Five Unbearable Things I Want You to Know about Human Trafficking and Slavery

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Twenty-four years ago, my sister, author Lisa Pease, alerted me to the information on mind control that she kept encountering in her research. She said, “You are the therapist in the family. I don’t have time to research this; maybe you do”. I was skeptical of the ability to totally control another human being until I encountered the disclosures of trauma-based mind control. It was shocking. Pioneered in the Nazi concentration camps and continued after Project Paperclip had brought Nazi scientists to America there had been a deep and effective dive into gaining total control over human beings starting in early childhood or even later by government agencies and other interested parties. Immediately I realized that I had encountered some of these victims professionally, both as colleagues and as patients. I have spent the time since researching and treating survivors of what is called “sex trafficking” “mind control” “organized abuse” “ritual abuse” “cults” “mkultra” and other monikers, all of which are related to each other. For over ten years I have been a member of the special interest group, RAMCOA (ritual abuse, mind control, and organized abuse) under the auspices of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. In that time, I have given many talks nationally and internationally as well as speaking on a number of podcasts about this issue.  Although I am currently on medical leave the last few years of my practice have been largely populated with RAMCOA survivors. It is heavy work that requires a high level of skill.

 

The ‘training’ to become a human slave often begins in infancy and nearly always includes torture and ritual abuse.

 The human personality and mental structures of self form very early in life, largely before 3 years of age. The brain is exceedingly “plastic” in children; consider, for example, the relative ease at which kids can learn multiple languages, information which sticks in the brain for a lifetime. To gain control and mastery over an entire personality requires creating multiple compartments (alters or ANPs) and then handing the switching over to handlers. This requires extreme and prolonged torture, as well as extravagant rewards. The earlier handlers can start this process the easier it is, and they do, even before birth. This is a very sophisticated process where a computer like system is created to categorize different personalities and subpersonalities for different skill sets, memories, and behavioral programs, including ones that maintain the amnesia of the ‘front’ or ‘shell’ personality which is supposed to be very normal appearing. For clinicians this means that these people have a muddled dissociative picture. They appear to be more OSDD (Otherwise Specified Dissociative Disorder) than DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder). According to several of my clients, assets that appear as multiples are considered ‘programming failures’. Switching of personalities is something that is very subtle and supposed to happen ‘behind the scenes’ in response to subtle cues given by handlers in person, by media or by preprogramming. For the average therapist and citizen well programmed children and adults are nearly impossible to casually detect. I usually end up seeing somebody in whom programming has gone sideways through handler error causing severe psychological damage or because something happened which caused the victim to exert superhuman effort to extricate themselves.

 

Children can be sold into slavery before they are born, after they are born and sometimes a couple of generations earlier. They are used repeatedly for the rest of their lives unless they escape.

 The Jason Bourne conclusion, that people choose this, is a myth. People do not sign up for mind control or trafficking or being a super soldier. Most of the time they are born into it. I have had some clients whose families appear to have been given government favors in exchange for surrendering them to these programs. In other cases, pedophiles have been given immunity in exchange for children. Sometimes the families are literally paid money, as was written about in therapist and survivor Wendy Hoffman’s autobiography, The Enslaved Queen: A Memoir About Electricity and Mind Control (2019). I have had clients who were born into ‘illuminati’ and/or masonic families where this kind of conditioning is business as usual for the family members, who are then groomed for wealth and power. Although high achieving and well to do, the level of dysfunction in these families is off the charts.

 

Trafficked people may live apparently normal lives or lives of extreme dysfunction. You know some of them.

 Reliable numbers are hard to come by because 1) the networks of enslaved people and their handlers extend to the media, science and government who will not report them; 2) many trafficked people are not awake to their plight yet – they are too dissociative, and 3) the masterminds go to great lengths to hide their tracks, and they are very, very good at it. Many of my colleagues give a rough estimate based on decades at work that at least 1% of people in the USA are trafficked through extreme behavioral conditioning. I said this to one of my clients and they actually laughed, “1 percent?! Well, maybe if you are not talking about the sleepers (people who have been conditioned but not called up into use). Everybody in my public school class was taken out for conditioning”. This client was believable. They were not given to histrionics or exaggeration and had a very high IQ, as most of these people do.

I have a colleague who believes we are all screened for mind control usefulness at a young age; she has a longer time in this field than even I do. I do not know if that could possibly be true, although I am now willing to entertain many possibilities that I used to not entertain. I do know that if 1 in a 100 people have this history, you have encountered them. If it is 1 in 30, you have sat in classes with them, know them, and possibly have them as close friends. Even if, against all odds, they are aware of their history they are VERY unlikely to tell anybody except their therapist and/or their partner. Many people have come to me because they know their therapist cannot handle their history and/or will not believe them.

 

Trafficking and mind control (behavioral) networks are extensive and are based in white supremacy. They are in every state and include members inside of the cultural institutions that are supposed to protect citizens: police departments, hospitals, justice departments and governments.

I did not know this for a long time. I just kept following the trails of puzzle pieces. Those pieces were always in plain sight. Everyone in child abuse protection knows about those few judges that just will not give a pedophile a meaningful sentence. They know who they are, but not why they are doing this and who they are connected to. Everyone in the business knows that there are good cops, but also bad ones who are not willing to believe or follow up on child abuse cases involving ritual abuse. And then there is the former False Memory Syndrome Foundation which folded at the end of 2019.  This apparent CIA op (there were at least 3 known CIA operatives on the board) hurt a lot of therapists and clients. They were very successful in infiltrating the media to such an extent that it seems unlikely they were able to do that without help from networks. I have many colleagues still recovering from the “memory wars” that were waged on therapists and their clients in courtrooms all across this country (fortunately I was having babies at that time).

I have had clients from every part of this country. They have disclosed abuse and conditioning in: military bases, churches (Mormon and Catholic figure predominantly), schools, neighbor’s houses, dental offices, remote estates, and mental institutions. Colleagues have fleshed out some of these networks and connections. We know that the CIA and other alphabet agencies had a big hand in developing sophisticated mind control techniques in league with major medical institutions and prominent universities around the country and in Canada. (For more on the CIA’s involvement I recommend my sister’s book A Lie Too Big to Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 2018.)

Eventually my clients and colleagues begin talking about white supremacy and how viciously white supremacist the abusers were. They start to draw connections to the Masons, the Mormons, the Illuminati and local government systems. They can’t get records. They can’t find records. They are afraid to talk to family.

What really concerns me about the Freemasons is how pervasive yet quiet they are. My family and I have RV’d all over thousands of miles of the Western United States. I have yet to find the town that is too small for a prominent Masonic Hall. Think about it – an all male, mostly all white group of individuals that are everywhere and yet totally secret. (And just in case you know a Mason or are a Mason, only certain people from certain levels are let in on the most nefarious parts of the organization. The rest of the people just have a good bonding and educational experience.) From the point of view of systems theory, if a system is “as sick as its secrets” then the Freemasons are catastrophically ill.

