Judith Herman.Trauma and Recovery: The aftermath of violence from domestic abuse to political terror.
New York: Basic/Penguin 1992/1997. 299 pages Refs 43 pp. $17.99
This is an outstanding book on trauma, primarily focused on womens and soldiers experiences. It details the horrors of severe trauma experienced in children and adults; victims of emotional and physical abuse, rape and other violence.
Judith Herman, MD, draws on over twenty years of experience in trauma therapy and research. She presents the stories of how people were traumatized and how they were able to come into healing in therapy.
Traumatic reactions occur when action is of no avail. When
neither resistance nor escape is possible, the human system of self-defense becomes overwhelmed and disorganized. Each component of the ordinary response to danger, having lost its utility, tends to persist in an altered and exaggerated state long after the actual danger is over. Traumatic events produce profound and lasting changes in physiological arousal, emotions, cognition, and memory. Moreover, traumatic events may sever these normally integrated functions from one another. The traumatized person may experience intense emotion but without clear memory of the event, or may remember everything in detail but without emotion. She may find herself in a constant state of vigilance and irritability without knowing why. Traumatic symptoms have a tendency to become disconnected form their source and to take on a life of their own. (p. 34)
Most helpful are Hermans discussion on:
- Analyses of categories of syndromes resulting from trauma, including hyper-arousal, intrusion and constriction;
- Awareness of the trauma, shame, guilt and abandonment experienced by people experiencing coercion in the course of the trauma;
- The blame that is leveled at the abused, ignoring the responsibility of the abusers;
- The need for recognition of the more intense trauma involved in prolonged and repeated abuse;
- Misdiagnoses of somatization disorder, bordeline personality disorder and multiple personality disorder that inadequately address the underlying trauma;
- Disempowerment and disconnection from others.
Therapy is based on empowerment of the traumatized person, who has come to feel through her experiences of being powerless to resist or adequately deal with her trauma that there is no hope her suffering will end, very limited and inadequate ways she can cope with her distress and suffering, and no expectation of help from outside.
The therapeutic relationship can be fraught on both sides. While the traumatized person desperately wants and needs help, she fears she will be taken advantage of and abused by the therapist who is in a position of power. Her prior experience of victimization and experiencing abuse of power over her will often expect and fear that the power of the therapist is being abused.
The therapist must deal with empathetic feelings for the suffering of the victim, anger at the perpetrator(s), and her own limitations to alleviate the suffering of the victim. Transference and countertransference issues arise and must be dealt with in therapeutic manners. A therapist may need support for herself when she feels overwhelmed, attacked, misunderstood and unappreciated.
The major steps Herman identifies in individual therapy include: guiding the client through the stages of safety, dealing with remembrance and mourning, and reconnection. Her methods are primarily those of relationship and insight therapy.
Group therapy adds many dimensions, including acknowledgment of a commonality with others who have suffered trauma, mutual support, and establishing a personal and collective sense of safety, and a container for debriefing about past and current traumas.
Herman shares a wealth of experience and wisdom about understanding and healing trauma in this book. This is highly relevant and will be enormously helpful to anyone suffering from trauma residues or helping to heal them.
Enormous strides have been made in treating trauma since the publication of this book in 1997. Today, eighteen years later, two approaches have proven enormously helpful in clearing trauma residues:
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) involves moving ones eyes back and forth (right and left) while focusing the mind on thoughts and feelings that are uncomfortable. This produces a very rapid release of negativity, after which one installs positive thoughts and feeling to replace whatever was released. It is strongly recommended that EMDR should be done only during sessions with the therapist. This is to prevent being overwhelmed by intense emotional releases that can occur during treatment (
). There is a solid database of research confirming the efficacy of EMDR, particularly in treating trauma (
). EMDR is recommended by the American Psychiatric Association as a treatment of choice for PTSD, considered an equally effective treatment as cognitive behavioral therapy.
) includes a group of therapies in which one taps or presses a finger at a series of acupuncture points on ones face, chest and hand, while focusing ones mind on thoughts and feelings that are uncomfortable. This is followed by reciting a strongly positive affirmation. Because EP works more rapidly than EMDR and does not evoke intense emotional releases, it can be used as self-healing and does not require the presence of a therapist. A growing collection of research confirms EP is effective in treating wide varieties of problems, including stress and trauma (
). The difficulty with EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) and related EP is that their tapping procedures are often so complicated that people suffering from trauma cant remember how to do them. People also are often uncomfortable using these in public because they elicit unwanted attention and questions.
