How Trauma Is Carried Across Generations

What is overwhelming and unnamable is passed on to those we are closest to. Our loved ones carry what we cannot. And we do the same.

This is the subject of Lost in Transmission: Studies of Trauma Across Generations, edited by M. Gerard Fromm (2012). This collection of essays on traumatic transmission builds on the idea that “what human beings cannot contain of their experience—what has been traumatically overwhelming, unbearable, unthinkable—falls out of social discourse, but very often on to and into the next generation as an affective sensitivity or a chaotic urgency.”

The transmission of trauma may be particular to a given family suffering a loss, such as the death of an infant, or it can be a shared response to societal trauma.

Maurice De Witt, a sidewalk Santa on Fifth Avenue noticed a marked change in behavior the holiday season following 9/11 when parents would not “let the hands of their children go. The kids sense that. It’s like water seeping down, and the kids can feel it… There is an anxiety, but the kids can’t make the connections.”

“This astute man was noticing a powerful double message in the parent’s action,” Fromm says. “Consciously and verbally, the message was ‘Here’s Santa. Love him.’ Unconsciously and physically, it was ‘Here’s Santa. Fear him.’ The unnamed trauma of 9/11 was communicated to the next generation by the squeeze of a hand.”

Psychic legacies are often passed on through unconscious cues or affective messages that flow between adult and child. Sometimes anxiety falls from one generation to the next through stories told.

Psychohistorian Peter Loewenberg recalls the oral tradition of his parents who lived through the hunger years in Germany during the First World War when the physical health and stature of a generation was stunted due to prolonged malnutrition. According to their stories, a once-a-year indulgence was an orange segmented and apportioned among the entire family. Loewenberg further identifies a causal chain between physical privations of the German people during WWI, which culminated in the Great Depression (1929), and the Nazi appeal to children of Central Europe. To what extent did “the passive experiences of childhood starvation” lead to a reversal and fantasied “undoing” through the hunger regimen and cruelty of the concentration camps? (Lowenberg, 61)

He cites another example of group transmission and its reversal. “The greatest Chinese historical trauma was undoubtedly the humiliation of the Japanese Imperial land” (1937-1945). When Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic in 1949 and said “The Chinese People have stood up!” he was repairing historical shame and hurt.

Psychohistorian Howard Stein takes up the topic of collective trauma in America and imagines all the possible directions trauma can be transmitted in nations, ethnic groups, religions, and families. Trauma can be transferred in “vertical” direction, for example, in the brutal downsizing of a corporation. This is also the case in a leadership change at a local church after a pastor has been accused of sexual misconduct.

Stein articulates “horizontal” transmission as the circulation of injury among people in more equivalent powers relations. This is often the experience of health professionals working with victims of large scale disaster, such as the Oklahoma City bombing (1995), who suffer the empathy of witnessing second-hand. Vertical and lateral transmissions may happen concurrently, in relation to the same event.

Traumatic transmission ferries out unacknowledged grief along multiple vectors. Stein says mourning is “short-circuited,” groups become “stuck” in time, and collective solidarity is created in the process.

Transmission is the giving of a task. The next generation must grapple with the trauma, find ways of representing it and spare transmitting the experience of hell back to one’s parents. A main task of transmission is to resist disassociating from the family hertiage and “bring its full, tragic story into social discourse.” (Fromm, xxi)

Often one child within a family is nominated to both carry and communicate the grief of their predecessors. There was a man who entered a Holocaust Museum requesting that the institution keep the remains of the tattooed serial number taken from his arm. The chosen child is analogously charged with the mission of keeping the family heritage, being a “holding environment.”

How do we carry secret stories from before our lifetimes?

Transgenerational transmissions take on life in our in dreams, in acting out, in “life lessons” given in turns of phrase and taught us by our family. Discovering transmission means coming to know and tell a larger narrative, one from the preceding generation. It requires close listening to the stories of our parents and grandparents, with special attention to the social and historical milieu in which they lived — especially its military, economic, and political turmoil.

The emotional ties between child and ancestors are essential to the development of our values. These bonds often determine the answers to myriad questions such as: “Who am I?” “Who am I to my family?” “Who can ‘we’ trust” and who are our enemies?” “What ties me to my family?” And, most importantly, “of these ties, which do I reject and which do I keep?” (Barri Belnap, 127)

How does one discharge this mission? It is a precarious terrain of finding one’s way through a web of familial loyalties to which one has been intensely faithful. The working through of transmission entails a painful, seemingly unbearable, process of separation. It can become an identity crisis, the breaking of an emotional chain. As Fromm puts it, “something life defining and deeply intimate is over.” The child speaks what their parent could not. He or she recognizes how their own experience has been authored, how one has been authorized, if unconsciously, to carry their parents’ injury into the future. In rising above the remnants of one’s ancestors’ trauma, one helps to heal future generations.

