What is it about illness that seems to make it strike at highly inconvenient times? Is this phenomenon somehow related to how tornadoes always seem to attack trailer parks?
It’s been an over-busy, highly educational week for me. Tuesday, I attended a training on treating returning combat veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The presenter, Edward Tick, runs an organization called “Soldiers Heart” dedicated to helping soldiers emotionally integrate their war time experiences. He is the first trainer I have seen cry while presenting. It was a powerful day. I took the class because I am considering volunteering for the North West Soldiers Project, a collective of therapists who provide free PTSD treatment to veterans and their family members.
Friday I attended a course taught by David Wallen on attachment, a key concept in the field of psychotherapy which boils down to: the quality, consistency and comfort of the connection a baby has with his mother or primary care giver shapes the child’s self-worth and formation of attachments later in life. Mammals are hard-wired to seek safety and nurturing from parents (as opposed to fish who frequently eat one another as a contrasting example). If our parent is inconsistent, scary, or unavailable, it creates a double bind: the baby has an instinctive need to approach their caregiver for comfort, and an experiential knowledge that this doesn’t work. Wallen spoke extensively about the practice of Mindfulness (being fully present in the moment without expectation of outcome) as a method of healing emotional damage from poor primary attachment experiences, for both the therapist as well as the client.
Mindfulness is showing up everywhere these days, from Eckhart Tolle’s best-selling (and Oprah Winfrey covered) book, A New Earth, to Starbucks marketing aimed at getting us to associate coffee-drinking with moments of inner peace, to mainstream therapy trainings on emotional healing. For once there’s a fad I am fully on-board with (commercial co-opting attempts not withstanding).
Friday evening I gave a presentation on EMDR at the Puget Sound Adlerian Society, which was very kindly received. Adlerians are good-hearted folks who follow the teachings of Alfred Adler, a contemporary of Freud. Unlike Freud who developed extensive theories of neurosis, hysteria and complex hidden drives, Adler choose to see the good and the possibility in people, to see human behavior as rational and goal-oriented. As such he is considered the original humanist in the field of psychology.
These various engagements happened while my children were fighting off a stomach bug, so between seeing clients, attending trainings and presenting I was snuggling sick children, calling doctors, timing and dispensing fluids, washing mountains of laundry, and dashing around disinfecting door knobs and light switches to keep the infection from spreading. Naturally it didn’t work (viruses are so smart and wily!) so by Friday morning I was fighting the infection myself and trying to move very slowly. Now it is Saturday afternoon and we are all four back in the swing of feeling restored, if tired. I once again resolve to slow down, seek balance, and be less busy. In this way, I make room for more mindfulness. This is the biggest lesson I take from this week of trainings, and like so many lessons it’s something I already knew, but needed to be reminded of. Thanks stomach bug!