Wholistic Hybrid derived from EMDR and EFT
) involves alternating right and left stimulation of any part of the body, while focusing the mind on troublesome thoughts and emotions, followed by a strongly positive affirmation. This is followed with similar tapping and affirmations to install positive thoughts and feelings after the negative ones have been released. WHEE is easy to use and by clinical reports is highly effective in releasing stress and trauma issues. WHEE can be done discretely, without anyone knowing it is being used.
It would be interesting to have Hermans inputs on the benefits of these newer methods.
Review by Daniel Benor, MD
Lisa B. Iversen. Ancestral Blueprints: Revealing Invisible Truths in Americas Soul.
Family Constellation West 2009. 122 pp. No index $19.95
Lisa B. Iversen, MSW, LCSW, a psychotherapist, shares very insightful observations from the perspective of family constellation therapy. This is a form of exploration of the collective consciousness of a family, usually initiated by a single member of the family who is seeking help with psychological and/or physical problems which they suspect might be related to issues in their family.
Let me set the stage further for the observations shared by Iversen. The therapist brings together a group of people who have no prior familiarity with each other, to help each other release interpersonal and intergenerational issues within their own families. The person who is being helped (the ‘focus person’) states the issues needing help and then invites other participants in the workshop to stage a representation of her or his family members, including the spouse/partner, their children, and the focus person’s parents. Previous partners, any children brought into the family through marriage, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and all significant others may also be included. Very few details are shared by focus people about their families when the constellation is set up.
To this point, this method resembles the ‘family sculpting approach in which the human sculpture speaks for itself through the placements of the participants and the apparent relationships expressed in the groupings.
In Family Constellation Therapy there is a much more extensive and detailed exploration and unfolding of intergenerational relationships. The constellation facilitator asks each of the family representatives how they feel in the starting positions that the focus person has designated. Intuitively, the participants cue into the collective consciousness to respond often with outstanding accuracy, as acknowledged by the focus person (and their spouse or partner if they are also present). The therapist then may invite participants to shift positions to where they are intuitively guided to more, or the facilitator may suggest various shifts in sculpted positions, asking for further feedback from the participants after each shift about how they feel.
The transformations that occur in the focus person are often remarkable. Long-festering traumas, repressed and forgotten memories of events and their associated feelings, and misfortunes that afflicted the family as a whole are uncovered. The information retrieved from prior generations may have been entirely outside the awareness of the focus person, verified only after the constellation group meeting by other family members or through family records.
In addition, there are often marked alterations in the relationships between the focus person and her or his family of origin. These shifts may occur without any conscious awareness of the family constellation intervention on the part of the family members who are exhibiting these changes.
It is difficult to propose an explanation other than the accessing of the collective consciousness for the information that is uncovered through the family constellation process. This, then, is the basis for Iversens discussion. She notes,
The ancestral maps that live inside our soul are a source of tremendous healing and resource. Exploration of the truth within these blueprints is a homecoming for the soul. (p. 9)
Iversen then expands her discussion to consider the collective consciousness of the U.S. She notes that we have become largely disconnected from our ancestral roots.
By default rather than design, psychotherapy has been asked to be one of our cultures replacements for ancestors, elders, shamans, medicine people for the grandparents, the interconnectedness of the generations for the web of connection lost when our ancestors emigrated from the home countries.
Psychotherapy can function like a replacement for the real breast milk family and tribal connection. With this realization, I found it increasingly difficult to work as a conventional psychotherapist. For all of its valuable contributions, I didnt know how to reconcile my intuition that said that the place of therapy is unconsciously situated in American Culture. (p. 12)
Iversen poignantly points out that our ancestral heritage is a resource that is perhaps more valuable than our natural resources for informing, energizing, guiding and healing our lives. A very important awareness that influences our collective lives in the US is the history of slaves brought to this continent and horribly mistreated. Just as the legacy of trauma in an individuals family may linger in the collective consciousness, so the national trauma of the injustices and brutality of slavery lingers in the national collective consciousness.
