Breaking Down the Walls of Silence
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Rien Verdult & Gaby Stroecken

Rien Verdult

Rien & Gaby are psychotherapists from Belgium, specialized in the treatment of emotional problems rooted in early childhood. They also focus on prenatal psychology; life before and during birth. For that reason they often give lectures about this aspect of life. They are very much influenced by the works of Arthur Janov and Alice Miller. Their website is mainly in Dutch, not very often updated but the news section does provide a list of recent lectures.

Their books haven't been translated in English, but several articles in English are freely accessible online:


The Misrecognized Child in Ourselves (PDF - 148 pages)

Gaby Stroecken
The misrecognition of the Child in ourselves begins early in life. At conception, during the period spent in the womb, at birth and in the first years of life, the vulnerable child runs the risk of finding its natural expectations misinterpreted and disregarded. As children, in the womb or newly born, we are entirely dependent on our parents. Our natural desires lead us to expect that we will be received with love and attention, respected in our vulnerability and have our needs, including our affective needs, punctually met: we expect recognition.

Caesarean birth: Psychological aspects in babies (Rien Verdult, PDF - 15 pages)

Caesarean birth can be seen as a traumatic birth for the baby with immediate and long term consequences. C-section is a trauma because of its abrupt and sudden interruption of the biologically programmed vaginal birth process. Shock, bonding deficiencies and invasion/control complex are the major symptoms of the trauma.

Baby therapy is based on the new paradigm about prenatal and perinatal life. Babies are aware before and during birth and can be traumatized. The treatment of caesarean born babies consists of two aspects: regressively re-experiencing the traumatic aspects of the c-section and the processing of vaginal birth. In exploring the traumatic aspects of the c-section so called trauma sites are gently touched by the therapist. The baby can get activated and within the safety of a containing relationship, catharsis can take place. By supporting the baby to release his emotional pain the reprocessing of the c-section birth takes place in small steps. Baby have a knowledge about how they should have been born vaginally. Through a process of vaginal birth simulation the baby descends in the birth canal, rotates in the pelvis. Than the expulsion takes place and the baby ends up in the arms of his mother. Results of baby therapy show that babies benefit from the treatment.
 

Bibliography

  • De Stem van het Jonge Kind. Over de affectieve rechten van het prenatale en jonge kind (Gaby Stroecken, 1997)
  • Het Miskende Kind in Onszelf. Invloeden van de kindertijd op het latere leven. (Gaby Stroecken, 2001)
  • De Mythe van de Gelukkige Kindertijd. Zoektocht naar het miskende kind in onszelf . (2006)

From De Mythe van de Gelukkige Kindertijd (The Myth of the Happy Childhood - translated by Dennis Rodie):

We are convinced that in our struggle against our discomfort, against our inner void, against our emotional and relational problems, we have eventually only one means at our disposal: searching for the truth about our childhood. The discovery of our personal truth can be confrontational and painful. It means we have to let go of the constructed illusion, to which we have clung. We have to leave our holy belief of a happy childhood and expose a myth. Revealing our childhood is absolutely necessary for our own comfort and that of others in our environment. This is a painful process. The repression to the unconscious has created fatal work. The earlier and the more painful the disownment has taken place, the bigger the chance it is that we remember a ‘happy and carefree childhood. The bonding with our parents causes this selective loss of memory. The American psychotherapist Jean Jenson (1997) writes: ‘If more than a small minority wants to be motivated to explore the past, then we should first realize that almost every adult in our society has experienced damage and that our child-rearing practice will at least send the proverbial ‘happy childhood’ to the land of fables. With our book we want to reach out to that minority that wants to experience a process of self-revelation. We can ask ourselves: is all that digging in the past useful? Wouldn’t we be better off to leave the past alone? We are convinced that the paste tense always keeps a current value. We can’t undo our past, but we can work our way through the stored experiences in our body, about what is neglected or what is happened to us. That’s what this book is about: “We have to leave the invisible and so cruel prison of the childhood and transform ourselves from unconscious victim of the past into a responsible human who knows his/ her own past and lives with that” (Miller, 1995).