Why rediscovering childhood games is good for our wellbeing

I remember, oh so clearly, running out of the classroom at breaktime, desperate to win Adele’s new and beautiful ‘big china’ marble. If I could just lure her into rolling it towards that bit of dipped concrete at the bottom of the playground, it was sure to be a keepsie!

But it wasn’t until nearly 40 years later that this fond childhood memory gained a more emotional, ‘reliving-the-moment’ dimension. On holiday in Devon, I persuaded my other half to stop off at the House of Marbles on our way back from a country walk. When we entered the shop, thousands of marbles twinkled up at me from a large wooden stand, like a beautiful alternative to ‘pick and mix’ sweets.

I literally started to act like a 5-year-old again, flitting excitedly from one section to the next, quietly restraining myself from pushing real 5-year-olds out of the way when they stood between me and the next must-have marble I’d spotted. I filled my little pot to the brim and spent a mini fortune, but I didn’t care. This was marble heaven and I didn’t know when I’d get a chance to visit again.

When we arrived back at the holiday cottage we were sharing with friends, I showed off my new collection and then spent hours scrambling across the floor on my knees, playing with any willing adult or child. And it felt gooood. I felt exactly like I did when I was in the playground with Adele, all those years ago. Carefree. No worries. No concerns. No responsibilities. And better still, no school bell to bring playtime to a premature end.

It’s a sad fact but as adults, we are much less likely to enjoy play for play’s sake, and more so if we don’t have children or pets. Why? For many reasons. Because it can be perceived as unproductive or petty. Because we feel self-conscious or embarrassed if we drop our adult guard. Because we have a long list of more productive things that we really ought to be cracking on with, instead of ‘wasting’ time on something that has no real goal or purpose.

Play is of course vital for helping babies and young children to learn and develop, but it’s important for adults, too. In terms of relationships, it can help to foster feelings of trust and compassion, and if you and your loved one are less tactile than you used to be, it can help to rekindle your affection for one another.

Conversely, play can also help to diffuse a difficult situation between loved ones, friends, colleagues and even strangers. Some types of play are also great for stimulating the mind, encouraging creativity and problem solving. Others are a fun way to exercise – try skipping, playing hopscotch or hula-hooping for 10 minutes without getting out of breath! And of course, the mindfulness-like nature of play makes it a wonderful stress reliever.

So, how do we introduce play back into our busy adult lives? First, give yourself permission to play for five or ten minutes each day, or once a week – whatever works for you. In terms of what to play, it can be helpful to think about the sort of games you enjoyed as a child. If these involve playing with one or more people, then you’ll need to identify a few willing play buddies, such as loved ones, friends, friends’ children or work colleagues. People (or pets) who regularly make you smile or giggle are likely to be a safe bet. You could also give some thought to adding an elderly relative or neighbour to your playmate list. How lovely would it be to know that you’re helping to tackle loneliness at the same time as having fun?

Below are 15 games (in no particular order) that I enjoyed as a child and hope to reconnect with over the coming months. Why not make a list of your own and see where it takes you… at least you’ll have some fun along the way.


Bouncy ball

I remember having one with glitter in the middle, and one with coloured swirls. The glitter one was my favourite, but they both turned otherwise mundane walks to the shops and school more enjoyable.



Forget the plain little glass or china marbles you had at infant school. Today there’s a whole new generation of these little spheres of joy, including ones that contain ornate flowers or glow in the dark.



For me, the best skipping games involved a long rope, with a friend either end, as we all took turns jumping in the middle. ‘Had a little bumper car, number 48, went the round the coooooor-ner…’



Simple. Beautiful. With or without a little one or dog jumping in the air to ‘catch’ them.



I never did work out what this one was all about, but I enjoyed chalking up the numbered boxes on the pavement and hopping about on one leg. (One to maybe look up online before I have another go…)

Woman playing fetch with her dog in the woods


So simple but really good fun and a great way to exercise your dog if he’s a bit silly like ours and just runs back and forth as you lob the ball to each other. (Don’t worry – when he does get the ball, he runs off with it, just to teach us a lesson.)


