The Deck

037

While Samuel’s hard at work, first the deck, now the landing and retaining wall, I have no project and feel a bit lost. For such a small project it certainly is a lot of work and the trips to the local lumber yard are adding up surprisingly in cost. I was even invited to go to pick out the stone path. That was a hot date on a rainy morning, bumping into another couple even older than us also picking out stone for a small garden project. 

“What is our purpose?” I ask Samuel, “Do we just get up and do it again day after day?”

“Yes, maybe that is our purpose,” he answers, barely looking up from his magazine. 

I press on, “You have a purpose. I don’t. The studio bores me,” I stated. 

“Well, maybe you need to do something different,” he responded.

He is right. I need to do something different. But with all the supplies gathered over the years, kiln, clay, glaze, and all the corresponding tools, it had better have something to do with all that. New horizons await. In the meantime, maybe my purpose is caring for this body I’ve spent a life-time escaping.

Being in it scares me, every little nuance making me wonder what is going wrong next. Yet being in it is what can also bring great joy if I work at it and try. Like caring for the burn that turned crimson and scaly. Taking the time to open a vitamin E oil capsule and gently applying it helped, rather than just ignoring it like I might of done.

That’s what others do naturally, care for themselves. And when they do they do great things like become exercise fanatics, yoga experts, lean bicyclists or runners, something physical to complete the whole. 

So my purpose is learning about my body, being in it as fully as possible, which takes work, time, and overcoming the fear. I tend to flee it residing in my head or hovering anywhere else but in it. What wonders await if I allow myself to go deeply into my given gifts?

039

HAVOCA (Help for adult victims of child abuse) full Article

For those who did not want to sign up the newsletter noted in the previous post, this is the article I was referring to. The sentence in bold is the one I quoted…

________________________________________________________

A person-centred approach in working with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. by Justin Slaughter

Person CentredIt was whilst I was in training that I first worked with a client who had experienced childhood sexual abuse (CSA). I drew upon the resources I had acquired through my training and practice – a working awareness of the person-centred approach (PCA). I relied, in part, on PCA developmental theory, as a framework from which to understand and work with CSA. Since that time, a majority of the clients I see have been survivors of CSA. This article outlines, in brief, how a person-centred approach is both suitable and beneficial for working with this client issue.

Childhood sexual abuse is endemic, and the NSPCC report: How Safe are our Children (2016) highlights the prevalence and incidence of CSA. The report suggests that in 2014/15 there were 47,008 recorded sexual offences against children in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. This figure is an increase on the previous year’s figures, and is said to represent the increased willingness of victims to come forward, as well as a better recording of offences. The NSPCC (2016) define abuse as: ‘persuading or forcing a child to take part in sexual activities or encouraging a child to behave in sexually inappropriate ways’.

The impact of abuse can be far reaching. Abuse is a misuse of power, invading an individual’s sense of self, their psychological safety and the fundamental integrity of their being, thus having far reaching ramifications on an individual’s life trajectory. Survivors of CSA may experience mental health problems later in life, which include PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide. Survivors may have difficulty coping and managing with everyday struggles, historically, in the present, and later in life. Survivors may also find adult sexual intimacy difficult. Survivors may develop non helpful ways of expressing their emotions – through aggression or other self-destructive ways, such as addictive behaviours and self harm. Abuse affects individuals differently, and nothing is set in stone. Working through, articulating and exploring the powerful conflicting emotions and experiences of abuse are crucial aspects of the work.

The person-centred approach explains psychological problems with the concept of ‘incongruence’. Rogers (1951; 1957; 1959) wrote that organisms are motivated by growth and development and, given the right environment, individuals can actualise and reach their full potential. The right environment consists of a climate where the person feels genuinely understood and unconditionally accepted. However, there are climates in which individuals do not feel understood and unconditionally accepted, leaving them to feel they are worth less in certain conditions than in others. The person introjected these values as if they were their own. It is when a significant level of experience is either denied or distorted, to fit self concepts that incongruence occurs. Joseph (2015) highlights how this way of thinking can account for the avoidant and intrusive features of PTSD.

