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Through the Fog: Understanding Trauma

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May 26, 2011
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Katie Novick

Boston in FogI recently had the privilege of attending the 22nd Annual International Trauma Conference, at the Seaport World Trade Center, in Boston, MA.

After the conference on Saturday, I was sitting down by the Fort Point Channel, thinking about everything I had learned over the last three days. There was a heavy, moist, fog that had settled over the city. It left massive buildings truncated-their top halves completely obscured. As I looked out on this scene, I realized that the clock tower-usually a landmark seen from many points in the city-had disappeared. I was struck by the power of this fog to alter my perception of reality.

As human beings we are amazingly resilient. When faced with potentially traumatic or upsetting experiences our minds and our bodies go into action to protect ourselves from the environment. Our defenses roll in, like the fog, to protect us.

In this process, sometimes things become hidden. Like the clock tower, time becomes obscured. The past often finds its way into the present, while our fears for the future have a way of visiting us prematurely. And some of those things that make us most special, most unique, must also be hidden away because we don’t trust our environment or ourselves to keep them safe.

As therapists and as clients, it can be important to understand, and value, the protective purpose this fog has served rather than to simply hope for sun. Similarly, we must remember that underneath that protective surface, lies a whole and precious self.

In the coming months, I will interview therapists who are doing innovative work in the field of trauma and share with you what I learn.

My first piece will be from my interview with Dr. Richard Schwartz, who is the creator of the Internal Family Systems Model of therapy. He speaks eloquently about the protective powers of our different parts, and the whole and unscathed selves that we each possess.

Author post by Brookline Massachusetts Therapist Katie Novick, LICSW

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