‘The wounded healer’ and how Craniosacral therapy might teach us a new way to relate to pain.

I was reading a paper this morning called “what brings you here” by Marilyn Barnett. It’s an interesting piece of research that explores conscious and unconscious motivations that drive people to train as a therapist.

she explores the past traumas and pain that often inform the ‘wounded healer’ to choose a life of listening, guiding and healing others and what this phenomena means for the client/ therapist relationship.

In the essay Barnett urges the need for a rigorous training that focuses not just on a therapist gaining theoretical knowledge, or a ‘good’ track record in client work but with grading determined by the therapists capacity to delve into the depths of their own psyche and shadow.

In response to a UK university researching methods to ‘reduce unnecessary pains associated with learning counselling’  Bennet responds by suggesting that “perhaps pain is a necessary part of the process of becoming a therapist and maybe counselling is more than something to be ‘Learned.”

I have been sitting with this concept all day, the need to go through pain to be a good therapist.

It sits relatively easy with me, facing the pain has been something I have relished in for many years and sitting in the murky waters of our dark side, in grief, shame and rage is my comfort spot.

I do not think pain is bad, if faced and not feared I have seen and known how pain can propel people into pleasure and power and wellness. 

Pain is a part of birth, death - rebirth, change, transition and growth. Life is not a comfortable ride, even at the very beginning, as the first cell divides and multiples to eventually form the greatness that is us it takes an intense build up of pressure, this pressure and vibration force the form to transform. Change is uncomfortable.

And yet the thing that I believe has made me a good therapist was a lesson that felt like a radical learning/unlearning when I trained as a Craniosacral therapist. The simple but profound notion that we can and should move towards the light. 

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That we can and should connect to what feels flowing, well and vital and  cultivate a connection to this place of innate human wellness so that there may be integration for the places that are stuck. 

Learning to move towards ease - towards flow is the gift that keeps giving. It offers a deep and profound resolution from the stuck, auto loop of survivor complex that the nervous system resides after trauma. To relate to an embodied sense of wellness, to the blood and breath as well as the brain that can help to analyse, intellectualise and survive is what brings equilibrium.  

I was taught in this training that if we are moving from the right place; from an open hearted, full bodied place - if our whole intention is right then we should never be drained in the therapists chair but only ever fed by the practice.

Cranial taught me the profound need for a therapist to be well and resourced, to be connected to the well of energy and aliveness that resides within them and just by simply sitting in this place and tuning into the client there can be an awakening in a client - a remembering of their own innate wellness.

This is the fundamental principle to the approach I take, to support a client to find their own well of resource and aliveness first and foremost. From here they may voyage the ocean of their unconscious, of their feelings - and inevitably, eventually, they may bravely sail to that pit of pain they know so well but this time not with the aim to face it head on, or drown in it but gently, with a peace offering; with the message that there is now room and strength for the stories to be heard and for those places in the body and mind that hide away the hurt to come and join the whole - to integrate - to be one. 

Perhaps to be a good therapist is to be an experienced wayefinder and to teach the art of safe exploration to the edge of our internal worlds? To have moved out of the role of ‘wounded healer’, ‘survivor’ or ‘warrior’ and comfortably into the zone of being simply ‘enough’ - for this is the destination we hope our clients will one day arrive - the land of being them and knowing the brilliant truth of being wholly ‘enough’. 

I hope that in the future the trainings for all therapists will be safe spaces to explore theory, quantitative/qualitative study, neurobiology, metaphor, dreams, pain, breath, nature, presence, the body, anatomy, movement, poetry, the universe, relationship, attachment, shadow, lightness, love and the whole spectrum of tools we voyagers may need on the treacherous and glorious journey back to ourselves. 

An Apology

Last week I went to see Eve Ensler in Conversation with the Guardians editor and chief Katherine Viner, it is the book tour of her newest book the Apology.

If you don’t know who Eve Ensler is then you are blessed with a back catalogue of life changing wonder that is her work to explore. Her most famous work is the Vagina Monologues (HBO filmed her acting out these pieces years ago and you can now watch this for free on YouTube, I have had the honour of initiating many newcomers to this experience!)

Her body of work has spanned the globe, she has told the stories of women’s trauma from remote deserts to shrub clad suburbs. She is a true activist whom has dedicated her life to the act of hearing, sharing, seeing and holding the hurt, truth, power and wonder of people - of women.

She is a prolific doer, the founder of V day, billion girls rising and the co-founder of City of Joy in the Congo. She is a wonder of a human with quite possibly the boldest, bravest and biggest heart of anyone I have ever had the privilege to listen to and learn from.

Her newest book, is in the voice of her father, a man whom physically, sexually, emotionally and mentally abused her throughout her childhood and life.

The book is the apology she needed to hear from him to finally feel free.

I think most survivors will resonate with the feeling of being imprisoned in their bodies and by an internal voice shaped by the experiences of trauma.

She recounted how the voice of her father, of perpetrator had lived somewhere in her body her whole life, guiding her life choices, her relationship dynamics and her sense of identity and in the painful act of consciously finding and writing her fathers voice and forcing him into a role of apologiser and of human rather then of perpetrator she found for the first time in her life she could let him go and find freedom in being Eve Ensler in her own, whole right.

She hopes that this book will offer a blue print for what a true and meaningful apology is and what it can offer for both survivors and perpetrators. 

