As I read Janina Fisher’s book about healing trauma, I found myself underlining and highlighting passage after passage. I have never encountered a book with so much helpful information and insight on each page. Fisher shares the latest research regarding trauma’s effect on the brain, as well as clients’ stories and therapy sessions.
I read this book slowly because each sentence causes me to pause and think. I have read other books about trauma that explain a great deal about the causes and effects of trauma. But so many of them skimp on concrete methods for healing trauma. Healing is where Fisher’s book shines. As a therapist, I discovered so many ways to help my traumatized clients heal. I regularly attend a therapists’ consultation group and suggested that we explore Fisher’s book together. Everyone in the group finds the book as exciting and inspirational as I do. Clients will also find this book enlightening and may want to read it while healing their trauma in therapy.
I am continually amazed when I gently ask a client a question about trauma related feelings. The connection between childhood coping methods and present day symptoms is becoming more and more apparent to me.
Unlike some trauma therapies, Fisher’s approach is gentle and does not require trauma survivors to recount, remember or re-experience the pain and the details of their trauma. She explains the neurobiological aspects of trauma and provides practical interventions to heal their wounded younger selves while recognizing the strength the younger selves possessed in order to survive.
I was fascinated to learn how the helpful coping methods children employ to survive trauma can become patterns of behavior that no longer are helpful in adulthood. In order to survive trauma, children employ animal defense functions of fight, flight, freeze, submit or cling. These defense functions were highly effective for survival. However, later in life, these survival responses continue to be activated by trauma-related triggers, often causing the trauma survivor to live in a continual state of vigilance. In fact, the wounded younger parts can “hijack” the adult part, causing a flood of anxiety, depression, dissociation and other trauma related symptoms.
Fisher teaches how to activate the pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain engaged in higher level thinking) to calm intense emotions. She shows how to learn to be present in the here and now rather than in the past. She explains how to befriend and embrace the fragmented inner selves with compassion and curiosity, so that “they” can live in a safe and secure present. When the younger parts learn that they are now safe, the adult will also feel safe.