My Fellow ISSTD Travelers,
As this is one of my final letters to the membership, I find myself reflecting upon this year. My first notion is gratitude. I have had the most wonderful year leading, in my humble opinion, one of the most genuine group of clinicians and researchers in the world. We seem to be individuals who see something that others seem to miss. This ability to see, think and sometimes be outside of the “box” is to me, magical. As Kathy Steele stated in her plenary presentation at the ISSTD Australia-New Zealand regional conference, held in Christchurch this past week, this truly is scared work. Finding the humanity within the most inhumane situations is again, magical. I define the word magical as something wonderful that is rather hard to explain. What we seem to be doing, as a collective group, is something wonderful that is quite hard to explain.
A common idea in our field is to see the dignity that each human deserves and sitting with these humans helping them find the humanity within themselves. This is extraordinarily challenging, difficult, deeply sad and sometimes frightening. Yet, here we are. Investigating the commonalities, the theories, the validation, and the nuances of complex trauma and dissociation are what our researchers have dedicated their lives to, on a shoe-string budget. Our researchers often do much of this work for free or for much lower rates than many of our contemporaries in other fields of mental health. Again, this is difficult, frustrating and challenging work, and yet again, here we are.
Many of us are driven to help, to help our clients, to help their families, to help their friends, to do what we can to change the extremely familiar human condition of complex trauma, and sometimes we do this work to help ourselves. There is no shame in having been traumatized. We are an organization that understands the true commonality of this experience.
What we seem to bring to the proverbial table is the fact that trauma, childhood abuse, neglect, war, sexism, racism, patriarchy, misogyny, intergenerational trauma, addiction, etcetera etcetera, is not the survivours fault. But the grand task of healing these deep wounds does become our responsibility. It means that it is not easy to change the effects of these abuses, but we seem to understand that for our lives, the lives of our clients, the health of our communities and the health of the world, change is essential. We have known this for a long time and the dedication and hard work that has gone into keeping this organization alive and vibrant is well worth it.
We have been through, literally, hell and back to get here and the truth seems to be rising to the surface, a truth that many of us see and spend a lifetime fighting for. We are all connected, we need each other, and humans need profound care in order to be okay. Again, learning this time and again, from so many different perspectives, is, to me, magical.
Perhaps my mood, in writing this letter, is being influenced by my time here in New Zealand. The regional conference was the most inclusive and respectful conference I have ever been to. We were welcomed to the land by a traditional Maori ceremony. The local committee members took on the responsibly by giving a proper manuhiri welcome with a ngahau performance. We started with the traditional welcome that I described as a nose to nose snuggle, the Hongi. That is a traditional greeting which represents the ha or breath of life being exchanged and intermingled. It is a tradition of shared space and breath. We were then treated to several other traditional exchanges of celebration and farewells. It was beautiful, respectful and deeply connecting.
This, to me sums up the ISSTD. We gather to exchange breath and life in order to support each other and find togetherness while we heal with good healing. We are an organization that has heart, the mind and science to back it up.
Forever grateful and deeply honored,