While it may seem shocking initially to realise that the person I thought I was is mostly a construction of a survival self, it can also be a moment of exhilaration, because there is also the realisation that perhaps I really am a person who is okay.Source: ‘The Heart of things’, Understanding Trauma, working with constellations. Vivian Broughton 2013
What if you found out that …
What if you discover that ….. as a boy you prefer to play with dolls than with cars, actually find boys much more exciting and attractive than girls. That you are used to saying yes most of the time, while sometimes you prefer to say no. That you remain nice, friendly and polite, when you are actually angry or sad. That people have an image of you that is not at all consistent with how you feel. That the pace of the world in which you move is much faster than what you can keep up with. That what you felt safe and secure with is suddenly not as safe and familiar as you thought. What happens to you then?
I assume you identify with these ‘discoveries’ that we all make in our lives. You may have found it very confusing like me and you may have become so confused about it that you no longer knew who you were or what you wanted. It depends on how strongly you bonded with who you thought you were and thought what you wanted.
Taking over something that is not yours
When I look back on the ‘discoveries’ that I have made, there are many feelings, thoughts and behaviors that I had subconsciously adopted from the other. That process of unconsciously taking over something that is not really your own starts very early in the development of the personality. It also usually has good reason that this process of subconsciously taking over happens. Particularly in the early development of the personality, you do not yet have sufficient options to protect yourself from experiences where you feel unwanted, unloved and unprotected. As an adult you do, but not as a child and you can only ‘survive’ by developing survival strategies that ensure that you do not have to feel your own pain, discomfort and shortages, so that you can develop further and grow into the maturity. Because life just goes on!
The problem is that these subconscious survival strategies become entrenched in the adult personality as patterns, attitudes, roles, and behaviors that must still avoid being touched in what we once had to protect ourselves from. The big difference is that now that we are adults, it no longer only protects us, but also prevents us from being who we really are and what we really want. I know from experience that you cannot just throw these subconscious survival strategies out the door or shake them off. It is a laborious and long process of facing yourself over and over again and taking yourself seriously in your own experiences.
Who am I
One of the ‘discoveries’ that I recently made myself was the confusion I experienced when I asked myself the question: Who am I without my practice, without my clients, without my role as a psychosynthesis therapist. The confusion arose because I realized how I have identified in recent years with my role as a therapist and with the importance of rejoining and belonging after a long period of incapacity for work. There is nothing wrong with the role of therapist and wanting to belong and participate in something. It is mainly about how you can become identified with something to which you have unconsciously given a certain meaning and content, where you can ask yourself whether it really is who you think you are and is what you really want.
The call to face yourself
I have experienced this process, this discovery, when I was more or less forced to let go of my role as a male nurse and later as a social worker due to illness and disability. I wondered: Who am I if I can no longer be a male nurse and who am I if I can no longer be a social worker? Who am I without these identifications? Of course I knew I was more than my job and my roles and yet I felt confused and displaced. Many people who lose their jobs due to unemployment and / or illness and disability will recognize this confusion. Much less will recognize that a job, a position or a role can also be or have been a survival strategy where the confusion can be a call to face yourself and meet yourself in who you really are and what you really want .
If you are happy then I am too
In my situation I found out how in my positions as a male nurse, social worker and also as a therapist I actually came across old strategies that I needed in the past to survive. By taking care of someone else in these roles, I was able to continue my old patterns that I had become so familiar with as a child. As a child I was focused on my mother’s needs. Unconsciously I was drawn into her unresolved trauma. I found that by caring for someone else, I could get what I needed. If my mother was happy, then I was happy too. When my mother was sad, then I was sad too and felt an unconscious responsibility for her sadness. Later, this sensitivity to the grief and needs of someone else would unconsciously ‘steer’ me in my contact with patients and clients in my work. Not only did I become the ‘savior’ of my mother as a child, but later also ‘savior’ of the patients and clients. And now be honest ….. who doesn’t want to be saved!
The Psychotrauma Theory and Therapy of Franz Ruppert IoPT
Of course a lot has become clear in the training and in therapy in recent years and I have become much more aware of these unconscious dynamics. The dynamics of, for example, transfer and counter-transfer in the relationship between client and therapist. Yet it is in particular the Psychotrauma theory and therapy of Franz Ruppert that have made me much more aware in the last two years of the inner splitting of our personality and the persistence of survival strategies in particular that prevent you from actually facing your own trauma.
As a therapist or counselor, you must also dare to face yourself
There are not many therapies where the focus is mainly on personal psychotrauma or primal wounding and its effects on our lives. Not every therapist is willing or able to face their own trauma or the client’s trauma. This can also be just as confronting for the therapist as it is for the client. Especially if the therapist has not done his or her own process work. And then it is safer not to talk about both. For example, I have ‘tricked’ many therapists in my life. So as not to have to take it on and see what is really going on. I would like to emphasize here that it has sometimes been wise. Sometimes at that moment it is not yet the time or not yet safe enough. As a therapist and counselor in my own practice, I have become quite active in recent times and I notice how decisive identifications and attributions can be for yourself and the people you work with.
Working with psycho-trauma is working with power and the loss of power
Working with trauma means working with power. Many clients have been injured in their experiences of power and loss of autonomy. This means that as a counselor or therapist you have to be extra alert to how you are present with the other person. Can the other person be who he or she is? Is he or she allowed to live her or his own answers and thereby take his or her own responsibility? Do you leave the autonomy with the client or does it lie with you?
Do you dare to face yourself and encounter yourself? To meet yourself in what you might prefer not to face, because it is too painful or to confrontational at the moment? It’s right … it takes courage and guts to enter into that process of encounter yourself. In the previous blog I wrote: “You can’t go in with impunity “. Still, I grant it to you. It’s worth it to face yourself and ask yourself “Who am I and what do I want!”
A constellation of your intention
I cordially invite you to encounter yourself in a safe and reliable place (online in your own home or in my office on the Lijnbaansgracht in Amsterdam) and to do an individual constellation. A constellation of your own intention. This constellation is a method based on Franz Ruppert’s Psychotrauma theory. You can read more about this constellation method here. You can immediately schedule an appointment in the online agenda of the practice.
We are each responsible for ourselves, and to work to integrate our splits and resolve our own trauma is an extremely personal and self-responsible venture. While it may seem shocking initially to realise that the person I thought I was is mostly a construction of a survival self, it can also be a moment of exhilaration, because there is also the realisation that perhaps I really am a person who is okay, well adjusted, worth loving and caring for, able to be in loving relationships, worthy of respect, value and dignity, and capable of fulfilling my best talents and potential. For others to see me so, however, I must first see it myself, not as a managed and imposed strategy of ‘positive thinking’, but as an embodied and undeniable reality, something I just know with the whole of myself as being true.Source: ‘The Heart of things’, Understanding Trauma, working with constellations. Vivian Broughton 2013