Trauma, triggers, and protecting your boundaries, Part 3 (final)

Last week I shared the memories that surfaced in the CI-session and today I share the insight I gained.

My colleague continued her compassionate inquiry, asking what emotions arose from that disgust. I reviewed everything and grew sad about the heartache it had so often caused, about the emotional absence due to all the addiction, and suddenly I realised how furious I also was. I raised my voice: “I’m just really angry too! Always the lying about the drinking! I don’t want to smell that smell! I don’t want you to come close to me! Stay away from me! Fuck off!” I shook my head, narrowed my eyes and grunted open-mouthed, stretched my arms out in front of me in a defensive gesture, pulled them back in with clenched fists and cried as I screamed. My colleague remained present; her face on the screen slowly calmed me down and we were silent together. She kept her eyes on me all the time and gauged how I was doing. “What must that have been like for the girl you were back then?”

Of course I also knew that question and we dived into it together, how sad it is when you have to growup like that. There is little you can do as a child in such circumstances and with her questions she led me to the insight known to both of us: that the ‘freeze’ you experience as a child can be overwhelming and can catch you again if you later find yourself in similar circumstances. That was what had happened: I had gone into a freeze when the lady approached me while she was drunk and wanted things from me that I was totally unwilling to give: attention, acknowledgment, physical closeness. I was the young girl who couldn’t turn to her mother, but could also not bear to have her mother around her in a drunk state either.

“I understand you didn’t want to make a scene, even if it wasn’t you, but that woman who was wrong, but what could you have said?” I thought in shared silence. “Uh… I could have said something like: I think you are drunk and I think it is better that we don’t have this conversation right now.” I laughed at myself: that sentence was actually very simple, very ‘cool and collected’! I could have said that; it need not have led to ‘drama states’, states that in themselves might have reminded me of the past. That sentence had also been respectful towards her. And if she had made a situation after all, I would not have been responsible for it. That, too, was interesting, of course, my attempt to keep the peace and not create ‘states’, when what was happening definitely crossed boundaries. How afraid was I of ‘states’? How many of my own limits and desires was I willing to give up to avoid ‘states’? How responsible did I feel for preventing ‘states’ and, moreover, for ensuring the well-being of those around me, bypassing my own? Since when and with what consequences had I done that as a child and continued the behaviour into adulthood?

Then I became aware that I did not quite understand how these themes had been discussed in plenary for two days and that someone then approaches another conference attendee in this way. As I spoke I realised how much trauma there is and how not even the best teacher can get the student ready to hear and take in the full magnitude of the message. If we are not ready, we cannot learn the lesson. When we are still in survival mode, our neocortex, our intellectual brain, does not work properly. Then we fall back on primary instincts and defense mechanisms. In that sense, it was interesting that she had said that she was grateful to me for mirroring her. Was she not used to encountering boundaries? Had she needed her drunken state to recognise that…? I once read: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Recently I saw a sequel that goes with it: “When the student is really ready, the teacher will disappear.” She said she had learned something from me and with the help of my CI-colleague I had now also learned something from her. Even though I definitely prefer a sober teacher for my learning process – I had gained an insight again.

An important question that Gabor always asks is whether you have ever ignored your intuition and later regretted it. I probably did that regularly as a child, ignoring my intuition, possibly even continuously. A lot of things happened in our nuclear and in the extended family circle that was not okay, but it was not talked about and I did not learn (or unlearned) to say something about it myself. When my mother said she had not been drinking when she had, despite the intuitive signals, I still started to doubt myself: “Am I so wrong? Am I such a nasty daughter that I mistrust my mother, that I don’t believe what she says? Maybe I’m wrong after all…” In fact, I’ve only recently realised how deep the impact of all these dynamics is and how they led to my estrangement from myself.

