Yesterday, I provided free therapy. I usually don’t do. But in the moment, I was present, mindful and listening. There was something about the informal environment, and causal nature that created the atmosphere. And, there was something in the air that led to reflection about the past, and my desire to help others heal from their past. In reflection, I wondered if we truly heal. I’m often plagued by past experiences, that are triggered by multiple things. In speaking about healing, then we heal ourselves.
There was a time when nobody wanted to admit or talk about traumas. But we are learning that we all hold traumas. Whether through our genealogy story, our birth experience, our upbringing and environment, and throughout our adult years. And we respond differently, depending on the intensity, the lack of resolve or our repeated experiences. When we are triggered, the memory is triggered, and our body responds somatically. If we are on our healing journey, we are able to integrate the trigger in a way that heals us. If we don’t, we may remain stuck. It’s in these moments, we can reach out to a friend, in a late night, seeking to know how to integrate the memory.
“The path to healing our past is individualized, depends solely on the traveler, and their willingness to embark on the journey”Nicole Perryman
Unconventional Life, conventional healing
Psychotherapy may have been introduced in a Eurocentric lens in theory and practice. However, therapy has been happening for centuries. There are multiple ways that we connect, we listen, and we heal our past. As we transform psychotherapy to build equity and inclusive places, I wonder if we could bring us closer to methods that meet people where there are at. The place where we can start to rebuild our practice, transform theories, and guide the healing journey. We don’t live the lives theorists once wrote about and focused on. We live unconventional lives with rules that change and don’t always make sense. What hasn’t changed is that we haven’t lost the desire to heal from our past traumas.
So, when can we start?
The path to healing our past is individualized, depends solely on the traveler, and their willingness to embark on the journey. With clients, I often start with emotions. We all have emotions that are intense, unbearable and difficult to manage. However, we can’t always avoid our emotions. If we learn to sit with the emotion. Reduce the intensity. Flow with the feelings. Ride the wave, we can begin to shift from feeling our feelings, to being aware of and mindful of our feelings. That is the gem. It is in this place, we can begin to rationalize, analyze our thoughts, and develop a course of action.
From coffee shops to bar stools
We find our things. By developing a routine of self care and self preservation, we can truly begin to tolerate our experiences and heal through our pain. If we don’t have a self care plan, this may take time. It’s important to take the time exploring new coping skills to find the process that brings you the most peace. Sometimes, we cope well through spending time with friends or reading a good novel in a coffee shop. Other times, it is sitting at a bar watching a football game, and meeting new people. A warm bath. Sitting or walking in a forest. Yoga or thi chi. I can go on. Employ strategies to remain grounded.
If I could change it, I could
I have adopted the attitude that we are doing the best we can with the choices we were given. We all have choices. Just not the same choices. We can’t always control the outcomes, and because of this, people, including ourselves will experience pain. And we know what we know. If my parents knew about the impacts of anti-Black racism, they may have done more to raise me with greater kindness and understanding. If your parents knew the impact of domestic violence or trauma within the family system, they may have made different choices.
Practicing emotional intelligence skills such as empathy, compassion, kindness, perspective taking and externalization will guide us with processing difficulties in better ways. For my beautiful friend at the start of our discussion, if she sees her parents through a lens of compassion she would understand fully that they were doing what they knew was best. It was never her fault or her doing. And, she can’t bear the responsibility for their lack of insight. In this way, she releases herself from the emotional bonds that plagues her.
Let’s create space to talk about
As a child, I grew up listening to wise old statements, that really was not true. Such as, a drunk person tells no lies. Well, maybe. But how I feel when I’m drunk is not always how I feel when I am not. Similarly, today I may be able to have clear thoughts about my relationships with others and on another day, I am stuck with feelings of anger, resentment and hurt. Let’s create space to talk about the many facets and dimensions of our feelings. If we reduce shame or expectations on how we feel, we can bravely work through them and talk about how we feel. The processing can work well with ourselves, a good listener, and a professional listener (i.e. therapist). If you come for a drink, having someone listen to you process what’s on your mind, is therapy.
Feeling through healing
I had the privilege of working with Dr. Bruce Perry, author of, The Boy Raised by a Dog and What Happened to?. What Dr. Perry taught me was that healing also happens through our bodies as we try to unstuck memories and experiences that have shaped our brains, our bodies, and our reactions to stressful events. Bissel van der Kolk also believed that the “Body Kept Score”. I’m learning that the score keeping began long before I was a thought through the experiences of my ancestors, as Resmaa Manekham eloquently teaches. As we feel pain, we need to feel healing, thus consider the importance of activities that help us heal through the body.
Let me name a few:
- Massage therapy
- Music and dance
- Mindfulness and meditation
As you review this list, and create some strategies of your own consider healing as a journey that is flexible, multi faceted and dynamic. Consider that growth takes time, but the curating of the time is what makes the journey beautiful. For you my friend, are fearfully and wonderfully made.
All the ways we heal….
Ifarada: Centre for Excellence is a new organization, Black-led, Black-focused and culturally informed, and Black-owned that focuses on creating a holistic, trauma-informed approach to care. We provide support through therapeutic groups, in-home, in-office, individual and family counselling, outreach and more. And, we are always growing! Our organization seeks to build healthy communities, strong families, and inclusive services.
Interested in reading more?
Equity work can begin with self-reflection, examining biases, and unlearning.
“We were willing to ignore that shit, for the larger goal” The Godfather of Harlem (2022). I am preparing to publish my first edited book and create a new workshop. I began to reflect upon, “the impact of race trauma”. While watching one of my many shows, two separate fractions divided by race and privilege […]
Equity work is not a destination, it is a continuous journey of unlearning, undoing and change.
Nicole Perryman, Equity Consultant, Psychotherapist and Social Worker has an active involvement within the community and provincially. Media Appearances The following appearances focused on promoting family wellness, and addressing mental health challenges. Published Articles The Relevance of Social Justice for Today’s Therapist (article) with Family Therapy Magazine: The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (January/February […]
The following information provides a detail explanation of employment, practicum and volunteer placement. Assessments/ Family Conference Office of the Children’s Lawyer- Clinician September 1, 2016- Present Clinician assessing s. 112 custody and access assessments, reviewing court documentation, assessing family separation/divorce situations, reviewing collateral (personal and professional) information, liaison with lawyers and other parties, preparing s. 112 […]
The following information details the professional development courses completed from 1999 to present. For further information, contact: 289-624-9431. Equity Training and Courses January 2020- Redesign Child Welfare Equity Training (24 hours), Ontario Association for Children’s Aid Societies April 10- April 11, 2019- Courageous Leadership Inclusivity and Equity Symposium, Dr. Robin D’Angelo (keynote speaker) October 16, […]