Rock, paper, scissors

I remember thinking it was really strange that you’d ever want to wrap a rock, but hey! Let’s play it anyway. I always enjoyed games that had a rhythmical nature.


Clapping games

I think my first introduction to clapping was ‘hands, knees and a boomps-a-daisy’. How my poor mum never tired of this one, I’ll never know. I always seemed to want to play when she was in the middle of washing up or baking.



If not playing the ‘official’ game, do you remember the endless fun (and frustration) of trying to make a domino run without knocking one down too early? Or seeing how high you could build a tower out of dominoes?


Cat’s cradle

I never got it and probably never will, but I’m going to give it one last shot. Surely moving a piece of looped string from one set of fingers to another can’t be that difficult?!


Wink murder

Who didn’t love being secretly chosen as the villain for this party game? If you work in an office, it’s quite a nice one to play on a Friday afternoon, as it’s not too disruptive. Though it is often the quiet ones who have the most dramatic deaths…



This is definitely going to be the next game I buy and revisit. There was something so satisfying about building up to getting all five metal jacks in your hand in the space of one bounce from the ball.


Mud pies

Messy, completely inedible, but fantastic outdoor fun. Nothing beats mixing together a bit of mud with a splash of water and making tiny pies out of the resulting pap. Beautifully decorated with daisy heads and small stones on top, of course (it’s all about the finishing touches).



As a child, I lacked the imagination (and fancy bricks) to get any further than building a four-sided house with windows and no roof. Again, times have changed. I was given a Lego kit one birthday containing instructions and all of the necessary pieces to build three birds and I loved every second.



Drawing out endless rows of poorly spaced dots was a bit tedious, but it was always exciting totting up the number of boxes you had managed to complete and put your initial inside, to see if you had won!

Why Your Doctor May Be Prescribing Art Classes in the Future

Imagine that the next time you visit your doctor, they prescribe a new creative endeavor, like a community painting group or a dance workshop, with the aim of improving your physical or mental health. This scenario appears to be approaching reality in the U.K., where a recent study found that 66 percent of doctors believe the arts have a positive role to play in the prevention of illness.
The study, commissioned by London-based arts charity and social enterprise Aesop, specifically found that among 1,002 general practitioners (GPs), two-thirds agreed that “public engagement with the arts can make a significant contribution to the prevention agenda.” While it will take much more than their positive attitudes to affect change, the findings are encouraging.
Tim Joss, chief executive and founder of Aesop, notes that this support among doctors is promising—particularly in light of the July 2017 report commissioned by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing that stated “the United Kingdom is still very far from realising more than a small modicum of the potential contribution of the arts to health and wellbeing.”
“In a lot of conversations I’ve had within the health system, people think of the arts as something that’s nice to have, an extra; it’s a fluff,” Joss reflected. “And what comes after that study is that they think it’s got real potential.” So is there a future where the arts become integrated into healthcare offerings?
While it’s a long way off, healthcare players in the U.K. are taking steps in this direction. Earlier this month, at an NHS conference in Manchester, England, British secretary of health Matt Hancock advocated for more “social prescribing.” This involves GPs determining that there’s not an appropriate medical solution for their patient, such as surgery, medication, or therapy, and referring them instead to a link worker—someone who is familiar with the local community and its offerings—to recommend social and recreational activities that match their interests, including the arts.
“The evidence increasingly shows that activities like social clubs, art, ballroom dancing and gardening can be more effective than medicines for some people, and I want to see an increase in that sort of social prescribing,” Hancock said. And while social prescribing is gaining steam in the U.K., numerous GPs and health organizations are looking for other impactful ways to harness the healing power of the arts.
Aesop’s “Dance to Health” participants and members of East London Dance’s older people’s dance group, Leap of Faith, at the Southbank Centre, London. Photo by Helen Murray. Courtesy of Aesop.

Aesop’s “Dance to Health” participants and members of East London Dance’s older people’s dance group, Leap of Faith, at the Southbank Centre, London. Photo by Helen Murray. Courtesy of Aesop.