Therein lies the core of trauma: the broken connection with the true Self, the denial of your authenticity because of (your attempts to maintain) the attachment relationship. There was no bonding relationship with the drunken lady, but nevertheless an effort on my part not to cause ‘states’, something that could happen if I guarded my boundaries with strength and healthy anger. I had felt them, those boundaries, and also that she was crossing them, but I was paralysed. I let myself be caught off guard in the belief that that would be the quickest way to get rid of her and never see her again. However, wanting to get rid of something does not have to be a reason to let others cross your boundaries. These kinds of incidents can, however, be a reason to take a closer look at your own triggers. What had it done to me that she arrived late and objected emphatically to the limited space? What made me decide to arrange a chair for my colleague? Why did the restlessness in our row make me vicariously uncomfortable for the speaker? What had bothered me so much about her attempt to get ahead in line with the book signing? What pain had been touched in me by her fire-spitting eyes and her averted head? With compassionate curiosity there would be much more to discover in my experiences – as a student I am ready and a teacher I already have.

Two days later I had a beautiful closing meeting; to my surprise the lady appeared there too. Again I saw and heard extraordinary things. However, when she arrived (too late…) I had resolved not to enter into a confrontation. I wanted to enjoy the meeting and put my energy into imbibing the richness of the evening to the maximum. Moreover, I felt no need or responsibility to work on the relationship with her or to contribute to her process. A Buddhist saying I once heard: “If you cannot make it better, it is already great progress if you don’t make it worse.” That sounds compassionate enough to me: that is what I had chosen to do.

Earlier in the day, with the help of my colleague, I had discovered that simple statements are possible with which you can indicate and guard your boundaries if necessary. Through the disgust the body had said ‘no’ and from now on the head through the mouth is also allowed to say ‘no’ in a friendly way. If the other person is triggered by this, there is work to be done for the other person, which involves a compassionate investigation into their own reaction, and if I feel the space to do so, I can be supportive there. Being articulate about your own boundaries is also respectful towards the other. “Clarity is kindness”, says my dear, wise Scottish ACE-aware colleague Suzanne Zeedyk.

All in all, I learned a valuable lesson. The incident and the session have helped me to better understand the old patterns that are hidden behind apparently new circumstances. Cognitively I had known that for a long time, but I now experienced it from the language of my body. And when the body says ‘no’… then you are welcome to listen to it and act on it – the wisdom of your body is huge!

Trauma, triggers, and protecting your boundaries, Part 2

Last week I shared an incident with a drunk woman and how I reacted to her. This week I will tell about how I explored that reaction further.

“Shall we do a grounding first or do you want to start right away?” My colleague asked me with a laugh. We had already completed two sessions and now it was her turn to be the therapist, this time with me as the client. I had not quite figured out my intention for the session yet and which difficult situation I wanted to explore further through Compassionate Inquiry (CI). A grounding seemed like a good idea; the stillness of it had led to beautiful insights before.
I closed my eyes and surrendered to her voice. It only took two or three of her sentences and then I knew: the situation with the drunk lady hugging and kissing me – that was what my session would be about today. Gaining more insight into what actually happened there – that was my intention.

With CI, the goal is to quickly descend into our bodily experiences, but I needed some time and text to explain the context to my colleague. I told the story and how I was disgusted by the idea of her hugging me. She was right to pick up on that word – disgust is a powerful emotional experience. She asked me how that felt, disgust. I scanned my body with my mind, thinking back to the night in question. ‘It made me sick. Even if I tell you now, I would want to puke’, I replied. ‘Can we stay with that feeling for a moment?’ We are both CI-students; I too know the questions, and I know roughly when to expect them, but still… when you are in the client role, it is different. For the client, the questions that you can best ask as a therapist or that you would like to see come up as an observer sometimes come as a surprise. And sometimes the question itself is no surprise, but the feeling associated with perceiving the bodily sensation is. That perception is sometimes really intense, confronting, shocking. That was also the case now: I felt almost more disgust now than at the time itself, when I was caught off guard, feeling overwhelmed, and only thought about how I could ‘manage’ the situation optimally without turning it into a scene, thus taking a responsibility on my shoulders that did not belong there. After all, she forced herself on me, not the other way around.