As the self structure is formed, and a person begins to act in compliance with introjected values that are not congruent with the organism, conditions of worth develop. Power (2012) highlights conditions of worth as having a lasting impact with survivors of CSA and describes survivors of CSA as having many different conditions of worth when processing the trauma of abuse.

CSA experiences affect the client’s locus of evaluation, with survivors often developing more of an external locus of evaluation, which means survivors are likely to distrust their organismic valuing process. They have difficulty in trusting their ability to influence their own experiences, and may feel that their lives are in the hands of others and external forces which are beyond their control. This can, at best, put them in a difficult and frightening psychological position.

Thus we may come to understand that CSA happens at a time in individuals’ lives when they are developing ideas or assumptions of self and others. CSA happens at a time of the establishment of internalised states. We are relational beings and our earlier experiences are shaped by our caregivers. This no doubt impacts upon our intra- and inter-relationships, with our ability to trust others and develop healthy relationships being thwarted. Abuse ‘lives’ within relationships, in which – more often than not – individuals have no choice but to place their trust; trust in CSA is significantly broken and impacted upon. The feelings and experiences of which are palpable. Trust therefore needs to be developed within the therapeutic relationship, with the client’s space and pace of their therapy respected, with the counsellor acting as a witness.

In trusting and valuing the client’s process it is hoped the client learns to trust and develop those experiences that enhance their internal locus of evaluation. In utilising the core conditions it is hoped that, through a process of therapy, clients may move more towards an internal locus of evaluation. That is, they rely on their own thoughts, feelings and inner capacities and are less concerned with external influences. To function in this way is to be in the present moment, accepting strengths and weaknesses, seeking authenticity, and valuing the self; this is healthy functioning. Thus it is hoped they develop trust in their own intrinsic wisdom and abilities.

Joseph (2005) accounts for the adequacy of a person-centred approach in dealing with traumatic stress. Merits of the person-centred approach toward therapeutic change include, as Levitt (2005) states, ‘non directivity’, which can be said to allow our clients to accurately symbolise their moment to moment experiences at their own pace. Hyper-vigilance may be common for individuals who have suffered abuse, and any attempt at pushing individuals psychologically may be seen as threatening. Therefore, providing conditions in which the client’s space and autonomy are respected are essential. This is demonstrated in the emphasis placed on the maintenance of the core conditions, creating the climate, the environment for growth and change to occur.

Empathy may offer clients the opportunity to remodel how they think of themselves. Clients may learn self-empathy. Clients may come into counselling and feel so ashamed, worthless, guilty and responsible, angry and confused. To experience the counselor sitting with these feelings, being a witness to them as they present themselves, has the potential of being incredibly healing.

Vernart and Webber (2012) concur that counselling with trauma needs to engender empowerment, working towards a positive self view. The embodiment of hope is significant too, in our ability to reflect back clients implicit strengths and resources as they are presented. There is a premise that it is relationship that can break us. Relationship can heal us too – by offering a relationship which involves deep empathic understanding, a relationship that respects and regards the individual positively and realistically. Given, then, an environment where trust is worked at, maintained and developed, and whereby the core conditions of acceptance, empathy and unconditional positive regard are held and attended to, post traumatic growth and resolution can and does occur.

It is, therefore, hoped that by offering a different relationship, individuals may better process and move forward, developing trust in both themselves and others, developing their self esteem, resilience, feeling validated, worthwhile and hopeful. It can be said individuals thus place meaning on their experiences, and reach a better place of self understanding, towards better healthy functioning.

Not feeling judged, feeling valued, heard and respected all go some way in aiding healing. The work can feel like a long road, with many bumps, but there is an implicit trust in process. We sit alongside clients, witnessing the terrible traumas they have sustained and the aftermath of such experiences. Providing a safe environment, attending to process, and listening to clients find meaning and a better understanding of their experiences, is a move towards potential growth and psychological change.

References

Joseph, S. (2005) Understanding Post Traumatic Stress from the Person Centred Perspective. In S. Joseph and R. Worsley (Eds.), Person Centred Psychopathology. A positive Psychology of mental health. Ross on Wye: PCCS Books.