There is plenty of evidence of widespread collusion, conspiracy and control. Research MKUltra. Look up Svali Speaks. Or just start to open your eyes to the patterns around you. Why can cops kill black people with so much impunity and stare in the camera while they do it? Look at Epstein. This is HARD to look at, harder than systemic racism (which it includes) and that is plenty hard. Hard because we cannot believe the wool has been pulled that far over our eyes and hard because the evidence is almost unreadable. Hard because people who believe in collusion are called ‘conspiracy theorists’ – in itself a term used by the CIA to discredit observers. Hard now, because people who see these patterns tend to be conservatives and Republicans so liberals dismiss them. In the 1970s the conspiracy observers were Democrats. Hard because you are going to see some people that you really like or love emerge as part of this nefarious system. Some of that knowledge comes from the primary source of my clients, but there are plenty of other resources for information including many autobiographies, books, podcasts and websites. Lastly, it is hard because it is overwhelming and once you really see the scope of it, you cannot unsee it, and it is easy to lose hope. DON’T LOSE HOPE! Lots of good is happening. But first, we have to deal with this mess.

 

All trafficked people have dissociative disorders that are exceedingly difficult to treat, and most therapists do not have the first clue about doing this work.

 I have trained and supervised clinicians for decades. Almost no therapist comes out of school with a good understanding of dissociation. Thanks to the False Memory Foundation many had their heads spun around by disinformation as did their supervisors. Many clinicians are still ignorant to the reality of organized abuse!  There are only a few of us who want to and can do this work long term. It is arduous and there is little reward for it other than seeing people get free and healthy (which is amazing!). I have had clients dumped in my lap by other clinicians in a very inappropriate way because the therapist panicked or didn’t care enough to terminate professionally. I have had people move to this state just to work with me. Because there are few good options out there. Not much more to say about this other than…I and my colleagues are working on bringing this consciousness to general therapy practice.

If you made it this far in reading, I am truly grateful that you are considering this information. Take care of yourself; a better day is coming.




From COVID to PTSD: What Can You Do About It?

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Hi friends. I am starting to see signs of people moving from acute stress into symptoms of PTSD, due to COVID. I have linked to the DSM criteria here . PTSD includes panic attacks by symptom definition, but needs greater specificity around the cause as outlined in the first section. If you know anyone who has died due to COVID you may be at greater risk. If you have a history of PTSD you may become more easily activated. The main signs are 1) the intrusiveness of symptoms (nightmares, anxiety etc), 2) negative mood (dysphoria) and decreased cognitive functioning 3) avoidance through numbing, substances, isolation etc. Some people will experience severe dissociative symptoms including feelings of unreality, surreality or like they cannot find themselves. Some may experience profound difficulty with memory as the overtaxed hippocampus fails to convert short-term memory to long-term memory (a very common symptom!). Your body may start to ache, or you may become dizzy or nauseous which compounds the alarm since these are also signs of COVID.

I think we are in the beginning of a PTSD epidemic concurrent with COVID, made worse by the lack of a caring, effective and empathic response by our national leaders. You may be confused about what you are experiencing since PTSD is a very PHYSICAL condition, not just something “in your head”. “Good thoughts” cannot change it; that would be like getting a band-aid on an amputation. Anyone is susceptible. With enough traumas piling up nationally we all may have PTSD when this is over. You cannot get too much help or do too much self-care at this time. Your nervous system and neuroendocrine system are being greatly taxed. Find regular times to lower anxiety and have fun. Be vigilant about reducing stress, even the relatively minor stress of watching a violent or scary TV show or movie. Peel the stress onion by letting go of even little stressors and take action 2x/day to lower your anxiety baseline through relaxation, meditation, gardening, yoga, walking or whatever helps you get into “rest and digest” mode safely. Your adrenals will thank you! Honor your need to be safe and whole and take good care of yourselves, including getting safe anti-anxiety meds on board as needed. Love and Reiki to all of you. S




No Justice in Rape Culture

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On June 2, a jury found Brock Turner guilty of multiple charges of sexual assault after having been interrupted and stopped mid-act by two Swedish students at Stanford University. The victim was unconscious at the time of the assault due to being intoxicated with alcohol. It was an open and shut case, and no one was surprised at the conviction. (Read the victim’s statement here.)

What was surprising was the sentence: 6 months of prison time out of a possible 10 years.

Today it was reported that the assailant’s father wrote the court saying that his son should not have to go to jail for “20 minutes of action”.

Wow. That sound you hear is a million women’s heads exploding. WTF?!

As a trauma therapist I am beyond appalled. I feel traumatized by this sentence, and I wasn’t even involved in the case.

The message is clear. Women’s trauma doesn’t count for much. White male privilege does. Because, and let’s be totally clear about his, if the assailant had been a black man, they would have thrown the book at him.

I cannot fathom the additional amount of trauma the victim must be feeling, especially since her attacker was found guilty. The message sent by the judge is traumatizing. Maybe more traumatizing than the original event. The message sent by the father is psychopathic (Read the father’s statement here.)

We have a lot of work to do folks. Educating people about trauma, about PTSD, about basic human decency and about equality of rights and protection under the law.

None of us are safe until justice is served. We need to acknowledge that many men, and many men in power, like the judge who sentenced this young man, either do not get it or do not care. They will continue to dominate and traumatize until we take away their privilege.

Here is my call to arms: WRITE. VOTE. DEMONSTRATE. DEMAND EQUALITY. DEMAND JUSTICE.

Our justice system is very primitive. We can do better. We must, on behalf of this and all the other victims who end up further victimized by rape culture’s version of justice. If you want to contact the judge you can get the information here.




Rebirth in the Desert

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Last week I had the opportunity to visit Death Valley National Park, which is in the midst of what is called a ‘superbloom’. The massive rains of El Nino sparked an intense blossoming of dozens of desert flowers and plants.

Usually Death Valley is barren. Temperatures can range up to 135 degrees Fahrenheit. People die there every year, and the park is littered with signs about safety precautions, keeping hydrated and basic survival. Large swaths of the park look like another planet, desolate, sun-scorched and windswept. It usually does not look like anything could live there.

So, it was a lot to take in when I got there. Even though it was past peak, desert gold flowers desert gold sunsetstill bloomed across much of the valley creating a thin golden patina over the desert. Upon closer inspection there were dozens of other plants with tiny, beautiful blooms opening wide for their brief life. Signs of life abounded: a caterpillar on a stalk, a ladybug nearby, sweat bees on a desert bush, raptors and ravens overhead, a burro herd, and hoofprints of the elusive big-horned sheep.

The blooming desert struck me as a perfect metaphor for the resilience of the human spirit. It is possible to go from the scorched earth condition of trauma to rainbows of flowers. It is inevitable.

Even when it feels like we have nothing left, there is never nothing there. There are always seeds. Seeds of happiness, seeds of love, seeds of passion, seeds of creativity, of joy, connection, of LIFE. The seeds are always there. And those seeds bloom. Every once in a while. When the conditions are right.




Memory Fragments and Reassociation

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Screenshot 2016-02-19 10.57.59

Many of the people I see already have memories of trauma; they just don’t know that they do. Or they have discounted their experiences as traumatic because they may think that PTSD is just for veterans or “people who had it worse than they do”.

To understand how traumatic memories are processed, let us first look at a normal memory. Normal memories consist of three basic components:

the narrative, context or story of what is happening (I am walking to grandmother’s house to take her some baked goods)

sensory memories (I can see the trees in the wood, feel my cape on my back, smell the flowers as I go by)

  • feeling state (I am a little worried about rumors of the big, bad wolf in the forest)

The younger we are when we lay down memories, the less likely we are to have component 1, the story of what is happening. We can only have a story if we are old enough to be verbal and have words to describe what is happening; this is why we don’t really have clear memories until we are a few years old.

