We are in unprecedented times and for many it feels like we are looking at ourselves through a magnifying glass. I certainly feel it like this. You are probably feeling fairIy strong emotions – happiness, fear and anxiety, grief, frustration, anger, hate, love. You will most certainly notice familiar ways of surviving it all, some healthy, some less so. You may be learning new creative skills, keeping physically healthy or you may literally lockdown and dissociate from it all feeling low and lifeless. Maybe just feel in a bubble. Or carry on in an “I’m fine” and make the best of it way. And you may find yourself becoming over-anxious, rigid and obsessive. The hygiene regime against COVID-19 certainly can create a high level of anxiety.
Clearing out the clutter seems to be a common theme of our conversations right now whether we do it or not. And of course that means the clutter of embodied relational trauma that we carry and which affects our health, energy, and levels of stress which can so easily suppress our immune system – so vital for us right now.
Our unresolved early attachment biography will get triggered in the patterns we see in ourselves and in the way we relate to those we share lockdown with.
With years of experience facilitating constellations, I cannot help but think there is a parallel between our lockdown experience and how it was for us in the womb waiting to be born. In both cases there is no escape from the place you are in, how safe and held that place feels and whether you feel the love and care of another. All kinds of emotions may surface for you.
The survival strategies we have refined to great complexity over the years resulting from our early pre-verbal trauma may also start to become apparent and more obviously an obstacle to whether we feel we are living or just surviving what could be an opportunity for so much more.
There is no better time than now to explore who we are and want to be in a world that is collectively beginning to do just that. The more self-aware we become, the more we resolve our personal trauma, the more likely the world will do the same thing and in doing so hopefully bring health, equality, a fairer economic system and environmental sustainability.
The Identity Constellations method of self-enquiry is remarkably effective online and that is the safe and only way to work right now.
I have worked 1:1 online for six years doing IoPT but now experienced an online workshop as participant and facilitator, and it backs up what I have always felt about online work : it adds something different.
A Facilitator’s Thoughts
In the last year or so I’ve been particularly interested in my own constellation process over the years in relation to how I am as a facilitator now. Nothing unusual in that, of course, for any facilitator. But as I continue with group workshops, this self-reflection on the process itself, not what I discovered from my self-enquiry, has made me increasingly sensitive to the exposing nature of group work and the potential it holds for shaming whatever experience of the work you have, and even potential paranoia when you first meet the work and see other participants appearing to get at you rather than as part of your psyche.
In your own IoPT self-exploration it can feel exposing not so much in the resonance of others in the words or images of your intention (resonance I believe you can trust) but more to how that person expresses that resonance. In the silent stage this may be less so but once you are receiving information from those resonating with the words of your intention, you may experience more than you can personally handle at the time. A perpetration from the representative of your word. Of course, you can say this is what is happening in your psyche, what you do to yourself. But is this completely true and are you ready to see it ? Is one resonator more prone to strong expression and another more witheld in how they express the resonance?
Given that you are in a vulnerable place during self-enquiry, often a much younger place, you are certainly less likely to exercise self-care and autonomy when another resonates strongly – something we emphasise so much in our work. Why? Because in the end it is someone else’s expression of your psyche, not your own. In 1:1 work this is not the case. You explore yourself and your own body sensations, feelings and thoughts and give yourself the time you need. There is more self-care and autonomy and less potential for shaming.
During others resonating for a word of my intention, I have received extremely difficult information, harsh and aggressive words, rigid application of another person’s understanding of the theory, rather too easy labelling of this part of myself and often an excessive amount of drama in the dynamics between parts. This at times has been disturbing, destabililsing, shaming and brought me to experience emotionally and physiologically the original trauma in an unhelpful way.
This personal experience has taught me that a client needs to feel and connect with the emotions of the young baby or child, often frightening, in a safe, well-held therapeutic group. This is exposing enough. Any easy labelling by facilitator or representative (who may have come out of resonance briefly), any harsh theorising of who we are actually repeats identity trauma- we are reduced to a theoretical object – an object of another- and we feel perpetrated as such. I too have resonated in the same way myself in the heat of holding strong emotions in a resonance especially with the method of waiting to be asked we have now, which I still consider a better method than the free-for-all of many constellation methods.
