TRAUMA AND HUMANS AND HORSES - PART III
Let me present a picture: we are in a time, where people who disclose the most about themselves - from their meal to their personal journeys, either directly or through metaphor, get a lot of attention on social media. It is, when taking an outside perspective, quite interesting to see: the more personal we write, the more attention we get - the more likes, the more comments, the more shares. There is a tv series - the dark mirror - that took that up in one of their shows - a society aiming and existing through outside feedback, albeit only positive one.
Of course we need feedback! As human beings we, from birth, are primed to define ourselves through our outside. We are born helpless. We need to attach!!! We need the other's, the caretaker's feedback in our attempt to define ourselves. Only through connection to another can we understand ourselves. Psychoanalysis has come up with a lot of theories on so-called "developmental" stages a person will go through until that person reaches full autonomy - a state where outside feedback and outside interaction is optional and no longer a necessity.
As human beings, we are defined by interactions and inter-relations - connections. We are a social species.
However - in this interactive process, we are defined and ruled by what we learned in our early years - how our original environment responded and reacted to us. There are a lot of parents who react instead of respond to their children!, and by doing this, will implement and transfer their belief systems into the child. The child has no chance other than to adapt and learn those rules, structures, beliefs - most often at the expense of being able to really learn about his or her own beliefs, likes, dislikes and wishes. When this person grows up, he/she feels most comfortable with those who act and respond according to this same pattern. You can maybe relate when you look at who you are comfortable with and who you are not comfortable with: we pick the ones who are like us - and then we can REALLY connect. We speak the same language.
In Equine Assisted Interactive Programs, we work with horses because the horses do NOT respond like humans - thus offering clients a different perspective and a different experience.
But we as human treatment team members still react the same way we were raised - in an attempt to connect! Traumatherapy initially consists of "relating" to the other - establishing and forming a connection with the other. Most often, as "helpers", we have learned theories, tools and techniques.
Let me turn it around again and give you examples:
The more severe the trauma, the earlier the onset, the less developed the internal structure of a person. Internal structure meaning the sense of self, the sense of autonomy, the sense of insight (no matter how intelligent the person is!), the sense of agency, and much more. As the repeated trauma more than likely happened on the relational level, the distrust in new people is high - and there are a number of rules this person learned. Let me blunt: one may, in an attempt to connect, want to have sex with you. One may feel the need to adapt in order to connect and please you and feel "not allowed" to have their own wishes.... There are a million different rules and beliefs and thought and emotional patterns that we all function by. With less severe trauma, the rule may be "I am only accepted when I deny my own wishes and care for you" - the list goes on and on. All of these internal beliefs and structures lead to certain social patterns that are most often not as visible and clear to the other - and a "social dance" occurs, with action - re-action - action - response - response - response - all according to a set pattern. It is what is familiar. To paint yet another picture - a person who is convinced of not being good enough may seek a partner who is narcissistic. At the beginning they may complement each other - until it turns. In therapy, it may be comfortable to speak about common topics - accept good wishes - offer some comfort and understanding - speak from the heart - and underneath it all, it may have the opposite effect. Because in ANY interaction, we are motivated by our own "old" patterns, unresolves conflicts, and we ALL work according to how we were raised and treated. If we look at facebook, we have friends, close friends whom we have never met but simply jive with - we share our personal lives, we connect and relate on important issues, we disclose personal details about physical and mental illness - with the world! - we identify and glorify and empathize and feel comfort and comfort ...... until we share opinions that simply are so off the wall that this person shall never be in my life again and ... unfriend them.
Overall, it is all very, very emotional.
Yes, I know, I am being a bit over the top here, and Yes, I did use such an "Attention Seeking" first sentence in this note here - I will see if this notes still gets read and shared despite again being controversial and blunt.
Relating to the other - without knowing who you are, which ultimately means that there are no boundaries!! - no matter what the tool, technique or experience is, will more than likely have a feel good effect - but can not be considered psychotherapy - and when done in psychotherapy, particularly when it comes to trauma, can lead to further damage and re-traumatization. I can not count the number of people who "successfully" underwent many forms of treatment - where the treating provider left an "end of treatment report" showing "full success", where the person was re-traumatized on an interpersonal level that did not show until a few months after the treatment was stopped.
"Abstinence is the truest form of connection."
What does abstinence imply? Abstinence foremost implies knowing oneself - knowing where what feeling comes from, what it is about, what motivates one in a certain situation - how one reacts, responds, acts, feels --- in relation with another being.