We stayed with the disgust for a while and soon I realised that this disgust was not about this woman, but about another woman – about my mother. For many years she was a kind of hidden alcoholic. She lied to me about whether she had been drinking. Peppermint and cheap perfumes were used in an attempt to cover up the smell of alcohol and nicotine. Combined with clothing drenched in the stench of stale cigarette smoke this resulted in a bouquet of scents that I could no longer tolerate after a while and that years later, when I noticed it somewhere, evoked the whole palette of misery through association. If I thought I smelled alcohol with my mother, she usually denied it. Then she said it was the medication she had to take or she made up some other excuse.

During our CI session I also remembered a situation where we came back in the middle of the night from visiting acquaintances of my parents. The four of them had spent the night downstairs playing cards, while my sister and I and the couple’s two sons watched movies and ate chips and ice cream upstairs. If we played and kept silent, they would probably forget about us and let us stay up extra late, we figured. One such evening it had become late again. My sister and I were installed in the backseat of the car, comfortably in a sleeping bag, so we could sleep through the half hour drive home. My mother did not have a driver’s license, so my father always drove and acted responsibly. Once home, my father parked in his usual spot in front of the building. We woke up and had to get out of the car with our sleepy faces and shivering bodies (we must have been about 7 and 9 or 8 and 10). My father pushed his seat forward and let us out so we could walk up the stairs from the porch of our apartment. My mother also got out of the car, but just before she stepped into the porch, she vomited on the sidewalk in front of our flat: everything came out that had gone into it that night – in addition to the snacks probably a lot of sherry or vermouth, the drinks in those days, with enough alcohol to make you sick if you keep consuming a long, long evening.

I was ashamed; who would witness this in the morning, such a dirty spot on the sidewalk, right next to the car, right in front of the front door? That was inappropriate, I felt. Puking can happen in case of an emergency; you can’t always help that, but on the sidewalk in front of the front door, after a night out?! I did not understand everything, but as a young child I certainly did not think this was right. Thinking back, I have a feeling that my father was also ashamed and that he was angry, even though he did not say anything. I don’t know what happened that night, whether one of them went down to throw a bucket of water over it, for example. However, my father had stomach problems for years later on: I guess he had been swallowing too much that in fact he found indigestible.

So my mother’s drinking was not just a thing when I was an adult, married, and a mother in my own family. That drinking was certainly older, although I am not sure if it was an incident that specific evening, or an event visible to us in what may already have been a pattern even then. In any case, it had meant that for decades I would avoid anything that could possibly lead to an uncontrolled state of being: no excess of alcohol, no cigarettes, no drugs, no weed – more generally: no wild and crazy excesses. I would not let myself go free, go wild, and rash like an experimenting adolescent, but would restrain myself: no situations, no drama, no embarrassing displays.

Speaking of determination: I would not create a situation for myself and certainly later for the children in which, for example, shop staff in town would approach them with the remark: ‘Wow, I find it very embarrassing, but my staff members sometimes say to each other, look, here comes that drunk woman again, but that’s your mother…’ What could I do? Yes, she was my mother and no, I was not responsible for her behaviour and yes, I had tried to do something about it and no, that had totally failed and yes, I thought it totally sucked that I could not be proud of my mom, like other kids in my class. And ‘totally sucked’ was a complex concept: I was intensely sad, but I was also just very angry. Why did she make such a mess? Why was she not there for us? Why did she drink and smoke so much, even though it did not make her happy? There was a lot of confusion, sadness, disappointment, anger, and yes, in spite of everything, also a lot of determination and self-control, survival instinct and brave perseverance.

Next week I will share the further course of the session and my gained insight.

Trauma, triggers, and protecting your boundaries, Part 1

The delicious dessert was finished; the party was coming to an end when she came over and said to me in slurred speech: “You said a few things I didn’t like…” She hesitated, turned to the man next to me, asking him to turn their shared language to words that she could not find in English herself and continued: “I don’t think it was okay, buuuuttt…” She paused and made a wide gesture with her right arm: “I forgive you. Really, I forgive you!” She sought my eyes and waited for me to receive her words. She looked expectant and seemed to be counting on my gratitude. I was perplexed and said: “Okay…?” I had no idea how it would continue and what else was to come. “So!” Her voice strove for determination, but the twisted tongue and long slurs remained: “So! I love you and I want to give you a hug!” She grabbed me, more or less forcing me to get up and receive her hug. I was overwhelmed and thought it was strange what she was doing, very impertinent on top of that. I really did not want an inebriated hug from her, nor was I waiting for her forgiveness, but I did not say that. I smiled and stood transfixed to the floor.