Now you might say harsh, agressive, and an abusive manner in resonance expression is important in order to see just what you do to yourself on a daily basis, for us to truly see our survival, traumatised and healthy parts. That may be so if you are ready to see that. But for me personally I can remember many constellations in large groups where I felt so confused, frightened, overwhelmed, powerless intimidated by the way others resonated that I was unable, in the middle of it all, to see, be with and feel the parts that needed to be seen. I was back in the trauma experience of the young child unable to find the adult in me to say stop, to slow the experience down. That does not mean there weren’t major integrative shifts in me as I gave time to the processing alone in the days that followed. But it does mean at times I felt extremely unsafe and often untrusting in group work where resonance felt extremely aggressive verbally or where people were free with their own interpretations, categorical or factual about what happened to me. Fortunately I have not taken facts from resonators as the only possible truth.
However, facts and statements from facilitators, given you are often in the disempowered place of a child, can be more damaging. When you are back in that place of trauma in a constellation everything you are told can feel like the truth. Sexual assault or any other major perpetration can belong to your biography but perhaps be something you hold from a generation before. It is, I believe, not to be taken too literally, especially if it doesn’t seem your truth but more belonging to another.
How much we take or don’t of what we see as our truth changes as we know ourselves more. Not so easy for someone new to the work or who takes all information given as factual and doesn’t hold possible interpretations. As facilitators I think we are safer in the language of possibility or questions. After all we don’t know for sure and it’s complacent to think otherwise.
It took many years to hold the autonomous adult I am in my process as I met the parts of my psyche. My experience of being the youngest of seven children and having to choose seven words for my Intention has often felt as if I am stepping back into the family trauma field of some of my childhood and made me less able to keep with myself. Recently I heard a new participant at my workshop say during coffee break: “No wonder people say this work is so exposing” and I knew exactly what she meant. Group work is exposing and can put many new people off. The ground rules that stress self-care and autonomy may not always feel possible in the process and it’s important facilitators are aware of this when they see it. The ground rule of non-abuse of ourselves or each other may not be present when it comes to abuse from a resonance. However sensitive a facilitator is, the group has its own dynamic in each person’s constellation.
The deepest, clearest and most integrative work I have done for myself has been in 1:1 sessions with trusted facilitators or IoPT colleagues face to face or online, or insupervision groups that are small by nature.
I am committed to online work because it focuses the attention on the markers and the marker placed for the client working. It is so much about the client and not about the dynamic or collective ego of the group.
My sense now is that a facilitator is there to hold the group, support an understanding of the process when someone is new, silently support the client as they receive information from the parts. maybe repeat what they may not have heard if asked, make phenomenological observation perhaps. I think a facilitator needs to be wary of interpreting or saying categorically this was how it was.
We’ve all done these things over the years, we’ve all got caught up in the self-enquiry of a client, or how the theory fits, and we’ve all reflected on the things we could have facilitated differently. In continuing self-reflection we are learning to be healthy facilitators.
However, reflecting deeply on our own process during group and 1:1 constellations, not what we found out in our self-enquiry but how the process was for us, we can get a lot of insight into how to facilitate with sensitivity, as well as hold professional love and respect for a client’s courage and healthy intention to find out about themselves through the IoPT process.
In the end the process must not prove the theory but the process develop the theory. The theory is in the end only a developing objective, empirical theory. We are not objects of it, nor are our clients. After all, we are looking at how we have been made objects in our biography.
It is important this theory offers understanding to what we experience in the work and that we keep open about it as we should with all scientific observation. It is always in a state of change, as we are. The process needs to be about us, who we are and what we can take at the time we choose to enquire about ourselves. And the facilitator hopefully holds the humility of not knowing as well as holding the theory.
So you think we're here to be nice
here to be nice and happy
turn away from what's sad and crappy
hold on to our dummy and nappy
keep tight to a place of security
in this traumatising society
deluded by commercial ads
and the latest fads that preoccupy.