When we are heavily traumatized, especially as children our memories get divided up into their components. One hypothesis is that the brain does this so it can keep functioning and not ‘crash’ or become physically injured.

Let’s say Red Riding Hood becomes traumatized by her encounter with the wolf.   Her three components get scattered and the associations between them are lost.

So when RRH comes to therapy she might say something like: “I see a picture of a wolf in the woods in my mind, but that doesn’t feel like a real memory (or my memory), and it doesn’t make sense to me. What was I doing there? Did that even happen?”.

This is a memory fragment.

Our brain doesn’t register memories as ‘real’ unless they have all 3 components.

Alternatively, RRH could come in and say that she is smelling forest smells when she is not in the forest and that those events are filled with a feeling of foreboding.

Or she could just come in in a state of panic and anxiety and not know why she is feeling that way.

Or she can have all three of these symptoms and not know that they are at all associated with each other.

The brain will only reassociate these dissociated fragments when it feels safe enough to heal. And this will happen spontaneously.

This is where therapy can be so helpful. Reassociation often happens when people are talking about a memory fragment. The pairing of the feeling state with either a sensory memory or the narrative (the knowing) of what happened is the first sign that this memory is REAL.

The body does not and cannot lie. You might imagine a picture in your head, even a very sad picture, but if it is not personal to you, chances are you will not cry (unless you are a trained actor). And the feelings in the body are very smart. We can distinguish feelings that feel like they are related to us versus feelings that are related to compassion, or someone else.

So, in healing from trauma, there is a process of acceptance and reassociation. All the images, sensory information, and memory fragments (no matter how disturbing or bizarre) will need to be welcomed back, accepted and organized along with emotions. Then we can heal and know our true story. We can finally leave the past in the past and move forward. Even the worst experiences can be processed, integrated and become ‘just another memory’. This process is what healing from PTSD looks like.

 




Timelines and Trigger Mapping in Healing PTSD

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In the “old” days of psychotherapy, when I began in the 80s, abreaction or emotional release of traumatic memories was considered a goal of therapy. This idea of therapy was also made popular in powerful movies such as Goodwill Hunting.

Abreaction will happen when it happens, and it will facilitate healing. But it is not enough.

We have to live with the day-to-day realities of our history as they manifest in the present moment. With that in mind, I wanted to share two of the most helpful activities in or out of therapy for people who suffer PTSD.

The first activity is to create a timeline of events. When our PTSD results in dissociation our sense of time can get distorted. In fact, many would say that PTSD itself distorts the part of the brain responsible for the sense of time passing.

In any case, most people I see have a very poor sense of the timeline of what happened to them. Also most people I see have had more than one type of trauma. Some peoples’ lives have been one traumatic event after another. Creating a visual timeline can help us understand and digest what we have actually been through.

 Chances are, when you begin, you will not put down every event. Our brains are associative, so if you are looking at, say, accidents, you will put down accidents. But, you may forget about abuse, or you may remember one type of abuse but not another. I consider the timeline a working document in therapy, whether on paper, or just as an understanding between my client and myself.

When you record an event, you have an opportunity to look at your age at the time. A good timeline should include: event, type of event, age and any other relevant details (such as physical injury).   The timeline provides a chance to re-associate the aspects of yourself connected to your own history and is a valuable tool for your therapist. (P.S. therapists can and do become dissociative too, so this tool can help ground both of you.)

The second important activity that will really start to empower you is trigger mapping. Everyone with PTSD has triggers! They may or may not be known to you. Knowing triggers can help you and your loved ones anticipate PTSD storms and head them off.

Here is how I describe trigger mapping in my book The Trauma Tool Kit:

I recommend writing down or drawing your triggers, getting them down on paper in some form or fashion. Some triggers you will know right away; some you will have to ferret out. Triggers fall into six categories: the five senses of taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing, plus feeling states. Let’s start with the senses, because they are the easiest. You can divide your paper into different sections reflecting each of these senses. It will help jog your memory to go through each sense modality individually. Let’s say you are working in the smell category. Ask yourself what smells really bother you. All of us have smells we do and don’t like. Generally we all like floral scents and dislike the smell of feces, but I am not talking about ordinary aversions here; I am talking about radical reactions. Nobody likes the smell of poop, but if that smell sends you into a panic or frozen numbness and dissociation, it’s a trigger. Or maybe the scent of lavender makes you want to rip someone’s head off. That’s a little unusual; write it down. Take your time working through each category. Do not attempt to do all of this work in one day! If you are in therapy, it can feel safe and reassuring to do it with your therapist. Or it may not depending again on your triggers, but find some way to do it anyway. p. 184-185

The great thing about timelines and trigger mapping is that they create a bridge of healing between the present and the past. They empower and they inform, and they are tangible.  You can also add to them and edit them as you go. It is a great joy to be able to remove a trigger off the list!

One last thing, when you do them, do them with care and beauty. Take your time. Use beautiful colors and paper. Or if you just do them in your own head give yourself the benefit of a peaceful space and time to contemplate your own history and healing.

Blessings on your journey, Sue PB




Knowledgeable Words in a Time of Chaos and Donald Trump

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Today’s blog answers the question “Why I Blog”, 2016. As the New Year crashes into us I am reviewing my mission, my efficacy and I am finding my passion to help make a difference in the lives of those with PTSD is stronger than ever before.

In the media today, everyone thinks they are an expert. That goes double for politicians. 2016 is the run-up to arguably one of the most important elections in the history of this country due to so many large factors hanging in the balance: the economy, the climate of our planet, social unrest. It seems that everyone in media has their two cents to contribute, but, sadly, many opinions are completely uninformed by professionals.

Empathy, courtesy, caring are values that seem to get lost in election season. Why is this important to those of us that have suffered from PTSD?

PTSD is a disorder that grows and multiplies through lack of caring. When there is a disaster, we know that we need to respond as soon as possible. When, as in Hurricane Katrina, that caring does not happen or is replaced with abuses, people’s suffering is magnified tremendously.

My mission is to increase the amount of empathy and caring in the world (by however small a factor) through educating people around PTSD and traumatic stress. When we understand that drama is trauma; when we respond to suffering with nurturance instead of blame; when we demand that our leaders do the same, this world becomes a sweeter, more livable place to be.

My commitment in 2016 is to blog twice/month on various topics that are near and dear to the hearts of those who suffer PTSD or who live close to those that do. Dear readers, please let me know what topics burn for you. What is it that you need to know this year in order to finally heal, or to get the ball rolling in tackling your traumas?

In addition, I will be offering a record number of classes in healing trauma, including a weekend workshop format in April to accommodate people who live out of the Portland metro area. I will continue to grow my Reiki classes so that this powerful healing modality may spread. Look for my first ever Reiki retreat in September!

To you, dear reader, I encourage you to keep your faith in healing. You CAN heal fully from PTSD and live a joyful, fulfilling life. I believe in you.

Abundant Peace and Blessings, Sue




Gun Control vs Mental Health: How Do We Stop the Killing?

