The 'UnBelonging' - Relational Perspectives On Inter-Generational Trauma - When The Personal Is Professional
Saturday June 28th, 2014
One day workshop with Helena Hargaden and Maya Jacobs-Wallfisch
Doubletree Hilton Hotel, Ealing, London
A Personal report on the workshop, by Carole Shadbolt:
I recently attended this excellent day, facilitated by Helena Hargaden, a founder member of IARTA and a Relational Psychotherapist, and Maya Jacobs-Wallfsich, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist.
In their introduction on the IARTA website they wrote;
'In this workshop the presenters offer papers in which they explore the implications of trans-generational trauma, which is frequently inherited unconsciously. For many, inter-generational trauma remains unconscious, therefore unmetabolised, until it begins to emerge and impact personal life and, in turn, the therapy relationship, through coutertransferential responses, enactments and use of language.'
Helena and Maya had circulated two excellently informative papers ahead of the day. Itseemed to me their powerful writing laid the necessary groundwork for the day ahead. The saying "like begets like" comes to mind, and seemed to hold true for the experiential work that later emerged. Maya's personal testimony of the "wounds of history" encouraged and legitimised deep personal sharing and Helena’s complementary theoretical underpinning, essay and case study reminded me of the power of lightly-held and non-intrusive sharing of ideas and principles - i.e. theory.
These theoretical underpinnings of working with trans-generational trauma from a relational perspective were; the importance of witness, of connecting with non verbalised processes, of decoding metaphor and unsymbolised material through countertransferences, and the necessity of an intersubjective 'third' in the recognition of unsymbolised trauma. They dealt movingly with the notion of 'presence of absence' and the layered complexity of loss, trauma and shame through dissociation and disavowed selves.
What we might have previously considered a marginal speciality subject (and ourselves as no experts), was revealed as a result of the facilitators' testimonies of their own cultural vulnerabilities and presence, as central to our personal and professional lives and selves. For example, Helena had written 'Maybe some of you feel that you have no personal experience of trans-generational trauma. But surely, this is not so?'
Their belief (and mine too) in the importance of the therapist's acknowledgement, understanding and engagement with their own trauma, to have it become conscious, is, it became clear, a type of relational pre-requisite for genuine healing (mutual healing I suspect). This willingness to go beyond what Helena describes as, 'from what is known and surface to what is unknown and of depth' provides what she quotes Stollorow as describing as 'a relational home' to our clients who are carrying and haunted by trans-generational traumas, as one traumatised self finds recognition in another.
They asked the question "How do we move from the trans-generational legacies of unconscious, unsymbolised psychic pain, to mentalisation?" As an answer, throughout the day, their personal warmth and unflinching, generous self-disclosures encouraged and demonstrated an undeniably felt, wholesome and genuine way forward in this work. (I might add that as a psychotherapist of advancing years and experience I can, these days, tell when I am in the presence of the "authentic"; my intuitive self knows the difference between that and quackery.)
We learned how to think about moving from unconscious, unsymbolised, culturally-dissociated dead selves, which were unnameable and therefore unmetabolised, through to an awareness and reclaiming of our own wounded and vulnerable traumatised selves.
From this place of the 'wounded healer' dynamic, we became aware of the process of moving from 'Victimhood' to providing a therapeutic 'intersubjective third' in the service of the clinical work. We did this, as a major component of the day, through large-group experiential exercises. The group was carefully and professionally held and the exercises were thoughtfully crafted to bring alive, and therefore to know, the type of deadness so ubiquitous in this type of process.
From engagement and recognition of our symbolised losses and traumas, we gave them words and meanings, resurrected them and brought them to consciousness. I noticed they took on a vital urgency of their own to be heard and witnessed. We discovered that any personal process, unique as it was to the individual, carried with it the seeds of trauma which did indeed find 'a relational home' in other group members. In this manner, the work done by one individual was done on behalf of the other group members.
So, this was an important day, for me personally and, I believe and hope, for IARTA. Important in the sense that this topic is one of the most painful and culturally central issues we need to attend to. Maya and Helena's excellent work contributes to that.
'The most important contribution we can make as therapists is to engage with our personal life-story and learn how to translate this into our professional work' Helena Hargaden, 2014
IARTA warmly thanks all members of this day, especially Helena and Maya.
Helena Hargaden (D.Psych, MSc., TSTA.,) currently works in Sussex in her private practice. She runs a weekly psychotherapy group and a monthly personal and professional development group for experienced clinicians. Currently she is editing a book on Relational Supervision. In collaboration with others she developed relational perspectives of TA and has been widely published and translated into a number of other languages. She has presented papers at many international conferences, most recently in Brazil and Italy, and been a Visiting Tutor both at home and abroad. Last year she co-founded The Forum for Trans-Generational Trauma which has been a major focus of interest in her own analysis and practice.
Maya Jacobs-Wallfisch is a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist who trained at the Arbours Association in London. She has a particular interest in Trans-generational Trauma and works with people who have been affected by the Holocaust and other genocides. Her interest in trauma arises from her own subjective experience of being the daughter of a Shoah survivor. and the psychological and social implications that this has had on her life, most pertinently the experience of ‘un-belonging’, and the life long quest to feel and be accepted. She is committed to her work as the co-founder of The Forum For Trans-Generational Trauma which provides educational and clinical resources. Maya is in full time private practice in London, where she works with, individuals, couples and families.