Although she is aware it has taken her many, many years of soul searching, sharing and therapy to arrive here able to touch base with that voice and she recommends anyone attempting to do this for themselves to do it with support.

Her new found feelings of freedom are certainty a testament to the power of having the details and reality of our truths seen, heard, validated and made real and the power of choosing to come face to face with the forces driving our unconscious and conscious life choices through examination, embodiment and enquiry. Through bravely, insight and compassion.

After the #metoo movement there has been a huge cultural shift in our awareness of how prevalent the trauma of sexual violence is in each of our communities and lives.

In my work I have noticed a radical shift in survivors being able to vocalise their experiences with less stigma and shame and in people being able to hear and believe the statistics and reality of this issue.

In her book Eve gently moves the focus of attention when considering this issue onto the perpetrators of these crimes and asks us all to try and develop an understanding of what leads people to inflict this kind of pain.

She reminds us all that silence and a lack of accountability offers no means for healing for survivors, perpetrators or for society at large.

I am struck by the freedom and resolution that is offered in the airing, writing and telling of truth. As Eve put it; ‘’when we are offered the truth, the whole truth there is something that shifts on a cellular level, suddenly there can be peace and resolution, our bodies take note and integration begins to happen.”

I have witnessed this integration happen in the therapy room and am inspired by the image of the women survivors of trauma residing at the city of Joy project in the Congo coming together to write the apology’s they need.

And I wonder does this offer the potential for whole communities to find healing? 

I am also deeply moved by how the giving of an apology by those that inflict hurt may also offer the perpetrator a channel to feeling, to empathy, to heart and to the potential for change and growth. And I am aware that there is so much unhealed trauma, individually, in our families, communities and our world that there is a huge resistance to the idea of perpetrators having a voice, I get that, I feel it! But how else do we come to understand the whys? And the how’s? If we don’t seek to explore, dissect and delve into what it is we as a society are doing wrong in the first place? how did it come to be that so many people are able to inflict such deep and profound pain on others and how can we heal that gapping global wound?

This book has offered a new paradigm to relate to the issue of sexual and physical violence not simply as a ‘women’s issue’ but as a societal issue, with a need for a holistic, empathetic, community led response that begins with how we respond to and embrace the vulnerability and emotionality of small boys and girls during their early years and how we might go about learning the art of seeking and saying the truth and laying ourselves bare with an apology.

Thank you Eve for your heart, for your relentless seeking of truth and of rightness, for your capacity to be so human and for being a mother to so many many many people that need your voice, wisdom and heart to heal.

The Apology is out this month in the UK.

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The Gift of Rage

THE GIFT OF RAGE

My Professional relationship to the power of rage began when I first volunteered for a wonderful charity that offered psychodynamic psychotherapy and counselling to vulnerable woman in need.

During group supervision there would be a collective cheer and celebration anytime a service user was reported expressing anger or rage. It was clear that this was a fundamental part of the healing process.

In connecting to this normal human feeling of Rage - when it is true and justified can connect us to a grief that needs to be acknowledged. It connects us to the truth of it all.

I have known this to be be true in my private practise and have personally felt the power of acknowledging and expressing feelings of rage to be a force for transforming tightly wound, unswerving relationship dynamics. 

In my group work I always make space to welcome in the expression of rage and to invite in our judgments, frustrations and annoyances. I have found that almost every time a circle of people freely express rage it is followed by a unified feeling of lightness, laughter and ease. 

Feeling inspired by the power of Rage I wrote a poem, I hope you enjoy.

 

RAGE

It is important to not hide from Rage, or let it silence us -

Disconnect us from intimacy,

From the challenge of realising the whole, fluid, human, reality of ourselves.

 

I have witnessed how frozen, unspoken, buried rage causes our bodies to freeze, to go stiff under the Weight of this burden.

Tongue tied, backs broken - bed ridden.

How the circuits of our nervous systems are on auto drive,

Causing deep debilitating pain, illness and disease. 


I have seen the neat avoidance of rage form apathy - ‘acceptance’ 

Unhappy lives left to the hands of fate. 


I have seen tiny babies playing out the unspoken rage of their adults.


I have known people to hate themselves, To hate their neighbour, their spouse, their home, their job, Their world - anything to blame the rage away.


I have seen anger dressed up 

With a coat of Pride - shame 

And a scarf of Power - insecurity 

And marched of into battle. 


I have seen pain held onto with a tight grip to justify the anger not owned.

And yet when we feel safe and free and secure enough to truly express

That we feel

angry, mad, fucked off.


When we can be brave and touch base with that place of guttural rage 

and be witnessed and be celebrated 

and be heard here.

I have seen miracles happen.

 Thank you rage!


I have seen old and painful wounds find resolution - a home, integration.

I have seen relationships full of pain and anguish find a peaceful place of acceptance.

I have known twisted unhappy guts find rest, balance and peace.


Rage gives power, it can rise and be the roar that shakes us into clear vision,

Into the truth of what is.

Rage is an energy that can create real long term change.


To express our feelings of rage freely gives us permission to feel deep and profound presence,

 To feel joy. 


To laugh uninhibited. 


Because it is part of us - all of us, it is just part of the spectrum of what it is to be us. 

You are allowed to feel all that you feel - you need to.

To breath - To be - To enjoy.

To express your whole truth is to know love.

 

So celebrate when people are angry and they own it as their own  - it is a victory to be applauded.

 

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