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Are mass murderers mentally ill or should we pursue gun control? This is a hot topic of debate. As a person who has a career spanning 40 years in mental health I would like to answer this question by answering some common statements that I’ve seen in the news the last few days.

“We don’t need gun control, we need better mental health services”. Wrong. We need both. If we have even one dangerously murderous potential mass murderer in our community we need to restrict their access to weapons. Isn’t this obvious, Republican Party?

“Most killers are not mentally ill.” What?! First of all I’d like to see a shred of statistical evidence to back that up. This is always said in forums with no citations. Even if there were stats for this amazing statement, can we consider where the known killers are? They are in prisons, American prisons, that famously do not provide adequate mental health services to inmates. No services equal no diagnoses, and no diagnoses equal no statistics. In the 1980s I did some research about serial killers (different than mass murderers but still…) and I found that an alarming number had temporal lobe lesions and/or diagnoses of Multiple Personality Disorder (what would now be Dissociative Identity Disorder).   We do not know jack daw about mass murderers. Most kill themselves, the rest end up in prison undertreated and definitely unresearched. As a therapist, when I read the descriptions of these folks they seem easily diagnosable to me. They are definitely not pinnacles of mental health and well being.

“Most mentally ill people do not kill other people.” Yes, that is a true statement. But that is not a reversible statement. See above. It is not logical to use this statement to establish anything. Even if mentally ill people don’t kill, they still deserve treatment. Most of us who have PTSD, for example, know that if a gun were in our hands in the wrong moment we could have killed ourselves or somebody else.  I believe a lot of couple murder/suicides happen this way, as terrible accidents that could have been prevented by not having a gun in the house.

“These people are not mentally ill, they are evil.” Really, folks it is 2015 not 1515. Should we sprinkle holy water on them? All sarcasm aside, to make this statement you have to assume that people are either born evil or choose to become evil. I do not subscribe to the belief that any human is born evil. Evil is a construct. Nobody is all good or all evil.   We are born babies, open to both good and evil actions . If a human grows up and identifies as evil, in other words, service to self above all others no matter what the cost they can wreak great havoc in the world. But if they are sanely evil, they do not usually end up dead, at least not for a while, they usually end up running corporations or governments (jk) (not really). Most of these mass murderers are young men who have barely started to live, and most end up dead at the end of their rampage. Where is the sanity in that? Calling these guys evil is lazy and glib and blinds us to solutions.

I recommend we all step back, take a deep breath and acknowledge to ourselves that each mass murderer is an individual with their own reasons for doing what they did. If we hope to prevent more such actions we need to seek to understand their behaviors and address the disconnection and untreated suffering that led to such a horrible event. And we need gun control.

 




Health Care Providers: How to Welcome and Respond to Trauma Disclosure

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TMIMy husband, a cardiologist, and I recently spoke to a group of physicians about how heart disease is caused by traumatic stress and also causes it. Afterwards, one family practice doc asked me, “I never know what to say when patients tell me their traumas.”

I realized that many doctors and therapists, for that matter, were trained in an era before abuse was acknowledged, before trauma and PTSD were common household words (in some places they still are not).

So I’ve compiled a short list of do’s and don’t’s when answering a client that discloses a disturbing history of trauma or a traumatic event.

Do:

~ Routinely administer a screening questionnaire for abuse in your intake forms. You can use the ACE questionnaire or website or come up with your own boxes to check off (e.g. history of physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, neglect, veteran etc.) Clients with a very high ACEs score will have more health problems as they age.

~ Answer with a sympathetic and simple affirming response such as:

“I’m sorry that happened to you.”
“ That is a terrible thing to have to go through.”
“You must really be suffering a lot (if the event is currently affecting the client).”

If your client’s disclosure is met with a stony or panicked silence they will leave feeling very guilty, damaged, enraged or all three. Abuse has a lot of shame associated with it. Please do not reinforce this by failing to respond appropriately.

~ Maintain eye contact with a soft gaze. Our clients often do not feel seen or like others really want to see them and their suffering. Eyes are “the windows of the soul” and the client really needs to see that you are with them in taking this great risk of disclosure. We know that people are present to us and with us when they look into our eyes.

~ Get yourself grounded in that moment. Take a deep breath and take a moment to really absorb what your client just said to you.

Some of us providers have our own trauma histories and the older we are the more likely that is. If we dissociate or ‘check out’ our client will definitely notice and probably assign the worst possible meaning to our behavior such as: “they don’t really care about me”; “they are just collecting their paycheck”; “they think I’m crazy”. Our traumatized clients already have those feelings, and they respond to any perceived confirmation of those thoughts with panic and/or rage. This panic/rage can be expressed outwardly in your office as difficult behavior or as self-harm when they go home.

~ Ask for more details – especially about how this is affecting the patient in their body right now. It is a universal truth that our clients will only tell us what we are ready to hear. They do not want to ‘injure’ us with sordid details and will often leave out important aspects of their traumas. Occasionally a client will disclose too much in a kind of verbal diarrhea manner; in those cases it is OK to gently contain the discussion and take the necessary action for that client to get help.

~ Assess for current safety and contact the correct agencies as a mandated reporter. You can never overreport elder abuse or child abuse. As a medical social work supervisor I am always surprised about how conflicted medical staff are about filing reports and how little the laws are understood and followed. The state is responsible for determining whether abuse is happening or not. Most medical providers are not trained to make those screening decisions. Hence the law that says you are a mandated reporter to file if abuse is suspected. And, yes, that means everyone on your team who has a contact with the patient. It is extremely common for abuse victims to divide up what they tell to different people. There is no way for agencies to file as a single entity. If a doctor, a nurse and a social worker talk to this person and get any kind of disclosure they ALL are legally obligated to file a report. Our clients almost never call disclosure hotlines themselves. Sometimes they don’t understand that what is happening is reportable. Child and adult lives depend on us doing our jobs. The states do a very good job of maintaining confidentiality about who said what.

~ Refer! to the appropriate provider. Have a list of trusted mental health providers in your office. Steer your client towards the Psychology Today referral website which is excellent and widely used by practitioners.

Do Not:

~ Panic. Forewarned is forearmed. Educate yourself about the types of abuse in your community and the populations you serve. If you are expecting to hear these types of disclosures (and why shouldn’t you?) your clients will have an easier time telling and you will have an easier time hearing. I have heard about some truly horrendous and damaging responses from both therapists and doctors who were not ready to hear an abuse disclosure. One damaging response can put off a patient’s healing for years or forever.

~ Promise to keep a dangerous secret. A lot of patients will ask us to keep what they tell us confidential before they want to disclose anything. Don’t paint yourself into a corner. When my patients ask me to keep their secrets, I always reply that it depends on what kind of secret they have and explain my role as a mandated reporter. That gives them more control on what they want to disclose.

~ Ignore a disclosure. Yes, I know you have less time to do more work than at any other time in your career. Working correctly with a disclosure does not have to take a great deal of time. Our patients are pretty savvy. They know we have busy schedules and lives, and they do too. The vast majority of people who disclose will not abuse the privilege. If they do, you can still be kind and containing at the same time. Or you can ask them to schedule a longer appointment soon for a full trauma assessment (something I hope to be coming soon to a medical and psychiatric clinic near you). Being busy is no excuse for being uncaring. It’s not business; it’s personal.

