#childtrauma2016 reflections – Day 2 – Noel MacNamara

This article was authored by Noel Macnamara,
National Manager, Research and Policy at the Australian Childhood Foundation.

During Tuesday’s plenary session Professor Tronick pointed out that ‘humans are meaning makers’. This caused me to reflect on the meaning that all the participants are making of the experience of the conference. I spent the first day of the conference with Professor Michael Yellow Bird and he asked us to reflect on how the process of colonisation not only takes possession of the place but also the mind of those being colonised, that decolonising actions must begin in the mind, and that creative, consistent, decolonised thinking shapes and empowers the brain. On Tuesday Professor Russell Meares offered us an insight into the origins and treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder and the Conversational model of treatment. Although on the surface these two presentations appear very different, at the heart of each was the importance and therapeutic nature of relationship. For Michael the relationship of Aboriginal peoples with each other and nature in all its forms creates a true meaning and is the essence of therapeutic and for Russell the presence of the therapist and the client together allows the client to eventually feel recognised, accepted and understood and together make meaning of the client’s experiences in a shared way.

The consequences of trauma, abuse and loss for children and young people we work with at the Australian Childhood Foundation include loss of memory, loss of connectedness, meaning making and integration of experience (body, mind, emotions). All too often, the sense they make of these experiences is laced with the magical thinking and natural egocentricity, for example: ”It must be because I am bad and unlovable that is why my parents did what they did”. We often say abuse happened in relationship and it is in relationship that healing will happen. Viktor E. Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning said: “In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning,” Meaning can best be found in relationship with another: tribe member, therapist, friend, foster parent.