The Revealing Proces
 
 
Revealing psychotherapy is psychotherapy that reaches further than talking. The emphasis lies on re-living the endured pain in the childhood. This pain needs to be cleared. How does this work? Usually there’s something in the present that gives us a reason to ‘trigger’. We can be affected by something or someone. In our body we notice our heartbeat regularly increasing, that our heart beats in our throat; we are short-breathed and breathe more superficial, we get warm or just chilling cold. When something triggers or affects us, our fear system gets activated.

Following Emerson (2005) in this revealing process we can distinguish seven steps. The first step is to recognize what we feel. It’s important to verbalize these feelings. An example: ‘I feel angry and sad at the same time. It makes me feel insecure.’ The second step is to identify the physical reactions to the trigger. Where in the body is activation experienced? How does this come to expression in posture, movement, gestures and physical sensations? For example: ‘I feel a pressure on my chest, my throat feels squeezed and my face feels hot.’ In the third step, a description as accurate as possible is given of the behavior or of the situation that was reason to the activation. It will be clear, that these are subjective observations and feelings about the situation or event. For example: ‘When I came in, you didn’t greet me and didn’t make eye contact.’ This doesn’t have to be a reality, but it’s the personal experience of the client. The fourth step is to give meaning. One starts to look for the meaning within oneself, not with the other or in the event. This can take some time. During this step the misused child is allowed to speak; we let it give expression to his wound. For example: ‘I have the feeling that I’m not important for you’, or ‘I’m getting the feeling I’m not allowed to be here’.

In this step it’s a search for the deepest lack of appreciation, which manifest itself in fundamental convictions or false conclusions. In step five there’s the question: what’s a fundamental lack of appreciation? Here there’s a bridge being made between past and present. When we have discovered what the deeper meaning is behind the activation, then the most painful wound can be re-lived. On a rational, emotional and physical level, this re-living can provide clarity about the deepest wound suffered. For example: ‘I’ve the feeling that my parents didn’t wish for me’, or ‘I feel used’, or ‘I feel sucked empty’. The sixth step is ‘resourcing’. There’s strength needed to face the pain.

This strength can be found within oneself, by appealing to the resources in the body. The client can also find strength from a dialogue with an ‘ideal’ parent, who reacts to the wound. This ideal parent gives the inner misused child the love, the acceptance, the confirmation and the protection, of the safe borders that are necessary. It’s not the intention that the therapist, in the role of the ideal mother, gives the misused child what it wants, but that there’s a further deepening of the pain made possible. The seventh and last step is: further clarity and reality trial. From re-living the old pain, the client can face the damage of the event, and see how he continued to have lived with this, and which part he had in revealing and avoiding the pain. The client gets a clear view on what activated him, what affected his lack of appreciation and what was the fundamental wound that connected it. By doing that, he can become more lose and free from his past.

This revelation can be a process of many sessions, but it can also happen partly in one session. The revealing therapy is about that this revealing process will continue, until the old pain of the lack of appreciation isn’t dominating anymore. The client will therefore not as often and not as fast be activated.

From: Het Miskende Kind in Onszelf (The Misrecognized Child in Ourselves)

We are all born, just not in the same climate. The possibilities to evolve are for every human strongly determined by his parents and the culture in which he grows up. The cultural influence is very much historically determined: we are children of our time: children from before the war, of the post-war baby boom or of the infamous Sixties. And our children? They are the children of the computerization, of the commerciality, of the globalisation. Every generation makes its own (sub)culture and every culture makes its generations. For every culture has its own childrearing ideals that are based on a certain view on humanity. Childrearing determines the human. Every generation puts its own details in childrearing. Despite these differences of detail, the core of the Western model of childrearing stays unchanged. While one used to be more tempted to treat the child with discipline and punishment, nowadays parents seem to use more psychological influence. The means are different, the goal is the same, namely controlling the (emotional) life of the child.


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