~ Forget to take care of yourself. Know your community population. If you are in low income, high crime area, your entire population may be filled with trauma. Taking a trauma informed approach to your practice could be the best thing you ever do for you and can avoid needless complaints and confrontations. Get therapy if you need it (and who doesn’t?). Do your own sympathetic downregulating exercises: yoga, tai chi, meditation, exercise, breathwork. The less you care for yourself and your own suffering, the less you will want to help anyone else.

There, that wasn’t so hard was it?! If you need more in-depth assistance I offer trauma-informed consultations for health care professionals, and I travel!

Be well!




Reiki and PTSD

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I have been told by many people over many years including intuitive clients that I should be using my hands in my healing work. Up until this past year I politely and firmly declined. Therapists consider touch to be taboo and risky. Most agencies make it clear that touch is not to happen between client and therapist – ever.

What happened to change my mind was Reiki. I started to do some research and found that many therapists (as well as nurses and doctors) across the United States use Reiki in their practice, including in the hallowed hospitals of the Harvard Medical system. Over 800 hospitals use Reiki, and it is an evidence-based practice for stress and chronic pain, two symptoms clearly related to PTSD.

As it turns out, one does not need to even touch a client in order to provide Reiki healing energy in a session. So last April I received my Reiki I and II attunements and started offering Reiki to my clients.

The results were astonishing:

– I’ve had several clients report a full night’s sleep after several months or years of sleep disruption, a common side effect of PTSD

– Clients are able to release emotions and cry on the treatment table in a way they usually do not in session. The beauty of Reiki is that they may not know why they are crying; they don’t have to have a reason or specific memory, but they always feel better afterwards and move forward in resolving previous traumas.

– Many report a feeling of a loving, warm and compassionate energy that they have not felt before or in a very long time.

– People report improved digestion and bowel function. On the table I hear people’s gut making bowel sounds, a sign of parasympathetic function being restored to the autonomic nervous system.

– Although I talk about grounding in sessions as do many trauma therapists I have found that Reiki helps clients inhabit their body more fully, and they can really notice the lack of grounding or energy in their lower body. This improves greatly over 2-3 sessions and instigates a firmer resolve to practice grounding exercises such as walking barefoot outside.

– Clients become deeply relaxed and often report the deepest states of peace in their body than they have felt in many months or weeks. Too often therapy is a very stressful experience; Reiki provides a corrective emotional experience for treatment!

– Sometimes people experience physical symptoms resolving. One patient who’d had a persistent red rash for many days reported the rash clearing up within hours of the session. Another experienced her feet becoming stronger and less prone to injury.

Often there is validation between what I as the Reiki practitioner am feeling and what the client is feeling in their body. I had one client that when I held my hands in the position around her face and temple I felt intense heat between the jaw and temple, almost as if my hands were held up next to a flame. My client felt this heat as well, and became very emotional. Later she connected that very spot to where she received electroshock therapy years before which, for her, was both validating and healing.

Although I had the intention that I would probably not touch my therapy clients, I found that people were more offended if I would not touch them. So now before sessions I get their permission and usually only touch around the head, neck and lower legs.

This past December I went back to become a Reiki Master, and have signed up for my next level of training in August. I hope very soon to be offering Reiki attunements, trainings and certifications for therapists. Stay tuned!

If you have received Reiki, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments section!




The Trauma Therapist Podcast Interview

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Recently I had the pleasure of being interviewed for The Trauma Therapist podcast by Guy McPherson, Ph.D.  Enjoy!

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School Shootings: An Open Letter to Parents

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Dear Parents,

  I feel your pain and horror.  I, too, am a parent and have two Juniors this year whose finals week was interrupted by the school shooting at Reynolds high school.  They have been so busy just trying to get through finals week that they haven’t even had time or energy to integrate what is happening in their own community.

 Nothing makes us more anxious than a threat to our children’s safety. Nothing makes us feel more powerless, saddened and enraged then when our schools safe walls are breached by murderous rage and terror.

 Some of us are vulnerable to traumatic stress and anxiety already. Events like this can feel overwhelming to cope with, and even moreso to help our kids to cope.  So what can we do?

As a professional and as a parent, I recommend that you put on the metaphorical oxygen mask first.  Please take the time to do whatever you can to take care of yourself in the coming weeks.  If you feel your own anxiety spiraling out of control, please get some help from a qualified trauma therapist or perhaps some other provider that you feel comfortable with such as an acupuncturist, Reiki practitioner or yoga therapist.  If you feel that you need psychiatric medication, now would be a good time to get a consultation. Practicing mindfulness meditation could be helpful or whatever really helps you calm down and integrate.

 If you are like most Americans you are probably going to want to think your way out of this problem and come up with a snappy and satisfying solution (gun control, armed school guards,  mental health interventions etc).  I would encourage you NOT to jump to this just yet.  First we need to calm ourselves down and become really, REALLY present to ourselves and our families.

 Trauma, like grief, has its own pace and rhythm, and some of us are dealing with both.  Our kids may have known the victim(s) or even been the victim. We need to give healing its full due. If our kids see us stopping, processing and restoring ourselves from trauma, that gives them permission to do so as well.  There are many resources for healing out there, including my book, The Trauma Tool Kit: Healing PTSD From the Inside Out, which has a whole chapter on first-aid for trauma shock, the first stage of trauma.  Reading it will help you cope with the immediate aftermath of trauma. (You can find it in your local library and in all bookstores.)

 Your children are in shock and grief, too.  Like my kids, they may be in the middle of finishing up testing and not really be available for processing their feelings, or they may have a lot of time on their hands and be inwardly stewing over what has happened.  Lately the world seems to have exploded in violence.  Even if they are quiet, they have definitely noticed.

 Make yourself extra available to them.  Depending on age, gender and temperament our children will have varying needs and ways of moving through their own horror, anger and sadness.  Allow them to find their own mode of expression, which may be very different than yours.  But they do need to express in order to integrate.

 As a child and teen therapist, I know that there are very few children who can just sit down and talk about their feelings to their parents in an adult way.  It is best to find activities to do with your kids and let the conversation steer its way naturally to what is troubling them.  You can ask open ended questions and make positive statements such as, “I’m really interested in what you think/feel about this event.” “What are other people saying about what happened on Facebook?” etc.  Good activities can be throwing a ball, shooting hoops (I got really good at this doing inpatient work with boys), going for a walk together, driving somewhere, listening to music together (their choice),  playing a card or board or video game (not too intense so there is room for conversation).  You need to initiate these activities, especially for kids who tend to isolate when they are upset. 

 Allow your children, and especially teens, an uncensored discussion.  If you have rules about swearing or intensity (such as loudness or sarcastic tone), tell your child that you have suspended these rules, so they can say, freely, whatever is on their mind.  Our kids talk very differently to each other than they do in front of us.  If they need to blow off steam but feel inhibited in front of us, they will blow off steam elsewhere. 

 Sometimes stressful events like this show areas of relationships that are in need of work.  If you have been having trouble connecting with your child, this trauma will not automatically draw you closer. It may, in fact, do the opposite.  If so, consider seeking out professional help for yourself and/or the family.