I will repeat this: Abstinence means: knowing how one acts, reacts, responds and feels in relation with another being! And I will add: Abstinence makes it possible to "hold the space" for another being to experience, feel and BE the way THEY are, not how we see, wish to see or want them to be.
Abstinence includes relying on oneself in an autonomous sense in that no other is needed to "cure" or "heal" that feeling. I could throw out technical terms but again will refrain, as I aim for this text to be understandable instead of wanting to "impress" any colleagues and academics. Abstinence means that we know what is "ours" and what is a "reaction" to an-other.
Does abstinence make connection impossible? No, the opposite. By being abstinent and being aware of one's self - one's boundaries - the other person's needs can be (partially) met, to form a connection - without needing something in return. In psychoanalysis, establishing the "working relationship" is at the beginning of each and every treatment. In Traumatherapy, "relating" to the other is of the utmost importance to form an environment that is predictable and stable.
Let me go back to this morning's EMDR session.
The person who went back to the past (I did ask permission to share this viewpoint beforehand!, otherwise it would be unethical to even mention any detail) had experienced a severe accident with severe physical injuries - and almost died in the process. Going back to that time, the person re-experienced the physical sensations - the flooding, the pain. I facilitated this process, "pushed" the person on as the person was dissociating, wanting to stop - "pushed" in the sense that I encouraged the person to continue on. By now, after 30 years of working as a traumatherapist, I sometimes can physically feel the same as clients do. I am so aware of their perception - in a way I "slip into their perception" as I "put my own" away, that it almost felt like I was the one in that accident. But I am saying "almost", because throughout it all I am aware of what is mine and what is not mine, I am aware of my "self" and my "boundaries" that are the make-up of my "self", even though I can relate and at times even feel what the other one experiences - and I can "not react" to it - but instead respond/intervene in a deliberate clinical intervention style.
That sounds cold again! What does this mean?
Deliberate intervention may imply empathy - may imply not confronting - may imply supporting - may imply staying quiet - may imply providing structure - there are a number of things we all do in a social setting, without being aware of what we are doing, when we are following our heart - BUT: deliberate intervention means responding in a manner that can be explained in the framework of the treatment goal, thus makes sense longterm, is not driven by one'sown needs, and is there to assist the person at that time up to 90%.
Up to 90%?
If the person's needs were met 100%, there would be no room left for change. If the person's needs were not met at all, there would be no connection.
Partially meeting the need makes room for change while abates the need.
Partially meeting a person's underlying need is not possible to be taught in any classroom. There is no lecture, no book, no nothing that will replace "learning to know yourself" and then "seeing" the other - as the other sees himself, through his (her) eyes - without loosing yourself in it and while providing the stable ground consisting of knowing who you are (rooted in the here and now).
How do horses enter this? And why is this "Part III" in the "Trauma and Humans and Horses" blog?
Horses - if they are in an environment conducive to recognizing them as horses - do not respond to humans the way humans do. That is why most programs work with horses - that is how it is advertised. BUT - horses, in Equine Assisted Interactive programs - have the Equine Behavioral Specialist there. If the EBS does not know himself, he/she will be more likely to put labels, descriptions and human concepts on the horse - and will relay this to his environment. I will simply refer to my other two notes that I have written this past week instead of repeating myself here... EBS's typically do not go through self-awareness classes. Should they? Does an EBS need to be specialized the way a therapist is? Should an EBS practice and/or teach self-awareness?
Here I am referring to my cube-approach again - the quadrant team approach (please refer to other notes or my soon to be published book "The Invisibles - psychodynamic Equine Assisted Traumatherapy for Domestic Abuse).
No. There are four members in the team: the client - who will always know him/herself better than anybody on the treatment team. The horse(s) - who will always be non-human, unless they were "humanized" to the point where they have forgotten how to be horse. The EBS - who can refrain from labeling the horse(s) and observe their language, and put this observation in simply questions and refrain from being a "therapist". And the Therapist - who can observe human behavior and remain abstinent. If the team works - there are four team members working on one person's question. If there is an imbalance - inequality - unevenness in the team - maybe by one wanting to be like the other, or one imitating the other but not staying in his/her area, not maintaining boundaries and reacting to old, learned patterns - the cube becomes a disarrayed triangle and everything is off balance.
So I repeat, for a third time: Abstinence is the truest form of connection - and makes "holding the space" for an-other possible.
And on a side note: this morning's session went well - and despite the intense feelings of near death at that particular moment, the entire event was processed well and, at the end of the session, the person no longer voiced distress when looking at the original picture. I will know more about how lasting today's session was next week.
copyright Ilka Parent/Minds-n-Motion
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