Joseph, S. (2015) A person centred perspective on working with people who have experienced psychological trauma and helping them move forward to post traumatic growth. Person-Centred and Experiential Psychotherapies, 14 (3). pp. 178-190. ISSN 1752-9182

Levitt, B, E. (2005) Embracing non directivity: Reassessing Person Centred Practice in the 21st Century. Ross on Wye: PCCS Books.

NSPCC. (2016) How Safe are Our Children.

Power, J. (2012) Person – Centred Therapy with adults sexually abused as children, In Tolan, J. And Wilkins, P. Client Issues in Counselling and psychotherapy. London: SAGE publications. LTD.

Rogers, C.R. (1951) Client centred therapy: its current practice, implications and theory. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Rogers, C.R. (1957) The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 21, 95-103.

Rogers, C.R. (1959) A theory of therapy, personality, interpersonal relationships, as developed in the client centred framework. In S. Koch (Ed.), Psychology : A study of science, vol. 3: formulations of the person and the social context (pp.184-256). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Vernart, E and Webber, J. (2012) Healing trauma through humanistic connection in Humanistic Perspectives on Contemporary Counselling Issues. Scholl, B, M. McGowan, A, S. and Hansen, J,T. Routledge: Hove

Justin Lee Slaughter is a Humanistic counsellor in private practice; he also volunteers as a sexual health counsellor in Brighton and Hove.

Finding Peace

Picture 256

photo by patricia

The havoca newsletter (Help for Victims of Child Abuse) prompted this post as it relates so much to my difficulty in maintaining equilibrium; especially the following line, though the entire article might be worth the read. Unfortunately one has to subscribe to receive their newsletter but it’s free and so far has not been invasive or a problem. https://www.havoca.org/subscribe/

They have difficulty in trusting their ability to influence their own experiences, and may feel that their lives are in the hands of others and external forces which are beyond their control. This can, at best, put them in a difficult and frightening psychological position.

Samuel wakes three hours after me, and then we share coffee as our son Shane calls on his ride to work. He updates us on the grand-kids doings, and it usually is a great joy to my day. Yet my chest tightens.

Mornings, usual a favorite time, have become stressful. Breathe. I have much to do, the arm exercises, Kegels, walking, meditation, dinner, and on it goes. And these things needn’t stress me, yet the springtime rush of chemicals to my brain makes me, well, kind of loopy.

Samuel takes the phone and they chat. The pressure begins to abate as relaxation techniques are applied. We are sitting on the porch. The geese at the creek are squawking. Shane remarks that even he can hear the birds chirping through the phone.

The tightness unwinds and it continues to be a revelation that one can cause injury to their body by their thoughts, or bring health. Trusting my ability to do this, to go internally where intuition can be my guide is an ongoing journey. It takes work, or at least focus.

After the call we go outside. Samuel works on the deck, but I just sit. So much is popping up from the ground including many spring blossoming flowers that it is hard to absorb. More is spotted each time I look.

Just be, soak it in. The scent of hyacinth wafts up, even the bleeding heart broke the surface of the earth. Time to walk, and at each lap I allow the pleasure of sitting by creek. The frogs have come up from the mud and they sound as if they are gurgling with the mud.

The ability to calm is within…

 

 

The Lake

Our little creek has swollen with the rains…

040 (Large)

Decaf works best for me, yet spiking it with caffeine seems to make it taste better. Yesterday the spiking was too heavy and the day got away from me. No way to find the wholeness continually searched for. What could have been a peaceful day was fraught with separateness unable to enter the dwelling of my body and stay there. My mind buzzed…all from a small amount of added caffeine. 

Doing what I do best, beating myself up, I bow my head over my burning hand on the counter and wept. I wept for the stupidity of pulling the crock pot over to the sink still plugged in. The hot bean liquid splashed all over my hand. And finally wept for the bag of chips I ate the day before and wanted to confess about but couldn’t till then, “All 6 ounces Samuel. I ate the whole bag!” 

He cleans up the mess and says, “So what.” 

Holding my hand under cold water, I watch as he eats out of his bag of chips. “I love this salsa,” he says, grabbing more chips.

We had shopped together, an unusual occurrence due to my extreme impatience. I knew better than buying myself chips, albeit baked, but thought skeptically that I could eat just small amounts at a time. He grabbed his bag of tortilla chips.