 Put down your cell phone when you are home.  Stay home and make it clear that you are available when they need to talk, even if that need comes up around 10 or 11 pm as they are going to bed (as if often will). Monitor your own need to engage in avoidance activities and choose engagement.

  If you do not already have a self-care routine, now would be an excellent time to start one.  I am a big fan of progressive relaxation exercises and often prescribe them.  You could find some online or buy a CD and practice relaxing your whole body a couple of times a day, to reset your own nervous system.  Allow yourself more downtime than usual.

  Know these signs of acute stress and monitor them in your children.  If they persist past 2-4 weeks they may be cause for concern:

 

–       repetitive talk about the event

–       
repetitive drawing of the event

–       irritable

–       withdrawn


–       needy and clingy


–       more forgetful than usual


–       having trouble regulating emotions: laughing silly “highs” crash into sullen “lows

–       hair-pulling (trichotillomania)


–       disturbed eating

–       insomnia or frequent awakening in fear or tantrums

–       age-inappropriate behavior such as bed-wetting

–       rigid and perseverative play behavior (in younger children)

 

Lastly, know that no matter how upsetting this event is to your family and child, healing is possible. Human beings are incredibly resilient.  In the process of healing you and your family may wish to take some action in the world.  If this feels right to you, do it.  The wound of trauma often demands some response from us – when the time is right.

Blessings on your journey of healing, Sue




Flashbacks, PTSD and You

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Of all the PTSD symptoms, flashbacks are some of the worst. They interrupt our sleep and our waking hours without warning. They chew us up and spit us out leaving us spent, exhausted and retraumatized. Flashbacks can really hurt us as they activate our amygdala, the crisis response center in the brain, and throw our entire nervous system into high gear. In the worst cases, we can momentarily lose touch with reality and become totally engulfed in a full body replay of traumatic events. As we heal from PTSD, it becomes essential to get a grasp on flashbacks and slowly eliminate them.

What are flashbacks?

Flashbacks are an involuntary and intrusive experience of a memory. Flashbacks can involve any combination of the senses: visual, auditory, kinesthetic (or feeling state), taste and smell. I have found that many people with traumatic pasts enter flashbacks regularly without knowing they are having one. Movie type flashbacks are obvious; for example a soldier experiencing himself back on the battle field. But flashbacks can also be, for example, an overpowering feeling of helplessness and abandonment in the present that is not in proportion to a current event.

I have come to see flashbacks as part of the body/mind’s attempt to heal. Persistent flashbacks are like a telephone ringing, or someone knocking at your door. They are your unconscious mind demanding that traumatic events in your past be dealt with and healed. Like a persistent visitor, the knocking will only get louder and more in your face if you don’t answer the door.

How can I get rid of flashbacks?

There is only one way to really get rid of flashbacks for good, and that is to dive deep into your mind and heal your PTSD by dealing with the traumatic events that caused your injury. I realize that this is not the answer that many want to hear. It is a bit like saying the only way out of your burning house is to walk straight through the fire. In the meantime there are things you can do to lessen the severity of flashbacks and help those around you cope with them:

– Learn your triggers and inform those closest to you. The more you know what causes flashbacks, the more control you have over them. Keep a log or map them, either mentally or on paper.

– Develop a twice-daily practice of invoking the relaxation response and by that I mean something like yoga, tai chi, progressive relaxation or centering prayer. Not drugs, TV or other escapist types of activities. These techniques have been shown to improve recovery time from flashbacks and decrease their intensity and frequency.

– Strengthen your mind! Flashbacks are a time disorder. Your mind gets sucked back to the time and place of injury. Don’t let that happen! Learn to stay in the present moment through meditation and grounding exercises. That way, when a flashback hits you can stay present and not get swept away in the memory.

– Talk about it. Ever since Freud discovered the “talking cure” we have known there is something magical about telling others about our difficulties. The more we process verbally, the less grip these events and memories have over us. If your memories are too intense to share with loved ones find a good trauma therapist (see my blog on finding a good trauma therapist!).

– Do not blame your self. Shame and flashbacks go hand in hand, and are often a part of the trauma being re-experienced. Be gentle with yourself and realize that this is a process that will take time to resolve.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. PTSD can be healed. That means you will reach a point where flashbacks are no longer a part of your life, at least not in such a pernicious form. We may always have unpleasant memories but when trauma is resolved, they no longer have the power to hurt us.

Blessings on your journey of healing.




Don’t Let Anyone Tell You That PTSD is Permanent

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matphotoviatka

I hear from a lot of clients and friends that they have been told by their therapists that they have to learn to live with PTSD.  “Walk beside it like a friend” is how one therapist put it.

 PTSD is not your friend.  You do not want its companionship for life.

 In the yogic model of the human being, there are multiple layers. We have a physical body, an energetic body made of prana or qi/ki, two layers of mind: one cognitive and one intuitive and a bliss body.  We cannot hope to heal PTSD unless we understand this important concept:

 All layers of our being are wounded by the injuries and abuse that result in PTSD.  PTSD is the manifestation of those wounds.

 In the Western model of medicine we treat only two of the five layers.  We treat the body and we treat the cognitive mind.  In other words we address less than half of the system that has been injured.  In many cases we don’t even treat both.

 Usually people with mental disorders are remanded to some variety of psychiatric care with little attention paid to the rest of the body.  Or the reverse. If the person expresses symptoms mostly through the body, it can take years for a physician to ask simple questions about a history of trauma. 

 Most therapists and counselors pay little to no attention to anything but the latest “evidence-based” treatment, even though “evidence-based” most often means showing an effect for only 3-6 months.  Mental health treatment has become highly politicized and regulated, and essentially a casualty of the free market capitalist system here in the USA. 

 But I digress.

 As a therapist and a survivor, I am here to tell you that  you can heal fully from PTSD. In order to do this you will have to assemble your own treatment team and techniques to heal each of the layers of your being that were injured by trauma. That is essentially the thesis of my book, The Trauma Tool Kit: Healing PTSD From the Inside Out.

 Please don’t give up.  There is an end to suffering.  The “peace that passeth all understanding” is real.  It may take a while, years perhaps, but life these days is long. Keep going. You can heal fully from PTSD. 




Trauma and Psychic Ability

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This past week I presented workshops at the European Society for Trauma and Dissociation in Copenhagen, Denmark. Twice during the conference highly regarded researchers and treaters of trauma, psychologist Andrew Moskowitz and the parapsychologist Etzel Cardena wondered about the connection of PTSD and psychic experiences. In The Trauma Tool Kit (Quest, 2012) I have also noted the preponderance of unusual experiences that those with trauma report. The questions that came up was why. Why do people with high levels of trauma tend to report experiences in nonordinary reality?
Here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

1) Extraordinary Empathy. A person subjected to much trauma, especially growing up can develop certain survival skills. One of the skills of surviving an abusive home is to be able to anticipate caregiver’s moods and “manipulate” one’s caregivers into doing their job i.e. not being abusive but helping the child to grow and thrive. The child in this case has to develop preternatural attunement to the caregiver. Out of necessity the child may begin to develop telepathic capacity, exquisite sensitivity to mirror neurons in the brain and a sensitivity to electromagnetic energies emanating from the person.

