‘BEING HEALTHY PARENTS’ Resolving Identity Trauma
You’re in the Hive Café, HOVE, run by lovely Lara, for the community in the local Stoneham Park.
Your eyes glance on a workshop leaflet on the counter: ‘Being Healthy Parents’ – all about a morning workshop on Identity Trauma -personal and trans-generational in the family system. And… well it sounds a bit loaded, doesn’t it ?
You’ve just done the school run and you say:
“Oh no, not more pressure on me to be a perfect parent. I get my kids up in the morning, make sure they have breakfast, get them to school on time, go to work, pick them up, wash their laundry, remind them to hang their coats up, cook their tea, open e-mails from the school, sit down and help them with their homework, and, if I’m lucky grab an hour at the end of the day (by now probably late in the evening) for myself. It feels every hour is accounted for. I’m exhausted enough and do my best. I don’t want to take on another class or workshop about ….what is it…did I read that right….resolving my own early possible trans-generational trauma …give me a break!”
And you are right. Sometimes it’s hard to be just good-enough, let alone perfect. The social pressure to be a perfect parent is taking its toll. And what pressure for your kids if you were perfect – just imagine!
Children have their own unhealthy social pressures. In some secondary schools now, children have to attend school when they are ill to get points. All the research on stress and ill-health has not yet reached our educational school managers, let alone the psychological damage of creating a generation of children whose identities are as objects of school league tables and funding. Collective identity trauma, for sure. Certainly each generation has a way of not giving children space to be themselves in the ever-present economic need to achieve. Perhaps it is preparing us as we sit on the cusp of a robotic society.
So no, the aim of this Identity Constellations workshop is not about mounting more pressure on you but giving you time to be with yourself, be curious about who you are, have space to connect with younger embodied, abandoned parts of yourself (trauma parts) which get triggered and cause unconscious survival parts to react, argue, or perhaps freeze in passive, suppressed needs. To give voice to what was unvoiced.
These parts play out in our life everyday with our kids. In finding connectedness with our own inner psyche (life force you could say) through an Intention constellation, we learn more about ourselves. This can transform our close relationships. Shifts in our body-psyche begin to bring healthier connectedness and greater intimacy to our children and our partners.
This is essential at a time when technology is creating greater communication but not greater intimacy in connection with each other. And yet we yearn for that in an increasingly lonely society.
That is the beauty of Identity Constellations. It is not about how to do be a perfect parent. It is about you, who you are, what your needs are and how you give voice to them. It is about understanding and being with the parts of yourself emotionally suppressed in your own upbringing, about the roles you played and how you had to be to survive. This is Identity Trauma: it is about not being seen for yourself – having to survive to fulfil parent and family needs.
When we explore this through a constellation, we make an Intention for ourselves – something we want to look at. We then work with the words of the intention. As we resonate with these words through somatic, embodied experience, we meet different parts of ourselves – the intra-psychic splits of our inner world – and claim back these parts – integrate them.
This integrative process helps us become healthier, clearer and more balanced in coming together and drawing away in relationship – the symbiosis and autonomy – that children also need as they grow. It is about developing our own emotional connection to ourselves and others.
The childhood problems of today – ADHD, OCD, bed-wetting, insomnia, over / under-eating, anxiety, self-harming – of course are partly about external social pressures, which none of us can do much about without a mass movement.
However, they are also about family systemic trauma – a lot of it trans-generational – and we can all, as parents, take responsibility for finding out who we are in order to become healthier parents and have healthier children, whatever age they may be.
We think we know who we are and the child takes on the problem for us, for the family. But actually do we truly know who we are? Or is it just a construct in our heads? Are we a story we tell ourselves? Do we heal our trauma now or do we pass it on to the next generation?
Only you will know if this is the right time to explore this for you, your partner and your family. If you’re a mother or father, be kind to yourself – it may be and it may not be.
Kate Collier MBACP / AAMET
Identity-oriented Psychotrauma Therapy
If someone has high anxiety and they tell you they had to have medical intervention as a baby, although we have to keep open to what the anxiety they experience might be, this seems a likely explanation – and is why the IoPT process, grounded in a sound and developed theory of trauma, works so well.
A baby is rushed into hospital and fights, cries and is inconsolable when taken from his mother for emergency treatment. He is hypermobilised with stress. He feels helpless and overwhelmed and the whole experience is for him life-threatening. This causes a trauma and the baby goes into a hypomoblised state – limp and frozen. At this point there is literally a split in his psyche to keep himself alive – to survive. The trauma stays in the body in that frozen state. It is kept in the unconscious by the baby’s surviving strategies – his ways of gaining control.
The baby turns into a teenager who, when confronted with overwhelm and helplessness, is retriggered by the original trauma. This causes high anxiety as the unconsious feeling of being out of control that the baby experienced is repeated with an accumulative effect.
This necessary medical intervention happened before the baby’s neo-cortex had developed which means, if the anxiety has come from pre-cognitive trauma held in the body memory, you cannot treat the underlying cause with rational, cognitive methods.
What is so good with the IoPT process is that, through the somatic resonance of others or the therapist in a 1:1 session, we see the traumatised infant we were, held up to now in our unconscious. We see how we survived it by trying to keep in control, sometimes rigidly so. As we see and resonate with these infant parts, we shift in the direction of re-integration of the splits between the healthy, traumatised and surviving parts of our psyche. The reintegration of the pre-trauma state, not by thinking but by feeling. This strengthens a healthy psyche, prevents further retriggering and the debilitating anxiety that accompanies it. And, of course, by understanding this we can use our rational adult mind to explain why we had the anxiety in the first place which helps!
This is what we mean by the trauma being resolved. It is actually the psycho-synthesis.
It’s possible that preverbal trauma can only truly be resolved by a nonverbal process ~
Prof Franz Ruppert has introduced a new silent phase to his IoPT methodogy.
I realise, having now facilitated in this new silent phase of the Intention method, how important a development this is. There are many reasons the fundamental one for me being that we are in a process of resolving relational trauma which occurs in our prebirth / infant development. As this is a preverbal, precognitive phase in our infant life, we can only truly feel our trauma of identity and love in a primal way without language. It’s possible that preverbal trauma can only truly be resolved by a nonverbal process.
Piaget, the original child developmental psychologist who, despite many alternative theories since, provides the original benchmark with his developmental stages, refers 0-2 years as the sensori-motor stage. In Identity-oriented Psychotrauma therapy we experience this as from Conception – 2 years . We feel and sense sensori-motor resonances which are early womb experiences.
By the time we reach the stage of language (Piaget’s pre-operational stage) our survival mechanisms are already well-established in our psychneuroimmunoendocrinal pathways and we already have adaptive behaviours towards our primary carer to keep us alive and help us be seen. Once we develop cognitively these adaptions develop in words and thinking – our place of greatest survival. So what better way than to have a silent method which takes that from us, and where we can experience for 15 -20 minutes others resonating with those parts that show our first trauma experiences: the loss of being truly seen and nurtured and therefore loss of self.
A silent time where we see those healthy, traumatised and surviving parts through the subtlest of movements and expressions in the resonance of others and, in seeing, connecting through touch and holding, make gentle steps to ‘know’ who we truly are and to a healthy,secure and autonomous identity.