Nice and happy, you and me
mesmerised by fantasy?
Shall we cling to the myth that love will free
without need to explore
what I do to you and you to to me
which we both may experience differently?
It's not that the sun doesn't shine for us
but the clouds come all too soon
and we have to be open to explore
talk to each other, ask ourselves more
hold ourselves near, listen and hear
what it is that holds us to this rhyme and tune
which becomes discordant far too soon.
What we need from each other
to help us re-cover,
not grumble and moan
nor fear to discover, fear to take stock
of what's hidden in you under that stone -
which is more of a rock.
Aren't you afraid that with the ticking of the clock
the fuse may go off
and shatter that rock in a hundred pieces
fragments for you to pick up?
Great railroad blast heard from afar
wakes up the past
as the horn whistles and the line rumbles
at carriages rattling fast.
And parts of yourself scattered
in the sound of the distant explosion
Pieces forgotten you thought had been lost
years before in an earlier time
that polished enough can be seen again
free of dullness free of stain.
Not without pain of the loss of them
long ago in the infant pram
the loss of yourself found here on the ground
splits in that time bomb and blast.
Fragments of diamonds lie in the dust
some rust of course
and if you pick them up
and make them one
this precious gem you now can reclaim
is yours for the taking back again.
And if I walk beside you and do the same
Then again we can truly make love by the moon
Give you new name and me new name
And know that the sun will come out again.
© KC as Allie Rocket 28/5/2019
The IoPT process is a somatic self-enquiry process. You can ask a question about anything – about yourself, your life, relationship, family, health, sexuality, work, money or life choices.
You form an Intention for the self-enquiry which feels right for you. This can be in the form of a sentence or drawing which you write on the whiteboard. If its a drawing the facilitator will ask you what the components of the drawing are – a line, a heart, a house, a face. You never have more than 7 words or parts of an image as it gets too confusing.
Example Intentions : “I want to value myself more.” “Why can’t I get my business started?” “I want to explore why I get migraines.” “Why do I avoid intimacy?” “I want to find my voice.” “Why is life such a struggle?”
It’s better if you don’t give any background information to explain your Intention. This keeps you more in yourself and out of your head and the story.
Your Intention commits and guides you in the constellation, makes your self-enquiry clear and provides the frame for the work.
In group workshops you then ask each person to resonate with a word you give them.
You stand with the facilitator and say when you are ready for the resonances in your self-enquiry to start.
It’s good to watch the resonances in silence for a short while.
You then say when you are ready to go with the facilitator and get information from each resonance.
You will experience the participants, who act as your resource, resonating with the word through felt sense and mindful focus. They may move or freeze, feel physical sensations, move in relation to you, describe how they feel and think. They may feel positive or negative in their connection with another word. In this way you begin to see the unconsious parts of yourself and how they work against or resource each other.
As you see the intention unfold through the resonance of others, you see where the parts of your inner psyche are healthy, hold early trauma or survival mechanisms – ways of coping with early attachment wounds.
Seeing and feeling the representatives of the words you’ve chosen as you connect with them brings greater understanding, a release of embodied trauma energy and gentle movement towards integrating the splits within you. These are usually very young parts that need to be seen and have life. You may need a quiet evening after the process to integrate what you have found out about yourself.
If you don’t like the idea of a self-enquiry in a workshop with other people, you may feel you prefer to do a constellation privately, in which case I facilitate using floor markers to help with the resonance. You choose the markers, feminine or masculine and the direction, Then you take time standing on each one, or you may ask me to resonate on one of the markers. I may agree to this depending on the constellation.
You can also do a tabletop constellation 1:1 online or in a face-to-face session. You use small felts or pebbles or playmobil and resonate with them. Believe me it is possible across the Atlantic!
Enjoy this special and profound way of getting to know yourself and taking gentle steps to feeling more secure and happy to be who you are.
I have just come back from India where I saw the most beautiful tigress on safari. She was a wonder to behold.
