A Message for 2021

From Bessel and Licia

Word of the year.

The ritual is to meditate and think on it through December and pronounce it on New Year’s, so I’m coming to the exercise a bit late, but it still feels like the right thing to focus the TRF lens for the rest of 2021. It is the first day of Black History Month in America – February 1st. Now that the Social Justice Summit is complete, we have some time to think about how the rest of our year will unfold. What are the values that ground us and connect us as we continue to face the unfolding challenges of the pandemic? Dare I share it? Community- from common, meaning shared, and unity.

Community is my word of the year because for months on end, we have faced the choices of how to interact or isolate- either going into the world in the face of the danger of grave illness, or we living as if under house arrest, unable to see others in person, unable to touch our friends or family, and the choice grows more challenging the longer the pandemic drags on. One of the most difficult aspects or side effects of dealing with trauma is the deep sense of isolation, of not fitting in, and of not being able to make meaningful connections with others. In upheaval of the pandemic, this sense of isolation is even more heightened. Our ability to meet new people, to reach out when we need help, to collaborate, to play, to safely see and be seen has been dramatically and often painfully circumscribed. And even with the vaccines coming, our path to a more open and connected time is still uncertain.

Community is a deep need, and we need to find ways to be community for each other. We humans are social creatures. We are biologically socially interactive with other humans in order to survive. From literature on attachment and trauma, you might think co-regulation was just what we do to stay calm, or help babies stop crying, or to be able to think clearly when we’re triggered. But co-regulating social interaction is vital to our mental, emotional and physical health, to our immune, hormonal, cardiovascular, and nervous systems. We feel safer when we have good supportive connections. We think better when we’re connected. We sleep better when we’re connected. Community is where we come to be connected.

As always, we are grateful to our TRF Tuesday presenters, currently Matthew Sanford of Mind Body Solutions, and grateful to the growing community that returns each week to join us.

Last Thursday, we had our first Peer Counseling training of 2021, Peer Counseling for Healing & Recovery from Oppression Based Trauma: Fundamentals 1 with Barbara Love. We had 45 people from around the world join us, many of whom attended the Social Justice Summit. Seeing new and familiar people face to face, learning new ways to listen, and be listened to, hearing why people came to the training, and what they hoped to bring back to their communities was so affirming, empowering, and gratifying. We will be offering Level 1 and Level 2 Peer Counseling training sessions through the year in order to grow a community network of peer counselors. In the Fall, we will offer Level 3 for experienced peer counselors, ultimately with the goal to lead Level 1 training sessions in their own communities.

Today, Bessel led the final rousing Q & A discussion for the 500 participants from around the world who were graduating from the 2020 Certificate in Traumatic Stress Studies Program. They will now be eligible to join the TRF Professional Supervision Program. If you are interested, enrollment is still open for the next session of the Certificate in Traumatic Stress Studies starting February 15, 2021. We gratefully acknowledge the support and partnership of PESI in making this program possible.

As I write, the lineup and schedule for the 2021 32nd Annual International Trauma Conference is finalized. May 26-29. We’re looking forward to 30 years of prospective studies by Karlen Lyons Ruth; the findings of the foremost psychedelic investigators, Rick Doblin, Robin Carhart Harris, and oxytocin researcher Sue Carter; the cutting edge neuroscience of abuse and neglect from the lab of Ruth Lanius; mindfulness researcher Tania Singe; the Embodied Racial Justice work of Resmaa Menakem; neurofeedback work with indigenous teens in British Columbia with Patricia Viccars; return presentations from Beyond Conflict and Global Trauma Project; and insights and inspiration from the spectacular V Ensler.

We are committed to making our content inclusive and accessible. Knowing you all are out there, that you read our newsletters, that our programming helps ground your work, and that we are creating a resource community to return to, helps ground our TRF Team in our mission. I invite you to find your word for the year. With the word Community, I invite you to join us in our worldwide healing Trauma Research Foundation Community. Let us know who you are, how you work, what supports you, how our resources can help support you, who you help to heal, and what you might offer to support us as we support you.

With love, respect, gratitude, courage, and joy,

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