In a flash I thought back to the day before. She had been in the same row as me in the audience, me in the third seat from the side, she in the fifth, and she had introduced herself forcefully. After the break she came back too late (the speaker had already started) and squeezed her way through our seats and the line in front of us. Space was limited, filled with handbags, backpacks and goodie bags. On the crossed legs rested notebooks in which notes were made about early childhood trauma, compassion, healing and self-reflection. She sat down and looked around with a frown. She took up ample space and, unlike in the first part of the morning, was a bit trapped. During the break, a chair had been added to the row. I had informed the organisation that my colleague was unfortunately late and would probably like to sit next to me on arrival. I asked how we could arrange that and the organisation lady walked to the front of the room with me. She looked, walked to the back, came back with an extra chair and rearranged the row a bit. For the sake of my colleague, I was grateful to her for this practical approach and hoped that my colleague would be able to join us soon.

However, this had brought the seats a little closer together and that was now avenging itself: the lady in my row felt that she had less room to move and became irritated. Restlessly she complained to the one and the other around her, including me. I whispered it was because of the extra chair. The look in her eyes grew more fierce, the energy she radiated became more intense. She twisted, wiggled, blew, gasped, sighed and moaned, then demanded a solution with more volume. It made me uncomfortable; everyone, like me, was listening attentively to the speaker and I experienced the situation as disruptive. In addition, since we were in the third row, I began to feel a little embarrassed towards the speaker. I looked sideways; the people next to me had their eyes on him. I didn’t want to distract them and saw no chance to ‘organise’ anything with the chairs. I looked at her: “If you had come in time, we might have been able to move things around a bit, but I don’t see a possibility to do that now…” That was not well received. Her mouth tightened; her eyes spouted fire and she turned her head away from me.

Later that day she was somewhere standing behind me in line for the author’s signing. Just before it was my turn, we were asked to return to our seats. We decided to remember the order of the line and wait our turn again at the next signing session. That turn came, but the angry lady pushed herself forward in the line to dismiss everyone who came in from the side for an autograph and explained to them that the idea was to join at the end of the queue. Now that she was already in the front, she tried to use that place to score her own autograph, although we and a few others were waiting quietly. I pointed out to her that she was no longer in the right place in the line. That also did not go well and at the end of the day she wanted to talk to me about a few things. I had already decided that I did not want to put any energy into it. Part of the day had been devoted to the importance of learning to say ‘no’ when you feel a ‘no’. This seemed like a good opportunity to practice again, so I kindly said: “I’d like to leave it at this.” Her face made clear to me that this came as a surprise, but my tone was ‘firm and gentle’, as someone else’s approach had recently been qualified.

All this went through my mind when she wanted to get me standing up for a hug after her declaration of love. I wanted to say ‘no’ again, but could not see how I could get out of her advances right now without creating a scene. Strictly speaking and viewed logically, the cause of the possible scene was of course not with me but with her; nevertheless, it felt complicated. My thoughts tumbled over each other: “I don’t want this! This disgusts me! I find this objectionable. What can I do to keep this at bay, to keep this totally unwanted intimacy at bay, in short… to keep her at bay?” I didn’t know, and before I knew it I was standing and she had put her arms around me and kissed me on the cheek. I was shocked and quickly pulled myself out of the embrace. She laughed, babbled some more and walked away befuddled.

A little later she came back and made statements that, again, made no sense to me. Besides, she wanted to take a picture with me, and before I could resist and make a firm objection, before I could think of something to say in a kind but urgent way, it was already done. I did not look at the picture; I did not receive it and I also do not want it. She added something along the lines of how happy she was to have met me and how special I was. Tipsy she walked off, and while I was chatting with someone else, I saw her taking pictures of herself with almost everyone. My new conversation partner was the one next to whom I had sat at the table all evening and with whom I had had a pleasant exchange. She suggested a picture of us together. We wrapped our arms around and leaned against each other and while laughing and joking she took a number of selfies, which she sent to me the next day.