Before I went to India I made a mandala where two very beautiful tigers appeared. So, knowing how much the mandalas we make at my cabin mandala evenings start actually happening, I had a strong feeling that mandala might manifest and I would see a tiger at Ranthambore National Park when I visited Rajahstan. There are 17,000 sq kms in this jungle and approximately 70 tigers they think.
We set off at dawn in our open jeep in freezing temperatures, with layers, leggings, fleeces and, scarves and hats to keep the yellow-red dust off us. We were given heavy blankets which we wrapped round us to keep the biting chill out. We went over miles of dirt track roads, saw crocodiles, the largest stags I’d ever seen, monkeys, wild boar but, alas, no tiger.
It was mid-morning by now and I began to feel our chances of seeing the tiger were fading. Then we were taken to a hill with a large wall which the women in our party could pee behind. There were four or five other jeeps up there.
They all left and for some reason our driver stayed and took his time. I can remember the beauty of the silence as we waited looking over the valley. Then suddenly there was a flash and there she was down below us. I held my pounding heart – that would have been enough for me. Just that flash made me so happy. But our driver got down to her fast. And there she was four metres from me with three bars between her and me! Our guide told us not to be afraid but I had no fear, just felt mesmerised by her beauty. She walked through the trees and out on to the track in front of us. She lay down and stared right at us. And I’ll be forever rateful that she showed herself to us that day.
Since I’ve returned home, in the last two weeks, I have been feeling the energy of this beautiful tigress. Before I went, I was encouraging a close friend who also did a mandala with me to get his tiger out – the stored anger of early unconscious stuff showing itself which can contribute to ill health. I had shown him the cover of Peter Levine’s book: ‘Waking your Tiger : Healing Trauma’.
The founder of psychosynthesis psychotherapy, Roberto Assagioli MD, talked about transforming our anger to will and creativity. Piero Ferrucci, a well-k nown psychosynthesis somatic therapist, says in his book ‘What we may be’ (Ferrucci, P. Tarcher/Penguin 2004) that Einstein used his obstinacy to solve mathematical equations and indeed many poets have felt anger as the strong emotion that has fuelled their poems. Ferrucci’s chapter on ‘Tigers of Wrath’ describes the destuctive nature of agression on this planet and the amount of pain it causes if not transformed into something creative. He adds: “Moreover, millions of persons involuntarily direct their aggressive energy against themselves, causing such disturbances as heart disease, hypertension, obesity, stomach diseases, and intestinal, sexual, respiratory, skin and rheumatic troubles”. Written sometime ago now this book is still important as a meditation guide describing techniques for transforming the energy of the tiger’s wrath to will and creativity. Of course we now know so much more about the working of the body-psyche and its effects on dis-ease.
My simple knowledge of Chinese medicine also tells me that the liver holds the energy of Anger and Will. And what about the saying: “What am I, chopped liver?” an old Jewish expression of frustration, anger or indignation at being overlooked, regarded as not important. How much has early trauma triggered the need to say that? The unconscious very young child still held unseen in us that was left behind or too small to be seen.
These are all subtle relational traumas which go back to our first relationship with our mother and can bring a lot of strong emotions if not seen and resolved. Possibly the hardest of all strong emotions is shame and anger. When we are not conscious of where they come from, if they get too strong of course we can be in danger of acting them out.
For some years I was facilitating Family Constellations. It had been part of my psychotherapeutic training and I found it valuable, transgenerational work. Being the youngest of seven I had immediately related to it as a way of understanding myself more within that very large family.
However, six years ago I started being drawn by the Identity constellation process developed by Prof Franz Ruppert – IoPT- and it is in this process for me personally that I have resolved so much of who I’ve been and now am. Family constellations I realised can too easily distract us from ourselves and keep us within the loop of our story. In itself it can be a survival mechanism.
In my early 50s I went through a succession of major life challenges which culminated in twice receiving treatment for non-Hodgkins Lymphoma – the second time an aggressive form at Stage 3. My main understanding and healing of that on a deeper level, came many years after personal work in therapeutic training when I came across Identity Constellations. I write the story of my illness and personal IoPT process in ‘My Body, My Trauma, My I’ (Ruppert, F.& Banzhaf, H. 2018), Franz Ruppert’s latest book which he has co-written with a medical doctor exploring embodied trauma and ill health. Identity Constellations helped me understand and heal a successive number of early developmental identity traumas and adult challenges, including that of ‘cancer’ and its medical treatment, through the embodied resonance of that method.