2) Natural Psychic Giftedness is Aligned with Intergenerational Trauma. Many of the most sensitive and psychic cultures in the world are indigenous. Conquering cultures have gone out of their way to disable the extraordinary abilities of those cultures. Examples include the witch trials of the Inquisition, the British cutting off the fingers of Marma practitioners in India, etc. These conquered cultures store a great deal of intergenerational trauma that may predispose them to perpetuating the trauma through intergenerational abuse. We have seen examples of this repetition in Irish, Native American and African American families. In other words, the indigenous cultures already had these gifts and also manifest traumas recapitulating the original traumas of domination and assimilation so that the relationship is not causal but related to colonization.

3) Chakra Disruption. Shamanic healer Barbara Brennan has written extensively about the human energy body, which she can see clearly. She has noted that certain kinds of abuse, such as sexual abuse, can “tear” open the chakras of the body. This artificial opening then allows the energy body to be more permeable than someone who has not had chakric damage, leading to many kinds of phenomena in nonordinary reality.

4) Dissociation is a Condition of Psychism. All manner of psychic practitioners and shamanic healers need to learn to “unground” their consciousness in order to access information from other realms than the physical. If one has had early training in this from necessity caused by trauma, then one is already well on the way to developing these abilities by definition. This may be the reason that so many shamanic initiations include controlled traumas to open up the mind and supersensory perceptions (teen circumcision, fear trials such as being buried in the earth for several days, scarification, hallucinatory drugs and experiences, etc.)

5) Survival Techniques Facilitate Psychic Ability. Increasingly, trauma survivors are turning to techniques such as meditation, work with spiritual teachers and shamans to heal from extreme traumas. In India it is well known that intense yoga and meditation practices lead to the unfolding of psychic and occult abilities. When trauma survivors pursue these practices for healing, they naturally unlock thoses abilities, too.

It is good to see some of these avenues of thought being pursued in realms of academia and psychology. These pursuits are still fairly controversial in certain states and countries, but overall the public is becoming more friendly to these ideas. My next book Connected: How Reclaiming Your Indigenous Ancestry Can Heal You, Your Community and the World will be exploring these ideas in more depth. It is my strong belief that additional connection and perception may be the qualities needed by modern humanity to change the paradigm on planet Earth, heal the world’s traumas and brighten the future for us all.







Five Questions You Should Ask Your New Trauma Therapist

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Let’s face it, most of us don’t get ourselves into therapy until we are so broken and desperate we can barely get ourselves to the office. We are in a state of extreme need and vulnerability (usually), and the last thing on our minds is interviewing our own therapist. We want answers, and we want help, and we want it now!!!

I understand; I have been there. That is why I am giving you a list you can bring with you to your first two or three sessions so that you can really make an informed decision about how well you and your therapist are a fit. If the first session, you are in total crisis, don’t worry! You can ask these questions any time. But the sooner, the better. It is awful to get into a therapy and then realize you don’t like this therapist, don’t find them helpful, or, even worse, that they don’t like or ‘get’ you.

Remember that your therapist is YOUR hire. You are paying them to render a service, and you are in charge. If you like or don’t like what they are doing, talk to them about it! Just like with hairdressers or massage therapists, monogamy is not required. It’s therapy, not marriage.

OK, then. Here are some excellent questions to ask:

1) What professional organization(s) do you belong to? A mature and successful professional will always want to be part of a professional group larger than themselves. Professional groups provide leadership, advocacy and ongoing education to their members. Really invested professional trauma therapists should belong to at least one professional trauma organization such as the International Society for the Study of Stress and Dissociation (ISSTD); the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS); the American Professional Psychology Division 56 (Division of Trauma Psychology) or one of many others. Hopefully they also belong to their local professional chapter: for social workers NASW, for psychologists, APA, the AMA if they are a psychiatrist, and so on. If they rattle off a bunch of names and letters you do not understand that is probably a good sign. They all have websites. Feel free to check them out. Many of these organizations have their own lists of providers. If they are expert presenters for these organizations, even better!

2) Do you have any special certification or training in Trauma therapy?beautiful therapy Good answers:
Specialized supervision (regular meetings to review cases and learn from them) provided by an experienced trauma therapist or internships in trauma treatment centers. ISSTD and other organizations offer specialized courses and certifications. Also, the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress certify practitioners in a number of traumatic specialty areas including crisis response, child, etc. based on their accomplishments and years of work in the field.

Bad answers:
No. Or I understand trauma because I had a lot of it. Or I’m a good therapist and good therapists can treat anything (run away).

Trauma therapy is an advanced practice specialty area that always requires special training to be good at. You wouldn’t go to a general family doctor for a heart attack, so don’t think that any therapist can do this work. They can’t and may do you more harm than good.

3) Do you understand and treat dissociative disorders?
A surprising number of therapists have never been taught to work with dissociative disorders, don’t recognize them when they see them, and can waste years of patients’ time (not to mention money) by this lack of understanding. Dissociative disorders and traumas go hand in hand. There is even a dissociative subtype for PTSD in the latest diagnostic manual (DSM 5). If you know you have lots of trauma, or lack a significant portion of childhood memories (dissociative amnesia) you have a higher likelihood of a false and unhelpful diagnosis if your therapist does not specialize in trauma and dissociation. Common misdiagnoses are bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia.

4) Have you completed your own course of therapy?
This is an awkward but TOTALLY FAIR question, one, quite frankly, that I wish more people would ask. In the good old days, in the heyday of amazing long term therapy, it was considered on the verge of malpractice and utter ignorance not to complete one’s own therapy before embarking on treating other people. Now it is rather the norm. Very few therapists I supervise have had much of their own treatment.

There is a misconception out there that therapists are sicker than the general population and become therapists to cure themselves. After 40 years in the field, I do not subscribe to this idea. Almost everyone in society has been exposed to trauma and mental illness in their families. Very few of those people want to understand it and go on to help others – those special few are therapists.

But being a psychotherapist working with traumatized people is an incredibly challenging calling. It’s easy to make mistakes, mostly unconscious or ignorant ones. So it is important that the therapist has had enough of their own therapy to understand how their own mind defends itself and operates unconsciously so that they can work well with other minds. This is a long and arduous task requiring many hours of training and work over a period of years.

So don’t be put off by a therapist who had a lengthy therapy themselves. Chances are good that somebody in therapy for 10 years will be a much better therapist than someone who went to treatment for six months and called it ‘good’.

5) Do you believe that people can have repressed memories of trauma that they recall later in their life?

There has been a big debate in the media about this, but in the world of professional trauma therapy the debate has been over for a while. The answer is “yes, of course”. Jennifer Freyd, cognitive psychologist at the University of Oregon, and editor of the ISSTD journal, did a great deal of work in the area of what she calls “betrayal trauma”, the trauma inflicted by a caregiver. She has showed in numerous studies that the closer the relationship of the abuser to the abused, the more likely the victim will have traumatic amnesia for the event.

If memories start to surface in your therapy, you will want to make sure that you will be believed and helped. It is extremely poor therapy to answer ‘no’ to this question, because that indicates the presence of dogma and a closed mind. You may have some very challenging and unusual things to tell your therapist, and you need to trust that they can hear those things and continue to work with you in a safe and containing way.

If you don’t feel like you can ask these questions in person, there is always email! Or go to your therapist’s website and investigate them deeply. You will save yourself some emotional distress and money by being proactive in your search for a truly helpful trauma therapist. Good luck!

