At TransParents it is our wish to create an awareness of how much we live in a “paradigm of separation”. We refer to a way of living (together) which is characterized by the individual and collective developmental and shock traumata standing in our ways of relating in the here and now and being connected with life. A developmental trauma is the experience that interpersonal core needs like the need for connection, attunement, trust or others could not or not sufficiently be met by our early environment. We then learned so-called “survival strategies” to survive emotionally nonetheless, however often at high costs.
Whenever we come into contact with early traumatic experiences in a wide sense our life energy is strongly inhibited. It is difficult for us to create our lives from an inner freedom even if it appears on the outside as if we were moving forwards. Through a deeper understanding of the consequences of developmental trauma which have an effect beyond generations we want to make visible where we come from to embark on a path towards more compassion with ourselves.
It is the nature of children to go into contact with us and to offer us attachment. In this sense they can become signposts towards a future that guides us from separation into a culture of connectedness. At the same time they tremendously challenge us with their need for connection because oftentimes this activates our deepest fears in regards to intimacy and contact. In the company of a child we are inevitably confronted with our own undigested past. How much tension and flight movement appears within me just through the everyday contact with my child? How easily can I cope when the child is frustrated and calls me “stupid”? How did my environment react to my frustration or anger in the past? Did I experience deep understanding and comforting? How did I actually experience “education”? The culture we live in is strongly characterised by societal habits in dealing with children which often don’t come from a place of deep connectedness and warmth. Our social system and its organisations are characterised by it as well. School, for example but also our legal system to name just two. Through these habits and structures a culture of separation is being maintained and strengthened. This makes it difficult for us to respond to the challenges of life (with children) with curiosity and relatedness in the here and now. It may seem as if we act in the here and now with our children, in fact we react and look at the world through the filters of our past.
We may believe “my child always needs my attention or it will feel alone” or “my child is difficult”. In doing so we don’t see the child but our mental and emotional reaction to a situation that brings us into contact with our past. To be a mature adult means to look with curiosity, openness and benevolence at ourselves even when life challenges us. What is it that makes me uneasy if I don’t give my child constant attention? What makes my child seem “difficult” to me if it portraits certain behavior? In this way of self-relationship we are present, here and now and with us “at home”. We have enough inner space available to contain ourselves, our children, other people and life.
In recent psychotherapy and trauma research developmental trauma or the term “complex traumata” gain more and more importance. It becomes possible to understand more and more deeply how the described culture of separation could develop. Dr. Laurence Heller describes a very precise map of developmental trauma with respective survival styles based on not or not sufficiently met core needs.
He describes how difficult or impossible it is for people with the connection survival style to establish a physical or emotional contact or to be in relation at all. He shows how difficult or impossible it is for people with the attunement survival style to say what they need and why they constantly find themselves in a state of not getting enough. For people with the trust survival style he describes how difficult it is for them to trust and to get into any form of dependency. For people with the so-called autonomy survival style he shows how difficult or nearly impossible it is to bring into contact what they want and to show themselves in their authentic self expression.
If we as children cannot land with what we need, e.g. connection or comforting, we start to protest. This is how we show that something is not right for us. Children cannot cope with the resulting stress that arises if these central needs keep unfulfilled, especially if it happens in the first years of their life. When there is no reaction after the protest the child becomes more and more angry and begins to activate more and more energy. If this high level of stress doesn’t receive a response or the child is being shamed or punished, it threatens the child existentially; the enormous tension leads to collapse. Out of fear of losing our attachment relationship, we point the originally healthy protest energy or anger energy towards ourselves. We then believe “I am wrong” or “my needs are too much”. This is a very intelligent survival strategy in this situation. As children we cannot experience ourselves as good and right in a situation in which we truly feel “bad”. We always need to protect our attachment relationship because we are deeply dependent on it. Without attachment we cannot live. Attachment is one of the holiest laws of life.
Part of the energy that we direct towards ourselves is called toxic shame (NARM) and is very painful. There are many other survival strategies, e.g. constantly putting pressure on ourselves to fulfill the expectations of others or the need to please everyone. Survival strategies in general consist of a mixture of identifications, body states and images of ourselves and others. These images are linked with emotions such as sadness, anger and fear. Because toxic shame is so painful and pulls the rug under our feet these shame-based survival strategies and identifications are often covered with pride-based strategies, e.g. caring for everyone or being a very rational person. The pride-based strategies are even more painful because underneath them is always shame and self hatred.
Every inner healing movement within us, every development which allows us to enter our original river of life again has tremendous effects on our children, on the societal architecture and on life on our planet. To see children as problems and to pathologize them is an expression of how much we have forgotten the hierarchy of life and how much our responsibility has been lost. If we feel life more deeply and perceive ourselves as part of the planet and beyond we cannot create systems and rules that lead to so much suffering and separation as we do in so many areas of society. How do systems that serve the life process look like, e.g. in education or business?
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