This gem of a book is a doorway into awareness of how each of us is may be influenced personally by the national collective consciousness. Excellent supports to the points Iverson makes are presented in brief vignettes from individuals in therapy that illustrate the thesis she weaves.
Readers involved in family constellation therapy may find much of value here relating to burdens they may be carrying from the broader collective consciousness. If your American ancestors have suffered persecutions because they were black or Native American, your family may be carrying traumas that influence who you are, how you feel and how your respond to the world you find yourself in. Your awareness of these trauma residues may give you windows of opportunity to clear issues that you are carrying personally, that prevent you from living your life to your fullest potential, and that offer you doorways to clear dross from your personal and collective consciousness so that you can life a better, healthier, happier life.
As with traumas lingering in individual families that surface to haunt individuals, so it is with traumas that afflict a nation. That which has not been redressed will surface in many ways to bring attention to buried hurt and abuse.
Nations, just like individuals and families, also have shadows. Recognizing the American national shadow is tremendously challenging to the American identity (p. 42)
I believe that it is possible for each of us to help to clear the collective trauma suffered by our families of origin and our nation. The most obvious contribution we can make is to clear our personal issues. As each of us is a pixel on the screen of our nation (and of our planetary family of humans, and of our participation in all global consciousness), when we clear our own issues, we are making the big screen a bit brighter. Those around us may be inspired by our example to clear their burdens of negativity. Thus, we can bring a small measure of healing to our national and global family.
Our contribution to clearing the collective trauma may be enhanced much further, with a minimum of effort on our part. Therapists practicing
(Therapeutic Touch, Healing Touch, Reiki, Prayer Healing and the like) and Energy Psychology (
) may send healing to people at a distance. This proxy healing is achieved simply by directing the healing intent to a person who is present, asking that this person represent another person who is at some distance away and unable to be present for the healing intervention. There have been many anecdotal reports of proxy healing effects in the distant, target person.
Considering the evidence of healing effects at a distance summarized above, there is a reasonable expectation that proxy healings can be successful when we direct them to the collective consciousness of a nation or to our planetary consciousness (including all conscious beings) as a whole.
My personal way of doing this is, at the end of any therapeutic, healing intervention, to invite anyone and everyone, anywhere and everywhere, anywhen and everywhen who is ready to clear along with us these issues that we are clearing, to come along with us and do so. I have written several articles on this approach (Benor, Web references)
I fully agree with Iversen when she states, We cannot delegate consciousness to politicians. The task is too large and complex. We are all responsible to the history we have inherited. (p. 46)
To which I would add: We cannot delegate the healing of our planet to others. Each of us can bring more healing into our world.
ACEP (Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology)
Benor, Daniel. Using WHEE to clear the collective PTSD of humanity
Spiritual Healing Research
Annotated bibliography of healing research to 2001
Bibliography of healing research
Review by Daniel Benor, MD
Wendy Anne McCarty.Welcoming Consciousness: Supporting Babies Wholeness From the Beginning of Life – An Integrated Model of Early Development
. Santa Barbara, CA: Wondrous Beginnings Publishing 2012 (Orig. 2004).
This is a wonder-full book! Wendy Ann McCarty, PhD, RN, has been doing pre- and peri-natal (PPN) therapy with babies, children and adults for over twenty-five years. It is becoming increasingly clear that there is a coherent consciousness in the womb, at the time of birth, and from the earliest days of infancy.
Babies recall their mothers emotions and thoughts, telepathic conversations they had with their mother, their own experiences in utero and throughout the birth process, and throughout their infancy. There are coherent and meaningful memories of these experiences antedating the development of speech, including trauma memories that can leave the same sorts of trauma residues as are experienced by verbal children and adults.
McCarty received training in PPN, experienced her own PPN therapy (with clear memories from pre-conception through infancy), practiced PPN and has participated in developing and chairing the first masters and doctoral degrees programs in PPN at the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute.
McCarty shares some of her personal PPN explorations.
I experienced forty to fifty sessions of my pre-conception through infancy experiences through a variety of methods and settings: primal regression, guided imagery, hypnosis, craniosacral session, meditation, sand tray work, movement and art therapy, and through spontaneous activations during training and sessions with my clients.