However, it was not over yet. The drunken lady came up to me a third time and once again praised me and how all of it was annoying, but that we need each other in the world and that she wanted to thank me for helping her and mirroring her behaviour and that she learned something from it that she was happy with. I was not sure that her cognitive brain was really capable of acquiring or reproducing solid learning experiences at this point, but again I decided to leave it at that. I had no responsibility here. I did have thoughts, though, about how what we had all been listening to during the day related to the behaviour she was now showing… and also to the behaviour I was now showing by not saying ‘no’, by being triggered and by not protecting my boundaries.

That last aspect stuck with me. When I had my weekly CI session a day and a half later, I decided to bring in this event and reflect with my ‘therapist’ on my response. You can read more about that next week!

Freedom and security to just ‘be’ – your true Self

More or less out of the blue he texted me: “Hi Marianne, how are you?” I was surprised, pleasantly surprised, and wondered if it was just that question or if there was more to come. I was on the road with someone and saw no opportunity to answer carefully. Not until just after midnight, when I got home, did I sit down to do that. I had another Compassionate Inquiry session ahead of me that night and wanted to get some sleep before it started, but I also wanted to answer this question; I had the feeling that there was more to it and I wanted to create space for that.

I said that considered it a sweet, unexpected question and honestly told him how things currently are: “It’s an intense time. I have been a Compassionate Inquiry student in the professional year training since February. CI is a psychotherapeutic approach in which self-examination is the essence in this first phase. Outrageously transformative, insane amount of introspection, self-reflection, questioning habits, and so on and so forth. I feel privileged to have been admitted and at the same time it is also extremely exciting and emotional to experience what all of this will bring.”

He was still awake and replied: “I have been stuck for years and I am ready for a new challenge, but in recent years I have been chasing myself too much to see a path out. I wanted something different, but nothing presented itself. Everything trudged on and I was indecisively waiting for a new turn.” I read his words attentively and thought of him. I know his work and am impressed by it. I realised how much we can often be mistaken about how “well” someone is. It can look great on the outside, while inside there are all kinds of sadness, discomfort, loneliness and disappointment. At the same time, I also thought it was great that he was ‘waiting’. Remaining in the ‘discomfort’, just ‘sit’ with it (more ‘human being’ than ‘human doing’) is an art that not everyone understands. It takes courage that not everyone has available. However, the slowing down that comes with it can be healing. It can show us that something is allowed to, or, if we really want to flourish again, has to change, while at the same time we acknowledge that we do not yet know in what way and how and when, and with whom and what and without whom and what. To first feel and become aware that it is time for change is already a valuable insight in itself. If you then even dare to reach out, you have already taken a few very important steps.

The time of our conversation was a bit strange, maybe, after midnight, but sometimes that is just the best time, when the darkness surrounds us and the world is quiet, when we are not distracted by other things, when, strangely enough, it sometimes feels safer to make yourself super vulnerable towards someone you trust. That is what he did: “I have made an appointment for a psychedelic retreat because I think it might give me a breakthrough that I cannot seem to achieve any other way. Addictions get in my way; I keep falling back into them and therefore I do not make any progress. There is pain in me that time and again I keep trying to numb. For so long. I did not dare to be myself. There have been some wonderful role models in my life who have given me courage, but there is still much that lingers and whirls within me and that hinders me. I still find it difficult to really find my footing.”

We exchanged about slowing down and adapting to the circumstances. I mentioned an adage from Krishnamurti: “It is no sign of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society”, often quoted by Gabor Maté, especially in the context of his book ‘The myth of normal’. “Wow, I want that on a t-shirt and written on a tile!” was his enthusiastic response. “I will write to you more often, but now you have to take that power nap, girl, before you go into your session later on!”

I did, but when I woke up later that night, I still remembered things I wanted to share, options that might help him find a new path. I texted them, fell asleep and was woken up because there was something on the program. Then I realised I had forgotten to finish the conversation properly: “Thank you for reaching out and for your vulnerability – an honour to receive. I will respect it.”

