“Symbolism…It’s Not Just for the Jung Anymore!”

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Ok, that play on words was pretty cringe worthy. But the lame humor doesn’t make it any less true. The use of symbols and symbolic interpretation has been part and parcel with healing since man has started striving towards emotional understanding and wellness. Both ancient and modern tribal societies recognize the value in the use of symbols to strengthen perceptions and give guidance in the area of our psyche. Shamans are adept at symbolic acts as a source of healing. The works of Freud and Jung are benchmarked by the inclusion of symbols and symbolic interpretation and, therefor, a necessity of psychoanalysis.

The treatment of emotional trauma has never been so prolific and promising as it is today. Medications, DBT, brain entrainment and neuro-linguistic programming, the trauma narrative… I’m sure you’ve got the picture. But what about the use of symbolism in the practice of healing trauma? In my humble opinion, it belongs right there with the rest.

Trauma might be defined as “present maladaptive perceptions and responses based on a past event.” Simply put, you are fearful today because of what happened “ago”.   And despite the term “traumatic event”, there is no such thing. Events are neutral. It is our perceptions and reactions to them that assign a value (good or bad). Much of the emotional pain that comes from trauma is in the form of flashbacks. These are more than memories. Instead, it is the feeling that the past event is going to occur or is occurring at this very moment…even when it isn’t. A woman is attacked in a parking garage on March 12th in Scranton. She enters a parking garage six months later in Orlando and finds herself experiencing the same terror, helplessness and shame as she did on that day in March. Why? No one is hurting her…she is safe. This is because the event in March was extreme enough and her psychological resiliency compromised enough that she developed a trauma response. Her mind is telling her that for her to stay “safe”, she much view all parking garages as an immediate threat. And all men. She is superimposing the emotions and the memory of her physiological responses during the actual event onto the present. She does this out of self-protection so that she will be able to prevent this from ever happening again. And she is doing this on an unconscious level. The parking garage-and men-have become symbolic of pain, fear, and danger.

This brief explanation of the role symbolism has in the development of the trauma response now leads to examining the use and value of symbolism and symbolic acts in the treatment and healing of those souls dealing with trauma.

“Symbolism…It’s Not Just for the Jung anymore!” Part 2-Coming soon.

Namaste!

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“Out in the Country!”

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It’s not just the title of a great song by “Three Dog Night” but a significant contemplation for those seeking to practice in smaller, more tight-knit communities. While pain is pain-and modalities, ethics, and empathy remain the same-there may be some noticeable differences to healing practice out where there are fewer cars on the road but more paths through the woods.

  1. Expect to see the people you work with in the places you never thought you would. Whether it is the local store, watering hole, fish fry or fishing hole, never say never. In smaller towns, there are often fewer places to go and this often equates to more people at any given spot. Be aware of this but don’t let it change who you are.
  2. See Number 1. Because of this, the feeling of confidentiality and privacy may be more important than ever. Folks who live in rural communities are very aware that most people know everyone and that includes what is going on in their lives. Larger, more populated areas may not be as close or personal but this has the benefit of an enhanced feeling of privacy. Remind your clients that what is said (within your code of ethics) remains between you and themselves and reassure them that just because they see you talking to the shared bartender in town doesn’t mean that wall of privacy and safety will be breached.
  3. And if you happen to be at a place where you find yourself in the company of your client…this is pretty easy. All ethical and other considerations remain the same should this occur in New York City or Mayberry.
  4. Rural areas may have unique circumstances to their issues. Higher or lower poverty levels, family issues, social expectations, and an acceptance of mental health treatment and psychotherapy will differ from community to community. Going in open minded will never guide you wrong.
  5. There are things that will always be a constant in a community, large or small. Pain, fear, sorrow, anger-hope, empathy, compassion, peace…emotions speak the same internal language in all of us and it is a language that can be spoken to one another with complete fluency.
  6. Finally, be prepared for an ultimately rewarding experience…as long as you make it so.

Namaste!

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