Dr. Laura Marshall-Andrews, who has been running Brighton Health and Wellbeing Centre with Dr. Gary Toyne for the past five years, developed the Healing Expressive and Restorative Arts Project (HERA) for her patients. Funded by the Arts Council, the program offers regular workshops and activities in the visual, literary, and performance arts.
“People go to their doctor because they don’t know where else to go; they trust their doctor and they’ll just do what the doctor says,” Marshall-Andrews explained. “I believe that it’s a much more sustainable, profound treatment if you prescribe someone a group or a practice or a skill that they can take with them.”
She noted that her center’s arts programming, such as a popular singing group on Saturday mornings, has been helpful for a wide range of patients—those with depression, chronic illnesses, or mood and movement disorders, as well as those who are grieving. “A lot of the patients are elderly and that really helps to combat isolation and loneliness,” she added. “We’ve always known one of the primary things is a sense of community and also creativity, creating something, participating in something which is enjoyable and has purpose.”
When asked about the impetus behind the greater interest for arts in health today, Marshall-Andrews suggested that there’s a general understanding among GPs that patients’ needs are not being met and NHS resources are lacking. “We’ve had to try and look outside [of NHS] and that everyone’s under pressure,” she said, noting that patients are living much longer, in more isolated environments, and with less community support. “A lot of social change has been medicalized,” she explained, “and we’re starting to realize that and try and do something about it.”
Aesop is also grappling with this tension between patient needs and NHS resources. The charity, which broadly sees itself as a bridge-builder between arts organizations and the health system, is seeking to develop sustainable, cost-effective programs that can be funded by the NHS and implemented nationally. “The basic thing we’re trying to do is to create arts programs which are effective and cost-effective, so the health system will actually pay for them because of they are saving the health system money,” Joss said. Its first such program, called Dance to Health, is geared toward preventing the elderly from sustaining falls.
It costs the NHS £2.3 billion per year to treat older patients who have experienced debilitating falls, Joss learned. He found that the health system’s response to this problem was a set of boring, repetitive exercises. “And—surprise, surprise—they have a problem getting older people to do them,” Joss said. “We asked ourselves: ‘Can we smuggle those evidence-based exercises into creative, sociable dance activity?’” That’s just what Aesop has done with Dance to Health, which it has begun to implement in collaboration with major dance companies like the Birmingham Royal Ballet and National Dance Company Wales.
Joss added that he sees great potential in terms of engaging artists who are keen to contribute to lead arts and health programs. But it’s not that easy, he explained, given that much of the production of the art world is project-based. “The health system wants national, sustainable services so there might be a brilliant art project, but when a GP hears about it, their natural first question is going to be: ‘Is it available in my area?’ And I’m afraid to say there is not a single arts program yet that is available to all GPs across England,” Joss explained. The aim is to fill this void with replicable programs like Dance to Health, but Joss explained that Aesop is also aiming to serve as an accelerator, to collaborate with organizations to grow their existing arts and health initiatives.
“Certainly, in Britain, we’re proud of our art scene and our creative industry—we’re seen as a world player,” Joss reflected, “but when you look at the arts’ contribution to health, we’ve got a long way to go.”

Save a life with a tenner (or less… or more…!)

Every day Harmless and The Tomorrow Project work hard to save lives. We work hard to spend the money that we raise ourselves on ensuring that ‘everyone’ should have access to life saving support when they need it.

We are desperate for equipment- help us raise money for a laptop that we so desperately need in order that we don’t have to take money away from frontline crisis services.

Anything you can spare… the price of a coffee? A tenner… honestly, your money will save lives. Thankyou so much.

Fear And Not Feeling Good Enough

This is a feeling that hits all of us at some stage or other, infact I read somewhere recently that its a feeling that stalks most of us – and that sounds more real.

This ”not enough” feeling that can pop up in so many disguises; fear of change and also failure, the fear of being stuck and this is it, the fear of isolation and intimacy, the fear of being insignificant or seen too brightly .. their fear of what other people might say! – there are so many paradoxes  that can create the feelings of fear and ultimately not being enough in one shape or form.

So who gets to say what is good enough or not?  

I guess that is down to us! It can be no one else – although when we have feelings of inadequacy, or not being enough on one subject or another, we tend to not check in with ourselves, instead we tend to measure ourselves against others, seek approval or bend over backwards to please –  as if in some way this is going to help us feel better and more than rather than less than we already did.

The enough syndrome is created by us – and each time we feed into this, we give our inner critic more ammunition to beat us with all day long which in turn heightens our thoughts of not being enough.

There is also lots of media around that creates meaningless images of what is enough and we adopt those standards as our own, our peers, our siblings, our parents, guardians, teachers and every other person that is in our life – whether that is in actual life or through some media. It all contributes to our thoughts, our beliefs and in turn how we process this into our own self esteem and self worth.

What if you get to state what is enough and you decide right here and now that you are enough already. Just imagine – what would that change for you right now?

