As therapists, we often encounter clients who are so mired in self-hatred that our best efforts to support a sense of self-worth only seem to dig the hole of judgment and self-loathing deeper. In these cases, an intense battle is often going on deep within.
I once had a client, Marcia, who thought she was on track to arrive at the happily-ever-after life she had always imagined. But without warning, after the birth of her youngest daughter, she suddenly became someone she didn’t know anymore. She would fluctuate between feeling rage toward her children to experiencing debilitating depression.
Marcia was horrified by the person she’d become. She couldn’t have predicted that giving birth to a youngest girl, the role she occupied in her own family, would trigger these deeply unsettling attachment-related internal conflicts. Worried she was becoming “as crazy as the family who raised her,” she was even willing to leave her husband and children to keep them from being hurt. These feelings continued to build and then the unthinkable happened …
One Sunday afternoon, while her husband was watching a football game, Marcia lifted up their television set and hurled it across the room … while her children screamed in fear.
“That’s unforgivable. That’s not me,” she said. “I’d never do something like that!”
She was desperate for help. At her next session, we explored this incident together … and in the process, uncovered her deep wounds from years of being abused as a child.
Once I began to form a clearer picture of the turmoil Marcia was experiencing, we were able to explore how unresolved internal attachment issues can surface as otherwise normal life stressors that evoke the fears and feelings of our disowned, abandoned inner parts. Then, using my revolutionary trauma treatment approach, I showed her how to overcome her attachment trauma through compassion and understanding. I began to guide her in “befriending” the parts she’d unconsciously disowned from her childhood.
But how do we actually “befriend” parts of ourselves? The answer is: the same way we befriend anyone else. We show interest and curiosity. I invited Marcia to learn what made her parts tick as if they were people she was getting to know for the first time.
It wasn’t easy at first for Marcia to accept that her moods and behavioral swings may be coming from different parts of her. But now aided by her willingness to do anything to avoid repeating that Sunday afternoon scene, she found herself able to start really noticing the individual feelings that were coming up inside of her. And it became easier to manage the intensity of those feelings when she was able to attribute them to parts she referred to as “she” rather than “I.”
As Marcia started carrying her parts with her, nurturing them, and making sure her inner child no longer felt scared and alone, the shift in her persona came about almost immediately. Within a week, the depression, resignation, and bitterness were gone … making room for the caring mother and wife she always wanted to be.
Marcia’s story tells us much about what can happen when we welcome parts we’ve disowned, dissociated, or designated as enemies. As well as showing the power of my integrative trauma treatment approach to offer deep healing outcomes without all the pain of traditional approaches.
And now I’ve partnered with Psychotherapy Networker to create this groundbreaking online course, Janina Fisher’s Integrative Trauma Treatment Masterclass, to give all clinicians the opportunity to experience my approach in action.
If you’re interested in discovering if my approach could help your trauma patients thrive, all you need to do is click here to learn more.
Janina Fisher, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and former instructor at The Trauma Center, a research and treatment center founded by Bessel van der Kolk. Known as an expert on the treatment of trauma, Dr. Fisher has also been treating individuals, couples and families since 1980.
She is past president of the New England Society for the Treatment of Trauma and Dissociation, an EMDR International Association Credit Provider, Assistant Educational Director of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute, and a former Instructor, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Fisher lectures and teaches nationally and internationally on topics related to the integration of the neurobiological research and newer trauma treatment paradigms into traditional therapeutic modalities.
She is author of the bestselling Transforming the Living Legacy of Trauma: A Workbook for Survivors and Therapists (2021), Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors: Overcoming Internal Self-Alienation (2017), and co-author with Pat Ogden of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for Attachment and Trauma.(2015).