Lately I have been having these special conversations and encounters, where people share deep, intense experiences, let down all their defenses, and say out loud what they are tentatively acknowledging about themselves: “I didn’t feel right the way things were. I am on a quest. It is intense. I want to organise my life differently. I want to get rid of my addictive behaviour, but there is so much pain that I cannot bear. Only now do I realise that so often in my life I had to hang the garlands myself, that there was no one to do it for me. I recently became aware that as a child I often felt so incredibly lonely.” What an honour, indeed, to be a silent witness to hearing that ‘precious pain’ being expressed and to be able to offer ‘holding space’ without judgement.

They grab me and get to me, all those stories. They make me acutely aware of how many children have a hard time, even if they do not go fully off the rails, even if you cannot see it on the outside, even if they later build what appears to be a successful life when looked at from the outside. All of it makes it a bitter read that the cabinet thinks that too many children receive psychological help. How should we interpret that? What does that say about how the government looks at the problems of young people? Where do these problems come from according to the cabinet? What does the government think is the consequence of ‘too much help’? And what does the cabinet think will be the consequences if that support is increasingly reduced, if we as a society no longer really allow ourselves to realise what it means for the future if young people are so out of balance and have the feeling that cannot succeed in building themselves a good life? What kind of policy will the government develop to turn this sad tide?

Later that day we picked up the conversation thread again. He said he did not want to go into the planned retreat with very high expectations, but still hoped for insights. I understood that; I recognised that. I had been open with him about my own experiences and presumably that was part of the honest exchange we had now. We talked about how ‘enlightenment’ doesn’t even have to be the goal: first just more peace and balance, a feeling of being in the right place, being seen, heard, loved. We also talked about the need for a sense of safety and security in order to develop empathy and how that fails when trust is lacking. And from there we returned to the core, to the origin of a lack of empathy and trust in the world: to the young child who grows up with parents who, back in the day, have missed so much themselves that they cannot sufficiently see and satisfy the basic needs of their child.

For now we came full circle; soon we will spin a new thread – the date has been set. I hope that the retreat will be a wonderful, nurturing experience for him and will initiate a development towards a sense of liberation and freedom. He so deserves it.

The lived experience, Episode 9 – This week: Hester, Part 3 (final)

Last week Hester told about her period of illness. Today she takes a closer look at a number of forms of therapy and we read about where she is now.

She says that although she could not find her healing in the mainstream care system, the alternative circuit also regularly failed to improve her health or even caused damage. Some therapists used her difficult situation to feed their own spiritual egos. They asked her to grant them an experience of success; one even advised that she take her own life. It meant that in her desperation she also had to be alert to people abusing of her health issues: “I find that dangerous, such an attitude in which you, as a traumatised client, have to protect yourself against the therapist. Then you will not come to a pure form of healing.” However, the regular healthcare providers offered no way out either. They repeatedly came up with only one solution: more medication. “When I refused and said that I wanted help, but not endlessly more medicines, they refused help and I was deregistered from all kinds of circles. Then there was only one thing left for me: to completely turn inward. I had a conversation with ‘Above’ and felt that I still had something to do in this world, but my life energy was drained, gone, exhausted. I considered lying down in bed and to just wait until I would die, because no one had a solution. Believe it or not, but then I approached people from a holistic reflection circle and told my story, in tears. They organised not just a local, but a national meditation for me. Then peace came to me. I felt that I wanted to go back to the bioresonance therapist I had been to before. His guidance and approach, including that of the toxic load, finally helped me and saved me. My doctor, however, was sceptical. He called it all placebo effect, but until then, he had also not been able to help me.

My illness has made it necessary for me to deeply feel everything that has happened in my life. I think I can say I have seen the deepest darkness and now understand how things have had their impact. Then the pain let go of me and at the moment I am doing very well. My energy is limited, but it is nothing compared to how it was and I am extremely grateful for where I am now. Doctor Sarno’s pain reset method certainly helped me with that. I remain alert to how the past can still have an impact on how I feel or experience things, but all of that has a completely different character now, compared to before. I think I have lived through that enough now. That does not alter the fact that my body is still tired quite quickly and that I then get symptoms that I deserve to take seriously, even if my head actually wants to continue with something. There is still a certain vulnerability, but I can live with that now.”