“No!” I said, when he pointed to the peanut butter stuffed pretzels. I cannot have junk around. I eat it!

Going over to the table I pick up his bag and look at the ounces. 12. He had eaten half a bag, same as me, but he wasn’t smashing his face in the cement like I had been doing. 

All the talk of self-love, self-compassion, self-forgiveness…where does it go? Every time I make a mistake, or mistakes, it comes smashing down, and it stays. 

“There’s always tomorrow,” he says. 

“And I’ll make more mistakes tomorrow!” I retort. 

Yet this morning I feel calm as the sun rises warming my face through the window. This part of me that is so hard on myself is staying. I need others who help me come out from the mire when I’m stuck, and luckily I have them…

my birthday surprise from Samuel

060

THE JOURNEY

c4f843593d266ecbb36d09f9b6ec695d

One can take a journey without ever leaving home. You may need the rare qualities of an explorer, the courage of a lion, and mighty, tenacious endurance to keep facing truths one does not want to see. What is there? Why do I do what I do? And I might not like the answers, they are all too human.

Jealousies, small-mindedness, failings… what may be harder to look at, notice, accept, and feel fully, are the positives. Those gems dwell deep, shine up, and drive the ship daily but are not revered. Revere them. Hold them up as high as the negatives that pound you down.

Accepting it all as a whole, going into the body, psyche and spirit and trying to dwell there wholly is not easy. Notice the hand starting to show age spots, just like my mother. That hand is yours, do you feel it as you look at it wiping the counter and rinsing the dishes? Be in your body, I tell myself moment to moment throughout the day. It’s OK.

Yet it is scary. The body is what I run from. I didn’t know I’ve done this since age 8 and still do. Be in it, it’s OK. You’re OK as a whole human being, no better or worse than others. Explore. Accept. You’re OK.

The journey is exciting, scary at times, fruitful, and not shared by others. It is yours alone, like mining gold— if you dare.

e366db8817ac333a480dacdcc113ad3d

download (1)

PEACE

687caef64482752e3b8fccda983cd1b4

Waking, remembering the work of easing anxiety, my breathing slows evenly and deeper. It is almost 5 am, time to rise. My work is calming anxiety that comes each spring. The wiry brain which had plummeted to a lower mood over winter, now sprints into more daylight and an awakening. Anxiety is also an issue dealt with throughout the year as my equilibrium is easily upset.

Spring tends to bring noise in the brain and eccentric behavior, inviting situations that greatly increase the anxiety beast, not tame it. This year the journey is different because I’m feeling more aware of the dilemma, and more aware that this body and mind is not like those around me. I need special care, care I do not know how to provide or feel worthy of.

That feeling is more that a feeling. It is part of my personality that’s staying, formed deep in my core during childhood due to my brothers’ ongoing abuses, other brothers looking away, and my mother’s collusion in the conspiracy of silence; we are a happy, normal family, you will love your brothers, as they continued to creep in my room and attack me.

I don’t like the fact that at my core is a feeling that I am bad, and unworthy, or that whatever is happening is my fault. I run from this fact of what I believe, embedded permanently like a crack in rock. In accepting this flaw, and accepting where it came from, compassion, self-love and a more lenient judge takes the helm. 

I try so hard to function at the fast speed others seem to function at so easily. Then fail, compounding issues of poor self-esteem. My tired body and mind can’t do it. This whirlwind called life has always moved too fast for me. 

There is no one else to provide proper care for myself but myself, as it is for each of us. We can lean on others, help others, but we are each responsible for handling the inner workings of ourselves. And for those like me with chronic, pervasive, and permanent Complex PTSD, it is a daily endeavor that often leads to despair.

What comes as second nature to others and is taken for granted, is elusive for those who have suffered traumas that extended over time. I have to work at it, sometimes every minute of every day, and even then without success. Hence the despair.  

Breathe deep. Keep breathing. The tight chest, is it medical or emotional? Later as the conscious deeper breathing continues, the tightness abates. Anxiety can harm all facets of the body, mind and spirit. And it can cause one to seek out more without being conscious of the urge, adding to the internal chaos.

Be quiet, be still. Bored? That’s not boring, that is called peace…
download (6)