Underlying all of my experiences, I found I had a clear sense of myself. Often I was in the midst of a viscerally intense experience, yet I also had a witness self that was experiencing it from a much broader perspective. Depending on the type of orientation or method of work, sometimes I tended to have more somatic, visceral, and even cellular experiences, other times my awareness came from my expanded consciousness perspective. During my own work, I never experienced an interruption of my sense of self and I had an intense yearning for my parents and others to see ME and include ME. I experienced my sentient nature repeatedly. I understood from the inside out what so many others had reported in the PPN literature. (p. 15)
The PPN memories may also include validated observations that antedate conception, as well as the moment of conception itself when sperm and egg unite. These experiences may open even more profoundly transformative healing, not only for the infants and their families but for Western societys limited awareness of consciousness that transcends physical life.
McCarty very succinctly and clearly summarizes some of the views of Ken Wilber that help to explain these phenomena.
Wilber (and others) have suggested that our task is now to restore what was considered nearly the universal view prior to the modern era, that of the Great Chain of Being. This worldview holds that the physical level is but one level encompassed in a tapestry of progressive, interwoven levels reaching from body to mind to soul to spirit, with the spiritual levels as primary. Each level has its own unique mode of knowing and empirical methods. (p. 41)
Our biological human self is seen as an explicit expression of our more fundamental implicit spiritual self. (p. 62)
McCartys writing is clear and informative. Her clinical examples engagingly illustrate her explanations of PPN. This is a book that can profoundly transform your views of life and open doorways to deeply transformative therapy.
Review by Daniel Benor, MD
Jeffrey S. Bland. The Disease Delusion: Conquering the Causes of Chronic Illness for a Healthier, Longer, and Happier Life.
New York: Harper Wave 2014. 410 pp. $26.99 Appendices: Diet plan, Glossary of scientific terms, Resources, and Notes/ References. Good index
This is an excellent discussion of functional medicine, addressing the ways the various body systems interrelate in health and in chronic disease.
when we think about how our bodies work something we usually do when theyre not working very well we ought to be thinking about how the component parts of these systems relate to one another and to all the other systems.
Yet our current medical model the way health-care
professionals are trained and the strategy of therapy they apply is not based on such systems thinking. Precisely because it derives from the germ theory, it is based on reductionist thinking: find the bug and nuke it with a drug developed for just that purpose. Period. As brilliantly as the model works in providing acute care, it clearly does nothing to restore or maintain balance among functional systems or the networks that connect them. (p. 4-5)
Jeffrey Bland explains that conventional doctors have subdivided peoples chronic diseases into single organ system problems, according to the physicians sub-specialty. The cardiologist, who knows much of what there is to know about heart disease, treats blood pressure and cardiac problems; the urologist treats problems of the kidneys and bladder; the gynecologist treats problems of the uterus and ovaries; and so-on. This allows each specialist to gain enormous expertise in their areas of specialization. Too often, however, the problems you have may involve more than one organ system. Sadly, the communications between specialists are often minimal, which can put you into a morass of mismatched medications and other treatment plans.
Bland has excellent discussions on understanding and treating the body as a multi-function system, including:
- Assimilation and elimination
- Cellular communications
- Cellular transport
- Energy production and utilization
When we focus on these functional systems, we can better address various organs that may be involved in a disease process. This is important in chronic illness, which frequently involves multiple systems. Bland has excellent discussions on how assessments and treatments of chronic diseases can be organized under these categories.
Bland is a biochemist, not a physician or therapist. To his credit, he briefly mentions lifestyle factors:
your patterns of sleep and habits of relaxation, your routines of exercise or movement or sports activity, your typical nutrition and hydration, any points of stress and your resilience from same, and the personal relationship and networks of friends and acquaintances on whom you rely or with whom you routinely interact. (p. 93)
There is much more that can be said for including assessments and treatments of issues involving emotions, mind, relationships and spirit that are almost always associated with chronic diseases. With that caveat in mind, I still highly recommend this book for its detailed discussions of a systems approach to healthcare for chronic diseases.
Review by Daniel Benor, MD