It is reported that we have 80 – 90,000 thoughts a day and most of these are repeated day in day out – the constant running dialogue in the background of our mind that is creating how we feel, how we think, how we respond and how we act – so imagine if most of those are negative and self limiting, self defeating – how do you think you are going to be feeling – thats right – pretty much NOT ENOUGH.

Now imagine if you did not have to do anything, did not have to say anything, had nothing to prove to state that you are already good enough – you are already exactly how you are meant to be and that is the perfect you. 

What if you get to state what is enough and you decide right here and now that you are enough already. Just imagine – what would that change for you right now?

So, we have already talked about all those thoughts that go round and round in your mind – driven by your inner critic. As Louise Hay says “A thought is just a thought and a thought can be changed” 

The first step here is to become aware – to become more and more aware of thoughts as they appear and to gently notice these, make a decision as to whether this is still something that you want to be creating in your life, and if not, to gently change that thought for a new thought.  

Sounds easy, however one thought is not going to change the world – imagine each thought as just a droplet of water and each time you have that thought it creates a further droplet – until you have a puddle, that can turn into a pond, a lake and then an ocean – 

as your thoughts expand in this way, then change begins to happen. Its a process of making peace with your inner critic, accepting where you are right now without conditions of having to do x, y or z first, knowing that you are doing the best that you can even when sometimes that doesn’t look so pretty. Changes will happen when you let go of beating yourself up and give yourself permission to accept yourself and all that you are, right now.

The more you approve, accept and love yourself the easier this process is. Love really is the miracle cure – loving ourselves creates miracles in our lives.  We aren’t talking about vanity or arrogance here, because thats not love – its fear. Its about having a greater respect for ourselves and gratitude for they miracle of our body and mind. 

In any one given moment we have a choice between love and fear.

It is each of our responsibility’s to love ourselves and to create the life that we want. Remember responsibility is simply the ability to respond in a loving way.

Is It Time to Review Your Self Care Routine?

Most people know how important it is to practice the right self-care routine. Of course, knowing that self-care is good for you, and actually implementing it into your life are two very different things.

For most people, a self-care routine is just another chore to add to the bottom of their to-do list. However, if you take the time to look at things like “Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs,” you’ll discover that self-care is a critical part of living a healthy and satisfying life.

Though we should all try to make time to help other people in our lives, that shouldn’t mean that you constantly ignore your own needs. Without any self-care, you begin to suffer from mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion that simply prevents you from making the most of your life.

So, how do you review your self-care routine, and create a schedule of support you can stick to?

Creating a Routine That You Can Commit To

For most, the challenge isn’t figuring out whether you need a self-care routine, or even determining whether yours is beginning to suffer. If you’re always exhausted, emotionally overwhelmed, and neglecting your basic needs, then you need self-care.

The trouble is, a good self-care routine takes time, commitment and effort. When you’re already struggling with a hectic schedule, it can seem like too much to even take five minutes aside to sit in silence. In fact, you may even convince yourself that those “me moments” aren’t as important as they seem.

Whether you’re just getting started with self-care, or you need help getting back into a routine you can stick to; the following tips should help.

1. Wake Up Early

If you’re not a morning person, this probably isn’t the kind of tip you were looking for. As difficult as it can be to drag yourself out of bed to the sound of a blaring alarm, the truth is that even an extra fifteen minutes added to your day can help to remove some of the chaos in your schedule. The moments you first wake up are a fantastic opportunity to set your mood for the rest of the day.

What’s more, if you get your self-care routine started first thing, you’re more likely to keep yourself in mind as you move through the rest of your schedule too. Wake up fifteen minutes ahead of schedule and do something that’s exclusively for you. That doesn’t mean getting ahead by checking your work emails. Sit down and listen to some uplifting music, relax with a little yoga, or try meditation.

2. Make a Healthy Meal Every Day

Healthy eating habits are a common component of a good self-care routine. The good news is that you don’t need to do a drastic detox or a juice cleanse to get yourself back into the right place after some time away from your self-care strategy. You don’t even need to jump into the latest diet craze, all you need to do is make sure that you’re getting the right dose of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins whenever you can.

Instead of trying to revamp your entire eating strategy, focus on making one healthy meal a day, and supplementing it with healthy decisions throughout your schedule. For instance, you might have a green salad for lunch, and a cup of freshly-ground coffee to go with it. Fresh coffee beans are actually packed full of antioxidants, and they can give you the boost you need to get through the rest of your routine with a smile.

3. Keep It Simple 

One of the biggest things stopping people from reviewing their self-care routine is the worry that they won’t be able to follow a strict schedule. You don’t need to plan every second of your day to make sure that you’re looking after yourself. Instead, you just need to start with a few simple changes. For instance, start by looking at your current list of priorities.

