingly I had to be rescued myself by a much older lady, having fallen in the snow – was that people who are prostrate in the wet don’t immediately admit that they need help. But it didn’t seem the kind of situation that you could just shrug your shoulders at and walk away from. So I got involved.

Another passer-by offered to hold Peps’s lead while I scrambled down the slope to help. At that point I figured that snow-lady must have tumbled all the way down this slope too. But she was trying to sit upright and nothing seemed broken. Breaking all distancing protocols (albeit the air was cold enough to kill a woolly mammoth let alone airborne particles of virus), I helped her in stages to get to her feet. Someone else retrieved her bags, which for some reason were around twenty metres away. I helped her back up the slope and onto the path. And then it occurred to me that I really ought to walk her home and make sure she was absolutely 100% okay.

And so Sheila and I made our acquaintance. She was widowed twenty years ago. She’s lived in Buxton since 1939. She was married to an undertaker. We talked about her children, all living elsewhere. And my heart ached for her evident loneliness. I reached the front door of her sheltered accommodation and ensured that the warden would be able to check on her. And I said my goodbyes. I imagine she would be astonished to realise that she’s the unexpected star of the show in this week’s email.

What would have happened if she’d been immobilised by her fall? If no-one had seen her? If no-one had helped her? It was minus several degrees even at midday. And she was frail and elderly and I assume it was only the soft depth of snow that averted the breaking of bones. As I walked her down her gritted ramp to her front door, she kept saying, over and over, ‘I can’t thank you enough. I can’t thank you enough.’ She was concerned that I’d gone out of my way. I assured her that Peps really didn’t mind which way we walked as long as we walked.

‘I can’t thank you enough.’ People are so grateful for even the tiniest of kindnesses. I hardly felt a hero. It was instead my privilege to meet Sheila. I delighted in her stories of life since before the war as she breathlessly, gingerly shuffled up the road to home.

Soon after I got back I received an email from a fellow trauma survivor. In it she talked about her guilt at taking up her therapist’s time. Her shame and sense of unworthiness seeped through the screen. I told her about Sheila. I told her how it had made my day to be able to help her, just a little. I said how funny it is that we think that we’re an inconvenience and a ‘pain’ when in fact so often it can be a blessing to be able to help another person. ‘I can’t thank you enough,’ Sheila had said, again and again. ‘Actually,’ I said, ’the thanks is mine. Meeting you has made my day.’ And, completely against protocols, but with her permission and evident great delight, I gently squeezed her arm as I left.

Thank you, Sheila, for letting me help.

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