Sunday, July 15, 2018

Your inherent ability to grow

Crabs shed their shell so they can grow, but before they can grow a new and bigger shell, they are soft and vulnerable.  And, as Gabor Maté says, there is no growth without vulnerability. The risk of being vulnerable feels terrifying to someone who has been hurt by the people entrusted with protecting them. They have suffered early and betrayal trauma which impacts their development enormously.

Your shell protects you but it also keeps you small. It is safe but it is also constricting. It is comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. It is your house but it is not your true home.


To grow we need to move and that means change, and change can feel very frightening when our foundations are shaky. We hold on for dear life, even if we’re miserable. Notwithstanding all of that, we have an inherent ability and desire to grow, otherwise it wouldn’t feel so painful being confined in our shells.

When our development is stunted, at any age, we suffer. Life is all about moving, growing, changing, developing and evolving. It is against our nature to become stagnant, things will out eventually. The dam that we’ve built to protect us from a river of unwanted emotions and sensations won’t last forever. Some of us wait until the dam bursts and then we’re forced to face our pain but we can choose to feel it before that happens.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Gabor Maté

I went to see Gabor Maté last weekend in Cork for a workshop. It was really excellent. He is so down to earth, he’s just himself with no pretences.

Most of the information I already knew as I’ve followed his work for a long time, but I also learned a lot of new things because he has a way of using language that makes you look at something you knew in a completely new light which is a real gift. He’s a poet at heart. He also recommended EFT as a modality for healing trauma which was great to hear.


Some of the gems that I took with me from his workshop were:
  • Growth happens when we are able to be soft and vulnerable. Gabor used the analogy of a crab having to shed their shell in order to be able to grow. Of course the price of this is that he’s soft and vulnerable while growing and could be hurt as he’s more defenceless. But there’s no other way to grow.
  • What I understand from this is that trauma is like a too tight and constricting shell that we can’t seem to shed, however hard we try. It keeps us small and safe but at a huge price. But trying and struggling too hard to shed the shell just doesn’t work. We need to be gentle with that shell that has protected us when we needed it, and when the time is right, and we feel safe enough to be soft and vulnerable again (or for the first time), the shell will come off.
  • Peer attachment and orientation does our children no favours. Children are supposed to attach to (hopefully) wise adults who can provide them with unconditional love and a safe place to grow, make mistakes and learn from those mistakes without being shamed and ridiculed.
  • The coping mechanisms that we learned in early childhood to survive become our personality. But they are not who we truly are. I really believe that healing trauma is the journey back to our true self. As Gabor said, it’s why we call it recovery, we are recovering our true self when we heal trauma.
  • When we fail to fully individuate from our parents/caregivers (an extremely common phenomenon), we feel more pressure from our peers. This is because we’re not sure of who we are, we don’t love and accept ourself, maybe we even feel we are bad people. This is not to say we’ll never feel pressure from our peers, but if we’re true to our real self and feel fundamentally ok about that self, it won’t incapacitate us as it can so often do.
  • We often have to choose between attachment and authenticity, especially as children. Attachment is a biological imperative, we need it and sometimes we have to give up who we truly are to get love, even though what we get can be very far from real love. As adults, we can make another choice and choose our authentic selves.