Most people put work and earning money at the top, then family next, then time for themselves somewhere near the bottom. Every so often, put some time in your schedule to flip your priorities around. Forget about work for fifteen minutes and do something fun that just benefits you. This is your opportunity to indulge in listening to your favorite tunes or watching a great show without any judgment. You’re not selfish; you’re looking after yourself.

4. Get Some More Sleep 

Sleep is a basic human need, but it’s also something we forget about when we’re neglecting our self-care routines. While it’s tempting to push yourself as hard as your mind and body will allow to accomplish your career or personal goals, it’s worth remembering that you’re only human. Your brain and body need time to recuperate, so make sure that you’re still finding enough time for at least seven hours of sleep each night.

Not only will a good sleep strategy help you to handle your hectic day, but it should also assist in making you a more energetic and focused person. Without exhaustion plaguing all your thoughts, you can concentrate on each challenge as it presents itself to you and avoid the risk of common mental health problems like stress, anxiety or depression.

5. Protect your Boundaries

If you’re a parent, a caregiver, or just someone with a lot of people who rely on you, then you may have forgotten what “boundaries” actually are. Your boundaries are your basic limits, and they help people around you to respect your need for self-care so that you’re more likely to stick to your routine. If you put your boundaries in place carefully, you can remind your husband, wife, children, and anyone else in your social circle that you need time for you, too.

As hard as it can be to say “no,” or ignore the people who are closest to you, it’s critical to communicate your boundaries with your words, and your actions if you want your self-care routine to be successful. Ultimately, if you let other people see that you don’t see self-care as a priority, then they won’t treat it as important either.

6. Stay Flexible 

Finally, it’s important to remember that no matter how hard you try, and how carefully you plan, sometimes your schedule can get the better of you. It will be easier to practice self-care on some days than it is on others, and that’s fine. Just because you fall off the wagon at times doesn’t mean you should give up on your strategy altogether.

Don’t be too hard on yourself and remind yourself that life can be overwhelming. Just make sure that you don’t allow yourself to constantly ignore your needs or put your self-care routine to the back of your schedule too often. Take it one step at a time, be flexible, and eventually, you’ll get to where you need to be.

Exploring Anger in Therapy

Managing anger is something we can all learn to do better. This article introduces the basis of a better understanding of anger through an existential lens.

There are different aspects to this that I usually want to explore with my clients – I usually begin to look at what is already there: what helps and what doesn’t?

The historical dimension

How we manage our negative feelings is usually learned. I believe that whatever is learned can be unlearned even later in life. It is never ‘too late’ to reformulate our core beliefs.

It is useful for this purpose to think about what was taught to us about anger when we were growing up.

How was anger displayed?

How did your parents managed anger?

Was anger something that was encouraged or suppressed?

After the exploration of this historical dimension, we can move to understand what we can do with anger now. 

Feelings and behaviours

The crucial point to improving the management of anger is to differentiate between our feelings and our behaviour.

The feeling is the felt sense we experience in our body. There are a lot of different variations and forms of it: we might feel frustrated, annoyed, envious, mad, irritated, jealous, resentful, upset or aggravated. All those words refer back to the same primal feeling of anger. 

The behaviour is what we do, both physically and mentally with these emotions. What we commonly associate with anger is aggressive behaviour, lashing out at people, saying things we regret, being snappy and so on.

The main approach to anger management focuses on the basic distinction between feelings and behaviour. Once the client is able to differentiate the two, the next step is to validate the feelings and challenging the behaviour. 

It is very important to understand that we cannot change what we feel. We can only change what we do in response to the feeling. For instance we can learn to think about our anger in a different way or we can learn to respond to anger in a less harmful manner. The problem with anger is never the feeling, it’s the behaviour. 

If we feel something we need to allow ourselves to feel it, but we want to change how we act in response to it – In most cases, when I work on anger management, I find that the client finds it difficult to put a reflective space between the feeling and the action.

For the purpose of self-development we want to introduce a lapse of time between when we feel the feeling and when we respond to it. We want to move away from the dynamic of feeling-reaction. We want to promote actions we have been thinking about, not simple impulse responses.


Very often when we are angry, we are in touch with something that is really important for us. I often ask my clients to think about anger as a passion.

If instead of using the word anger, you would use the word passion, what would you be passionate about?

This usually leads the therapy away from simple behaviour management and into a more complex and meaningful reframing of priorities and choices.

