Letter From The President

An Interesting Intellectual Exchange

It is no secret that the ISSTD, and its members, have been fighting battle after battle for a long time. It is likely, in some cases, this has been happening since before our creation in 1983. We are a group of people who have continued to hold onto the notion that humans who are extremely injured in childhood have the right to proper care and decent treatment in the mental health field.

However, instead of hearing stories of decent treatment, I hear repeated stories from colleagues about the wilful ignorance of other practitioners who are not well-educated in our field. These ignorant responses are not coming from a place of science, but from their own personal beliefs, and they come with their own political undertones.

Yet there is hope. For the first time in almost 20 years, our membership is very close to being 1500 members. This does not sound like much, but for the ISSTD this is a very encouraging number. We are teaching more programs than we have ever done before. We are also conducting more regional seminars and conferences than ever before. We are growing and this growth is a result of our due diligence.

Perhaps related to our growth and diligence, I recently had an experience that I wanted to share with everyone in order to highlight a positive exchange. It is my hope that we all share these positive experiences as well as the negative experiences we have.

I had a discussion the other day with researchers, clinicians and educators from a field very different than ours, and not one we normally associate with our field.  Typically, when I speak with people who are not familiar with dissociation the main aspect of the conversation is a very general education session for them.  Or I am dealing with someone who is hostile and willfully ignorant.

It is very rare that I get met with curiosity, with kindness, with openness. I had a meeting that was just this and frankly, it threw me a little. Actually, it threw me a lot. Within this meeting were others who were informed, educated, had read the research we have been producing, and they had no problem with our discussion.

It made me reflect on how frequently when I have extended kindness, curiosity and openness to my most severely wounded clients, they don’t trust this. Safety tends to throw this population into a whole new set of triggers and trauma responses. A little like how I was thrown by being met with kindness and curiosity in this recent exchange. I actually had to use grounding techniques to get back into myself and make sure that my defences weren’t up. I had to be mindful and move myself into a different paradigm.  

I was able to refocus and understand that this was a very different exchange than what I had ever had happen before, and that I needed to lead with curiosity about where they were coming from. I think I actually said to myself, about half-way through our meeting, “Christine, these people are well educated. They have read our research and this research is logical to them. They trust that we know what we are doing and that what we are researching and clinically treating is very valid”. It was, I am sorry and happy to say, so very different to what I have experienced before.

I’m glad that I was able to adjust my position because I was able to learn something from a different field. It was refreshing that I was learning something from someone new, with a different perspective. And that what was being discussed was very validating for our field. It was also slightly humbling. And I’m grateful for the humbling. These external colleagues were able to show me something and give evidence to the hard work that this organization has put into validating these disorders.

I wanted to share with you all that the word is out there, that there are others who examine our information with no judgement, or defence or fear. The ISSTD and all of its members, researchers and clinicians have been able to reach other areas that have listened, paid attention and read our research. For others, our information, books and articles make sense to them.  

This exchange also showed me how really powerful care and compassion can be in enabling openness. Kindness was the thing that helped me open up to them and I hope that I returned their obvious respect and kindness.

To all of you, who have been working so hard in this field, please take a moment and savour the notion that our work is indeed making a difference in the world, perhaps not as much as we would like in psychiatry and psychology fields, but in other fields what we have learned and validated is making an impact. Please congratulate yourselves.

I often wonder what is it that has assisted us in putting up with so much difficulty, as we must also acknowledge that we really are an organization with a traumatized history. I return to the same notion every time. I do believe the tenacity of this organization, the passion of this organization, the heart and soul of this organization, has been held together by the members of this organization who care. I’m very grateful for all of you doing what you were doing. Keep learning. Thank you.