In response to her remark about ‘not being able to feel well’, we talk about the question of who she used to turn to as a child if she had strong feelings. She thinks and says: “Do you know that I don’t remember…?” Somehow that says a lot, that for her, no one clearly comes to mind with whom she can link a sense of security. “I didn’t have many friends either; our family was so closed off, such a small world, that we were not really prepared for what it takes to meaningfully connect with other people outside the home. It’s not so bad anymore, but I still prefer the one-on-one meeting; superficiality does not make me happy.”

From her need for depth, she sometimes still falls into the trap of doing more than her body can handle: “I could call that a bad habit – certainly. From my willpower I think that I can go on for a while and recover again tomorrow and that remains a quest…” She falls silent for a moment and thinks. “A quest… how can I really sink into my body, less in my head, and find that relaxation there, really feel that it is good and safe and then let go of the stress? Learning that is an ongoing process, which I sometimes feel resistance to. When will it be ready? At the same time I realise that sometimes I still don’t really know what I’m feeling, so that definitely takes practice. And what also requires practice is that when I am tired and feel restless, I also take real rest and do not numb the unrest with ‘crap’ from, for example, social media. That is often a struggle: numbing one unrest with another… not good, but silence is hard for me. It makes me rebellious, because it gives me the impression that my life is still too boring, and so I look for stimuli, when I actually need rest. By now I know that I can feel, but I do not always feel in a sound way. Then I override with my head what my body has to say. With all that has happened, I now understand a lot better that a lot of my behaviour was necessary to get me out of the situation I was in, with all the ancestral dynamics involved.”

After all the personal aspects, we zoom out to the social perspective. I ask if she feels that the influence of childhood is given enough attention. “No, I think there is too little recognition for it. Even in a trauma centre where I was, the views on trauma turned out to be completely outdated. I think that the insights that experience experts could provide in all kinds of organisations, are very valuable. We just need more knowledge about what it means to experience and heal from trauma. As you said, there is a difference between ‘healing’ and ‘curing’, and while I am not completely cured, I am certainly healed. The impact of pre- and perinatal trauma, the influence of growing up in a dysfunctional family, ancestral trauma… there is still a lot of work to be done to make all of this widely known!

I have also experienced things on a spiritual level that I don’t want to make public now, but really… we are spiritual beings as humans and that is something that often gets snowed under in protocols and fixed structures. Many approaches in mainstream healthcare are very cognitively oriented, but trauma runs so deep… With your cognition, you cannot reach that at all. That requires something completely different. You may need complementary care for that, but as said… there the spiritual egos are so big sometimes that it is dangerous. I have also sometimes felt really not taken seriously in that field. And when you finally do get treatment from someone, you sometimes have to wait weeks or months for follow-up treatment; that I also find very problematic. In the meantime, nobody knows how you are doing and sometimes you have nowhere to go if a previous session has released a lot that deserves guidance.”

When we talk about what a child needs in the early phase, she immediately has a clear picture: “An environment that is as open as possible, where everything is allowed to be there, where there is no judgment on what you feel and say and on what concerns you emotionally… where there is understanding for you. And in addition, I think it is important that we do not forget about the body. There may also be a toxic load that needs to be cleaned up.”

We end with our three basic questions.
What gives you hope?
“That we as humans are so strong that you can even get out of such an almost hopeless situation as I was in.”

What is number 1 on your bucket list?
She beams and smiles when she replies: “Aaah, yes… publishing those children’s books! Hopefully I will find someone who can support me!”

And what are you currently very excited about or what do you want to be working on?
“That is not difficult either! I am currently doing a spiritual course, four online workshops and I love that. I do it at my own pace, but enjoy that I can do it that way and that I am now again able to!”

We wrap up. Hester indicates that she really enjoyed sharing her story in detail with someone who can receive it as it is, who listens to it and takes it seriously. “I don’t know if I want to go to therapy again; I think that this new phase and the quiet integration of everything I have learned in the previous stage will suffice for me for now. I am especially grateful that I am where I am now, again, after such a crisis, and it was good to be able to talk about it in peace!”