Anger is a complex and meaningful feeling we all experience at times. As much as we don’t like to be angry we all need to face it sometimes.

What matters is to create a narrative in which anger, like any other feeling can be used as information. The more we learn to listen to our feelings, the better we can manage them.

World Mental Health Day: Suicide Prevention

This year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is suicide prevention.

In 2018, there were 6,507 registered suicides in the UK. What’s more shocking is that this rate is significantly higher than in 2017, and is the first increase since 2013.

Three quarters of registered deaths were among men (4,903) however the most significant increase is among woman age 10-24 years. This is the highest level increase since 2012.

Since 2013 we have been seeing a gradual decline in suicides however last year that changed and we have now seen a significant increase.

The office of national statistics has stated that often suicide rates tend to fluctuate year to year; therefore it is too early to tell whether the latest increase represents a change in the recent trend.

At Harmless we feel that one death is too many and are saddened by this increase. In response to the significant increase in young female deaths our theme for 2020’s conference is: ‘Apathy: The growing need for us to listen to our ‘hysterical’ women.’

Conference details here:

From Harm to Hope: Friday 28th February 2020

In honor of World Mental Health Day we are asking everyone to reach out to someone. Reach out to that friend who lives alone, the friend who just finished university and moved home, the colleague at work who seems less chatty than usual, the person you know who’s just moved house….reach out to the friend who always seems fine. We never know the power of asking someone how they are and really meaning it.

For years people have been taught that they could be psychologically health without social support, and that “unless you love yourself, no one else will love you”….however we know that is not true. You cannot love yourself unless you have been loved and are loved. The capacity for love and healing cannot be built in isolation. So never underestimate the power of reaching out to someone and experiencing genuine connection. It could save their life.


If your or someone you know are struggling please contact a service for support from the list below:

Samaritans offer a 24-hours a day, 7 days a week support service. Call them FREE on 116 123. You can also email

Papyrus is a dedicated service for people up to the age of 35 who are worried about how they are feeling or anyone concerned about a young person. You can call the HOPElineUK number on 0800 068 4141, text 07786 209697 or email

NHS Choices: 24-hour national helpline providing health advice and information. Call them free on 111.

C.A.L.M.: National helpline for men to talk about any troubles they are feeling. Call 0800 58 58 58.

Support After Suicide Partnership offers practical and emotional support on their website for people bereaved and affected by suicide.

The Tomorrow Project offers free therapeutic support to anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts. We also support anyone bereaved by suicide.
















The Problem with Yelling

“The problem with verbal abuse is there is no evidence,” Marta shared. She came for help with a long-standing depression.

“What do you mean lack of evidence?” I asked her.

“When people are physically or sexually abused it’s concrete and real. But verbal abuse is amorphous. I feel like if I told someone I was verbally abused, they’d think I was just complaining about being yelled at.” Marta explained.

“It’s much more than that.” I validated.

“Much more.” She said.

“The problem is no one can see my scars.” She knew intuitively that her depression, anxiety and deep-seated insecurity were wounds that stemmed from the verbal abuse she endured.

“I wish I was beaten,” Marta shared on more than one occasion. “I’d feel more legitimate.”

Her statement was haunting and brought tears to my eyes.

Verbal abuse is so much more than getting scolded. Marta told me that there were many reasons her mother’s tirades were traumatizing:

•    The loud volume of her voice

•    The shrill tone of her voice

•    The dead look in her eyes

•    The critical, disdainful and contemptuous facial expression that made Marta feel hated.

•    The long duration—sometimes her mother yelled for hours.

•    The names and insults, you’re spoiled, disgusting, and wretched.

•    The unpredictability of that “flip of the switch” that turned her mother into someone else.

•    And, perhaps worst of all, the abandonment.

“It is not just that I felt assaulted. It’s that when I did something that flipped her switch, my mother was gone and replaced by a monster. That’s exactly what it felt like. I was totally alone.” Tears welled up in Marta’s eyes.

Being frequently yelled at changes the mind, brain and body in a multitude of ways including increasing the activity of the amygdala (the emotional brain), increasing stress hormones in the blood stream, increasing muscular tension, and more. Being frequently yelled at changes how we think and feel about our Self even after we become adults and leave home. That’s because the brain wires according to our experiences—we literally hear our parents’ voices yelling at us in our heads even when they are not there. Marta had to work hard every day to push away the onslaught coming from inside her mind.

