Recently we shared with you our review of José Al’s book, ‘The soiled nest. Transgenerational Trauma’. There is clearly great interest in this theme, because the blog has been very well read and widely shared. That is understandable, because this is a theme that, often invisible and unspoken, undoubtedly affects many more people than you would think at first glance.
Emotional and physical neglect, abuse by both your parents… these are not topics that can be discussed just anywhere and with everyone. It is not something you happily share. Because of the pain and often the shame that accompany it, such experiences are sometimes shared with close others only after years and years. In this context, what do you actually know about your neighbours, about colleagues, about your children’s friends? What do you know about your brother(s) or sister(s), especially in a larger family, where the experiences of the individual children may sometimes differ enormously? And maybe even… what do we know about ourselves? What are things that we deeply tucked away in order to survive under difficult circumstances? What can we allow into our consciousness only bit by bit, because otherwise we become overwhelmed by the fear, the sadness and the pain?
The stories in ‘The soiled nest’ offer us a glimpse into what it means to grow up in an unsafe and insecure setting. It doesn’t even have to be as intense and dramatic as in the book, however, to leave traces. This is because the perception of insecurity in childhood influences how our brain grows and which behavioural patterns we develop. Many of our reaction patterns are not a conscious choice, but an automatic response. We do not choose to go into fight or flight mode – it just happens. A look, a smell, a choice of words, a posture or something else touches something in us that in a flash brings us back to a look, a smell, a choice of words or a posture of that unsafe past. Much of what seems to be happening in the now is in fact a memory of the then. It brings us back to a phase in our lives in which we still had insufficient overview and independence to regulate ourselves. We did not understand what was happening. We felt anxious, lonely, sad, and could not break free from the circumstances. We depended on the people with whom we felt unsafe and insecure. They said things that made us feel like we were not good enough, that we should not really be there in our most authentic form. We kept quiet and adapted, or we rebelled and freaked out. Left or right, however, we lost an important part of the connection with our true self, with our essence.
The aim of ACE Aware NL is to make more widely visible how these mechanisms work. It is important to understand what goes on in that child’s head when you consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally, assert your position of power as an adult. What happens if you fail to assist your child in a calm, but firm and reliable way? A child who seems unreasonable or unmanageable is at its core often angry or anxious or sad. Can you look at your child and see the situation through their eyes? Can you look at your child and try to feel that it is you? How does it feel to be (in) that little body and listen to a big angry voice, see a disapproving face? As an adult you may not come up with your painful story, but your painful story does emerge in your behaviour. Hurt people hurt people. The more you become aware of this, the more compassion you will develop. By looking at your own feelings and sensations without judgment, you can learn to listen to the other person’s story without judgment. José has provided powerful examples of such stories in her book. Together with her, we wondered how we could encourage the sharing of stories about the lived experience. When stories are shared without the teller being judged, this often creates space and a sense of recognition and being heard.
That’s why we wanted to share the book review, about which José wrote us the following:
“I am incredibly impressed by this overwhelmingly pure, intense and valuable book review. The time, effort, energy and utmost care that you have put into this, so much appreciation and loving positivity, to be seen, heard, felt and understood in this way is truly overwhelming. So beautifully done! What an appreciation for my years of studies, work and research… I feel understanding and compassion and that means a lot to me. That cannot be expressed in words.”
Her mission and ours fit seamlessly together and she has made a wonderful proposal, which we gratefully accept with both hands.
Does your story deserve to be heard? Do you want to support and encourage others? Do you want to contribute to discussing early childhood trauma? Then share your story with us!
Write a text of 750-1000 words, in which you (anonymously) describe your experience with (sexual) abuse, (domestic) violence and/or neglect. Even if you think you are not a writer, we invite you to pick up the (digital) pen: we are happy to help you get it on paper in such a way that it does justice to your story. The ACE Aware NL team will look at the entries together with José Al and chooses the ten most beautiful, most gripping, insightful stories. If yours is one of the ten selected texts, we will contact you to draw up a version that can be published as a blog on our website. The authors of the ten stories chosen will receive a copy of José Al’s ‘The soiled nest’.
If you want to participate, send your story with your name, your telephone number from a valid e-mail address to email@example.com and make sure it is received by 20th July at the latest. You will receive a confirmation of receipt and of course we handle your data very carefully and completely confidentially.
Writing can be very healing, as can reading a story that offers recognition and encouragement. You are therefore very welcome to send in a text to increase social awareness about ACEs. We look forward to your contributions!
At a later stage we will make a similar call for healthcare providers. We then put in the spotlight what their motivation is for working with people with early childhood trauma. More information about this will follow in due course.