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"Notes" #42

Real Voice

We know that early childhood memories and how one is treated can leave a mark on a person even as an adult. Hundreds of books have been written on this topic and a multitude of therapies have their roots in this phenomena/experience. The kind of youthful experiences we have does impact many of our adult decisions and behaviours. However, it never fails to excite me when I am confronted with a client who suddenly comes to understand that they are coping in adult life with behaviours they learned as a child. There is now the possibility for change.

Just last week I met a young man who couldn't speak in front of his clients or colleagues without a script, without a carefully prepared and nearly perfect document. He didn't like that and felt his presentations were cold and flat, without any passion or real conviction, and felt they weren't entirely well received. He would totally over-prepare, worrying the whole time that he would screw it up and look foolish (I suggest that it may have something to do with early feelings of rejection, and he didn't disagree). He felt he had a lot of good things to say and just wanted to say them without all the laboriously perfect script preparation. (Phew, that's a mouthful)

I suggested that perhaps the reason why his presentations received such a lukewarm response was because with his need for perfection (due to fear of being rejected or criticized), his over preparation, his need to get it just right--that he ended up speaking only to his audience's head (the logical side). So, if he didn't tie himself up with having to be perfect and the need to stick to script, cue cards and meticulously prepared presentations (doesn't mean you can't have bullet points or overhead presentations to speak from)-- he just might speak with more passion and from the heart and people like people when they "speak from the heart", even if they don't do it perfectly. That heart thing seemed to really resonate with the gentleman. I think it's called, finding your "real voice".

Now we needed to talk about those early fears.


The essence of good therapy is to descend with people into their hell and at the same time keep one foot in the land of hope and possibility. Bill O'Hanlon


Reader response to "Notes" #39 (Homeless)

Hi Dan, I just want to throw my 2 cents in.  When a dog is lost or missing we search, we put up signs, dog rescues spring into action because us animal lovers pity the poor dog that is out in the freezing cold in a Winnipeg winter.  Money is raised, dog rescues have auctions, and Vets lower their costs.  If people are out in the cold in a Winnipeg winter, everything changes. Who's responsible, who's going to pay, who's going to clean up after them if we put them inside an empty community centre, who, who, who!!! It's disgraceful!

Reader response to "Notes" #40 (Freud)

Dan, Freud was wrong about a lot of things, but not everything. When my
son was 3 he asked me if I could marry him and divorce his dad. That is a classic Oedipal complex. One has to understand how it works. It is not an easy concept and isn't to be taken literally. I find books like The Making of An Illusion are written by people who are just sensationalist.

I completed the 4 year training program in psychoanalysis in Toronto. We spent a whole year on the 24 volumes of Freud's works. Some things have been shown to be wrong, including his view on incest. But what I liked about Freud was that when he was wrong, he said so and revised his theories.
I have found Freud foundational to my work. In fact, there would be NO PSYCHOLOGY as we know it without his theories. Also, his work on neurology which he didn't promote, was later found to be the basis of modern knowledge of neuroscience. What he called the "Project" has been shown to match modern thinking.
I know that he did some kooky things like experimenting with cocaine, but I don't know very many people who have actually READ Freud. And taking symbolic thinking literally is not intellectual.
The same vengeance goes out to Jung, by many, who want to discredit him.
These books are written by anti-intellectuals in my opinion. You can say anything you want, but both Freud and Jung were the great geniuses and pioneers in our profession. There have been no thinkers who have added as much theory to the field. If some of it is wrong, they were still the Fathers of modern psychology.

I am so taken to task-thank you for your knowledgeable insight and your time to defend this icon in the field of psychology.

Reader responses to "Notes" #41

I never could understand how 45 got elected in the first place. And after the book written by so many psychologists and psychiatrists warning everyone about Trump's pathology, I could never understand why people didn't see how dangerous and mentally unstable this man is. God help us. Even though we live here, we are not immune from the kind of thinking that keeps this man going.           
History is repeating itself; only the main names are changing. Hitler is still leading in the minds of tyrants and the countries they run.  Yes we are happy to be Canadians with all our faults and compassion for others.  All of us see our leaders in different light and we may not agree with them, we do look at options in their actions.  

I forgot the words

Retread is a previously shared article--sometime over the last 12 years--which I feel is worth repeating. I put it at the end so it can be ignored if you have read it.

Past Trauma Can Interfere With The Present

Last week I was in a counselling session that was very familiar, we had been here several times before (trauma). I wasn't quite sure the direction we needed to take and wasn't getting much help from the client as to where he needed to go to make the problem go away. I guess we were stuck!

That evening I read an article by Robert Scaer, M.D. on trauma. It got me thinking about the part that previous life traumas play on our thoughts, feelings and behaviours in the present. I know that our brain thinks it's protecting us from those past traumas and unresolved threats by remembering that trauma and slipping into old survival behaviours.

So what makes a trauma so traumatizing? Well it is not the life-threatening event itself but rather the degree of helplessness that one feels at that moment when the trauma is occurring. We can avoid being traumatized if we somehow maintain a sense of control of the situation by fighting back or escaping the situation. When we are able to defend ourselves, our brain doesn't find it necessary to store this event so as to protect us in the future. However, many times we are not able to defend ourselves and these traumatic events get locked in our body and mind only to resurface in a stressful moment in the future.

To heal, an individual must recover from the state of helplessness that defines the traumatic experience. During a traumatic event, a person experiences physical helplessness and effectively freezes into that state, leading to all manner of pain and illness (clenched teeth, acid reflux, chronic pain in neck and back, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and a variety of autoimmune diseases). To recover one needs to thaw out the body. One needs to access the felt sense of the trauma and allow the failed motor defence (response to the original trauma) to emerge in the form of a "freeze discharge" wherein the individual moves out of immobility into an effective fight or flight response. The traumatized person needs to relive the original trauma with a different outcome.     Scaer

In the work of trauma recovery, "full recovery" is a rarity. It is very difficult to totally extinguish the original trauma. However, the key to any success in this area is to relive and let go of the original traumatic event. Exercise, yoga, meditation, laughter and positive people can help.