There comes a point in this process where you sit back and realise just how much you’ve changed. I think for me it’s an ongoing process but for others it may just be a short period of work or even one session. Everyone takes it as far as they want. Our autonomy in the process is crucial.
How has it changed me? At the risk of bullet-pointing myself this is how!
• I feel more grounded, and embodied. • I find myself smiling at my foibles and very self-accepting. I
know what I can and can’t do.
• I feel a lot of self-love and compassion for myself, less self-
judgement which, of course, means I feel the same for others.
• I have stronger boundaries, know who I am and don’t take on what
isn’t mine. Or am aware of it when I do!
• My drive has changed from aggression, suppressed anger and self-
bullying to a clearer motivation and will to bring what I want to
my life now. I have clarity of vision.
• I have more energy and feel healthier in my body-psyche.
• My relationships with others is more honest, open and intimate.
Of course, like anyone, tough times come and they go. Last year I had some of the strongest emotions of my life which, given everything I’ve been through, knocked me back. This may not be an advertisement for some of you! But what would be better for me – walking through life half-frozen, controlling, deluded, obsessed, depressed, self-destructive, addicitive, self-critical, distracted, ungrounded? A long list and I’ve been in some of these places for much of my life and this is what has changed for me through IoPT self-enquiry.
Anyway back to the emotional tsunami of last year. Of course it was about love, why would so many songs and poems be written if this isn’t the strongest of emotions and least expected – when your earliest maternal attachment taps again at the door. With all the resources I had to see me through it and the close friends around me that held me through it, I was able to break the strong projections of early love and see this other person for who he is. Much richer, more real emotions develop the more we take responsibility for these strong emotions and projections we put on others.
I learnt a lot about who I am now in that year. And I ‘m glad it happened, that I am a woman later in life open to love, actually feel love more than ever – not just for a man. And I am glad I feel so deeply my emotions, my humanity, my life energy.
And more to the point, I never thought I’d have the guts to stand up and sing in public, read out my rap-style poems in pubs ! Nor thought I’d be in such good health and have such very special friends in my life who love me for who I am as much as I love them for who they are. The Taj Mahal, one of the world symbols of love.
Somehow the tigress I saw in India is out and living! And I’m integrating the split between who I am and what I do in my work with others. I am no longer a conventional counsellor / therapist who has to limit their self-disclosure but a facilitator and as such can just be myself. And I believe having the courage as a facilitator to talk about the challenges you have is important for others. Because we all have them all the time.
Some say you go to India for spiritual awareness. One acquaintance asked me: Did you find yourself there? None of my close friends would ask me that! They know I found myself spiritually a long time ago. But on the level of integrating this on-going process of self-enquiry and self-awareness, somehow my answer would have to be, Yes I did.
I never realised I was going to India to meet my tiger. I knew there were other reasons for going. But that tiger on my mandala has in some shamanic way brought out who I truly am, my courage to show the world and, well frankly just be, be with whoever I become as the days and years shift me and I change. And it’s never too late to find out more about yourself. In fact the splits – the cracks where Cohen’s light gets in – tend to show themselves as you get older and you do not have the job, family and all the survival ways of being in your life anymore.
Does this resonate with anyone of you? The tiger has the courage of the warrior of the jungle. To look at ourselves deeply we need that courage, we need to see how the younger parts of ourselves still hold us in a destructive or suppressive pathology and cry to be seen by us. We need to give voice to a roar which releases the emotions of our trauma and allows us the pain of loss, and we need to bring love to who we are.
I often experience participants in a workshop release entrapped trauma emotions they may have held as far back as their pre-verbal infancy. It may be held in their aches and pains or more serious dis-ease they bring to explore.
It’s unresolved trauma that gets city kids on to the streets with their knives. Acting out on their anger imprisons them mentally and literally and that is one of the saddest things I see at so young an age.