Susan answers all of these questions in the affirmative and would be happy to answer more here!




Why Dylan Farrow’s Disclosure Matters

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“It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator…All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.” 

                                                                                                ~ Judith Herman

 From 1989-1993 I worked in Massachusetts for the Child-At-Risk Hotline at Judge Baker Children’s Center, in the Longwood Medical Area.  We covered the entire state after hours for reports of suspected child abuse and neglect when the departments of investigation were closed for the day and on weekends.  I was a supervisor, which meant that every single suspected case of abuse or neglect was “run by” me.  With the screener’s help I determined whether it was a case that was false, probably true or so emergently true that we had to take action that very shift.

 Children’s lives and well-being hung in the balance so we were very highly trained and conscientious in our work.  Over that period I estimate that I heard somewhere around 15,000 stories of child abuse.  I developed a very good BS detector.

 Like many I had heard vague allegations about Dylan Farrow when she was a child, but it was hard to know what to think and why the case had not been prosecuted.

This week’s publication of her letter to the New York Times has changed all that for me.  

Since it was published last week there has been a firestorm of responses and conversations popping up all over social media, some helpful and others not so much.

As a child abuse prevention professional and a treater of many adult victims of childhood trauma I would like to add my perspective.  I believe Dylan.  Her story is coherent, believable and internally consistent.

Let’s look at the list of secondary gains that each side gets from lying.  For Woody and Dylan there are reasons to lie and reasons to tell the truth.  There are also many reasons not to.

Dylan Lies:

 Pros:                                                                          Cons:

She gets attention in the press.                           She and her family is vilified in the media.

She gets people to feel sorry for her                   Her credibility is forever tarnished

                                                                                   in the eyes of friends, employers, etc.

She’s going for a book or movie deal?               Her accused is a Hollywood insider.

 

                                                                                  She could be sued for defamation.

 Maybe I lack imagination but I’m already out of reasons for her to lie about this.  Usually when people tell big lies there is a big positive payoff.  I don’t see it here. Do you?  The Cons are overwhelmingly negative and threaten to ruin her life.  Just to be a somebody in the press? There are easier ways.  OK, let’s look at the other side.

 Woody Lies:

 Pros                                                                           Cons

He keeps making movies                                     He gets a clean conscience (if he’s not

                                                                                    a sociopath)

He keeps all his money                                         He may need to pay a lot of money in a

                                                                                    lawsuit

 

People keep loving him and his work                 People will be revulsed by him and his work

 

He keeps his relationships                                     He loses friends and business contacts

The Romans used to ask an important question, Qui Bono?  Who benefits here?  Dylan suffers more by lying than she gains.  Woody suffers more by telling the truth by far.  Lying is in his best interest as it is in the case of most perpetrators.  Even if we look at just dollars and profit motive, Dylan stands to lose more than she gains by lying where the opposite is true with Woody.  It is incredibly hard to win lawsuits against perpetrators, especially when there was no original conviction.

But what about the argument her mother made her do it by “implanting” memories. Oh please!  Maybe (maybe!!! although I’ve never seen it in decades of practice) a seven year old could be persuaded.  But an adult knows better.  Mind control is possible, but it requires years of skilled training to do and the only experts in the world are black ops top secret level psy military people who do not publish manuals.  Occam’s razor suggests that this argument is full of giant holes.  Like smoke and fire, reports of abuse almost always coincide with actual abuse!

As for Woody, well we already know him as a man with exceedingly poor boundaries and someone who acts without considering the consequences for those around him by marrying his long-term partner, Mia’s teenaged daughter. Everyone who “testified” for him at the awards show (wasn’t that strange) talked about all the roles he had written for women, not anything about his character.  I had the sense that the women supposedly speaking on his behalf were really speaking on their own interests.  But having said that perps are exceedingly good at getting people to believe them. And the longer the friendship, the harder to see the perp inside the man.

If you look at the Herman quote above you will see why.  I have written in The Trauma Tool Kit how the mind wants to avoid material it sees as threatening to its own sense of security and comfort.  Contemplating that your best loved films were created by a monster creates a level of cognitive dissonance that most people cannot handle.

But, you see, we must.  Because this is one story among millions.  Every day there are victims who tell the truth and are shut out of their families because the perpetrator is believed.  Because the people they tell will not or cannot tolerate a change in perspective and a re-ordering of their own lives and view of reality.

Our culture is sick.  I agree with the neo-feminists who talk of the ‘rape culture’ in which we live.  All over the world from time out of mind women and children have been raped, dominated and treated like property. Men have relied on each other to maintain power, to satisfy their lusts and desires and do what they want. Just because they can.  For humanity to evolve, this has to end.  That means TELLING THE TRUTH, no matter how unpleasant or personally uncomfortable that makes us.  After all, it could be your daughter or son, neighbor, friend or cousin who is the next victim.

Only then will the real healing begin for individuals and society as whole.

As for me, I’m breaking up with Woody and all his films.  I wish Dylan a sense of wholeness, peace and healing for her future. She has suffered enough.

 

 

 







Managing the Madness: Mature Adults Wanted

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Wow. What a week we have had.  Shutdowns, debt ceilings, the PSATs if you are a Junior in high school.  Tempers are flaring.  There is a lot of doomsday rhetoric.  A lot of DRAMA.

 In The Trauma Tool Kit, I talk about how drama is not drama, it’s trauma.    People are traumatized in this country. We are collectively traumatized by an unstable economy, by escalating natural disasters, by regular but unpredictable mass shootings, by increasingly mean spirited exchanges on the internet and in the media, by our own unresolved issues of sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional violence and neglect.

 Unfortunately, most people have not matured much past their early 20s in terms of their emotional self-management.  If we do not do our work, heal our own wounds, those wounds get projected out into the world and onto other people and groups. As long as we think someone else is causing our suffering, we can legitimately be involved in blame, shame and finger-pointing.  DRAMA.

 This self-work, the work of enlightening our own minds, healing ourselves and becoming mature human beings is HARD.  It is so much easier to be sarcastic, cynical and fearful, to hug our guns both metaphorical and literal.  Maturity means having empathy for others, even when their point of view is different than ours.  Maturity means restraint, tolerating difficult feelings without acting them out.  Maturity means mutual respect even if you loathe what the other person is saying to you.

 We need to grow a lot more maturity in this country or the rhetoric will continue to devolve. At some point that hateful rhetoric could spill into violence. Do we really want the bloodshed, mayhem and trauma that comes with acting out, with our continuing lack of maturity as human beings?

 How do we do this? How do we grow up? The answer is simple, but not easy.

 First we have to become disillusioned with fighting and realize that peace and justice come from within first, not from our side winning.

 Second, we have to go inside and acknowledge that hateful feelings lurk within our own minds. We need to tame the raging beast of our traumas through meditation, restraint, insight and all of the healing methods outlined in my book The Trauma Tool Kit.

 Third, we need to implement what we have learned and act in the world from that peaceful and centered place.  Even after all my years of therapy, meditation, yoga, and healing, I still have to do my daily work of remembering what I know. 

 I have to choose peace, each and every single day.

 Won’t you join me?  Please. We could use some more mature adults around here.




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