Attachment and infant-mother research confirms what we all intuitively know: that humans do better when they feel safe and consistently loved, which means among other things, being treated with respect. What is news to many of us is that we are born with fully matured, hard-wired, core emotions like sadness, fear, and anger.

When fear, for example, is repeatedly triggered by a harsh environment, like one where there is lots of yelling, automatic physical and emotional reactions occur that cause traumatic stress to a child. The stress in their little brains and bodies increases from anything that feels attacking including loud voices, angry voices, angry eyes, dismissive gestures and more.

Children do better when they are calm. The calmer and more connected the caregiver, the calmer and more secure is their child. And the healthier it is for the child’s brain and body.

The following are some things we can remember to help young brains develop well and help our children feel safe and secure.*

  • Know that children have very real emotional needs that need proper tending. In general, the more these needs are met, the easier it will be for the child to be resilient in the face of life’s challenges.

  • Learning about core emotions will help you to help your child successfully manage emotions.

  • You can affect your child’s self-esteem by being kind, compassionate and curious about their mind and world.

  • When a break in the relationship occurs, as often happens during conflicts, try to repair the emotional connection with your child as soon as possible.

  • You can help your child feel safe and secure by allowing them to separate from you and become their own person, welcoming them back with love and connection, even when you are angry or disappointed in their behaviors. You can calmly discuss your concerns and use opportunities as teachable moments.

Yelling at children is counter to all of the above, as is hitting and crossing physical/sexual boundaries of any kind.

The last time I saw Marta, she told me she had received upsetting news over the weekend.

Marta said, “I told myself, my distress will soon pass and I’ll be ok. And, then I worked the Change Triangle. I named, validated and felt the sadness in my body as I gave myself compassion. After I spent time with my feelings, I took a walk through the park and looked at nature. I felt better.”

So proud of the way she could now self-soothe, I said, “What a wonderful mother you were to yourself.”

She smiled and said, “Yeah. It really does feel better when I don’t beat myself up.”

The mother who lived inside her mind used to condemn her with such mean and unhelpful comments as: Serves you right! Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill! or Who cares about you?

The harsh mother inside Marta had indeed mellowed.

As a parent, it is not easy to control one’s temper or realize if we’ve crossed the line into verbal abuse. There is a slippery slope between being a strict disciplinarian and what will traumatize a young brain. A little awareness goes a long way in this case. Being aware of one’s behavior, listening to our tone of voice and choice of words, and watching our body language, all help keep us in check.

Little children, who can act tough, defiant, or even indifferent to our actions, are still vulnerable to trauma. Our own childhood experiences, wonderful, horrible, and everything in between, need to be remembered and honored. And we can all strive to help our families evolve: to pay forward more of the best, gentle experiences we received as children than the painful ones.

World Mental Health Day

This year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is suicide prevention.

What are mental health problems?

Our mental health is just like our physical health: everybody has it and we need to take care of it.

Mental health problems affect around one in four people in any given year. They range from common problems, such as depression and anxiety, to rarer problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Prevention is something that we can all individually help with. A short conversation with another person can sometimes be enough to make the difference between life and death for them.

Suicide prevention: WAIT

Prevention is something that we can all individually help with. A short conversation with another person can sometimes be enough to make the difference between life and death for them.

The advice ‘WAIT’ is one good way to remember how you can support another person who may be suicidal. It stands for:

Watch out for signs of distress and uncharacteristic behaviour

e.g. social withdrawal, excessive quietness, irritability, uncharacteristic outburst, talking about death or suicide

Ask “are you having suicidal thoughts?”

Asking about suicide does not encourage it, nor does it lead a person to start thinking about it; in fact it may help prevent it, and can start a potentially life-saving conversation

It will pass – assure your loved one that, with help, their suicidal feelings will pass with time

Talk to others – encourage your loved one to seek help from a GP or health professional such as The Tomorrow Project.


Seeking support for yourself

Samaritans offer a 24-hours a day, 7 days a week support service. Call them FREE on 116 123. You can also email

Papyrus is a dedicated service for people up to the age of 35 who are worried about how they are feeling or anyone concerned about a young person. You can call the HOPElineUK number on 0800 068 4141, text 07786 209697 or email

NHS Choices: 24-hour national helpline providing health advice and information. Call them free on 111.

C.A.L.M.: National helpline for men to talk about any troubles they are feeling. Call 0800 58 58 58.

Support After Suicide Partnership offers practical and emotional support on their website for people bereaved and affected by suicide.

The Tomorrow Project offers free therapeutic support to anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts. We also support anyone bereaved by suicide.