So what does that beautiful tigress I saw in the wild symbolise for me?
• She represents the release of implicit, embodied trauma memory –
often physically frozen through unexpressed fear and grief or hot
from trapped anger which we feel in the self-enquiry of IoPT.
• She represents the integrating that comes from giving expression
to those parts of ourselves we start seeing in a constellation
• She represents the roar that expresses trapped emotional energy –
the anger we need to safely transform to will and motivation,
• She represents the courage of the jungle warrior needed to do
• She represents the beauty and self-awareness that comes with it
• and she represents the gentle and gradual knowing deep down in
our soul of who we are and how we want to just be.
• And of course she was a She but she could have been a He.
We need to be honest, real and healthy at a difficult time in our collective evolution and that takes personal work and a hell of a lot of personal joy.
The identity constellations process, poetry, writing, art and music are mine. What are yours?
The aliveness we find when we do that is what the world needs right now.
How do we start a healthier relationship with ourselves and the world?
Why do we need so much to become more embodied?
Why is Identity Constellations such an effective tool for embodiment?
Is there a point where there is no point any longer?!
NEXT BLOG: What happens in an IoPT Identity Workshop?
Do you still feel stuck in destructive relationships, feel life is out of control, find yourself easily distracted and unable to focus? Do you suffer from insomnia or eating issues? Do you still feel high anxiety, get too easily stressed, suffer physical symptoms you don’t understand? Do others weigh you down with their problems, do you find yourself compelled to help others at the expense of yourself, find it hard to say no? Are you hard on yourself, need to strive to achieve, don’t play enough, feel tight and constricted? Or perhaps you struggle to be YOU in your own skin.
Maybe you look in the mirror and sometimes see your mother’s reflection or your father looking back. Or do you feel your life is futile and what’s the point in it all?
AND ALL THIS AFTER YEARS OF THERAPY!
Many people come to me saying they’ve done so many different kinds of therapy and yet they know that underlying everything there is still something that hasn’t changed.
My response is: “Yes, I know you have….that’s why you’re here. If you hadn’t done all that therapy you wouldn’t be ready to look deeply at your pre-birth / infant trauma now. You wouldn’t have the resources to explore this. All that you have done has brought you to this point. No sooner, no later.”
It really is important to see how, in an unconscious way, we prepare for what can be very hard to see, feel and resolve. It is good to be self-protective but we sometimes fear more than we need. Yes, exploring our early traumatised self is painful, self-exposing and can carry a lot of shame. However, what can be more painful is how we have lost our true self by surviving the trauma of not being seen for who we are, our need to survive by giving up on our ‘I’ to connect with our mother, to fulfill her needs, take on her trauma, stay in her skin.
There is nothing like the pain of seeing what we have lost of ourselves in giving up on our I-dentity in order to have our emotional needs met as best they can be. And it is also more painful to see how our survival self has played out all through our life and how it has compromised our identity. A client will say: “Oh and that’s what I do to my partner” or “that’s how my partner treats me…I’m just playing out the same relationship again and again.”
And we bring to the work a healthy part of ourselves that has resourced us to allow the vulnerability and strength to do this work. And we can resolve these splits in our psyche that result from the traumas of love and identity in our earliest attachment relationship. We can’t change what happened to us but we can reclaim who we are; we can step out of being our imprint and be truly ourselves in our own skin.
Remember: you can have all the advice from well-known inspirational speakers you like and as many 10 tips as you can absorb from the coaches and therapists out there but underneath there will always be the parts of yourself you had to abandon, from pre-birth on, having a hold on you and your life until you see them and make steps to integrate them for a healthier, happier, freer and more authentic you.
If everyone in the world could have the opportunity to do this, to make subjects of themselves, not objects, we may have a more honest, open and healthy world and environment. So why not be an ambassador for others? Understand your own trauma and survival patterning and take small steps to change yourself and the world.
Helping you live, love and create the life you want.
Kate Collier MBACP / AAMET Identity-oriented Psychotrauma Therapy
‘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.