Adults in the Room

Today’s post is related to Adults in the Room, a recent French and Greek film that I watched a few days ago, directed by Costas Gavras and based on Yiannis Varoufakis’ book with the same title about his battle with Europe’s deep establishment, In January 2015 Varoufakis became the finance minister of Greece, a deeply indebted country, in the midst of a clash with its creditors, who happened to be Europe’s most powerful institutions.

The film proved an interesting and rich experience for me, firstly, because it was a captivating political thriller. Secondly, having watched the unrolling of these events through the media, and also, their far reaching consequences on the economy and political developments in the country, as a Greek citizen, the film grasped my attention. But what also got my attention were the secondary themes and representation of dynamics through images. One such theme was  character assassination through miring a person’s reputation, harassment and distortion of truths or lies that takes place when the person stands up or against a certain status quo of interests or beliefs and practices. I found that Donna Hicks’ ten elements of dignity, presented in the previous post, were relevant themes in this story, especially, those of: Safety that involves not only protection from physical harm, but also, allows freedom of expression without retribution, and Accountability and taking responsibility for our actions and the repercussions of decisions on others whether at an individual, national or global level.

Another theme thread is how we all often find ourselves at the mercy of inhumane circumstances, fear based dynamics  and power over paradigms, where we try to survive the best we can or act within the confines of the structures and contexts we find ourselves in, but also, the unresolved issues and complexes in our psyche. Varoufakis writes ‘beneath the specific events that I experienced, I recognised a universal story – the story of what happens when human beings find themselves at the mercy of cruel circumstances that have been generated by an inhuman, mostly unseen network of power relations. This is why there are no ‘goodies’ or ‘baddies’ in this book. Instead, it is populated by people doing their best, as they understand it, under conditions not of their choosing. Each of the persons I encountered and write about in these pages believed they were acting appropriately, but, taken together, their acts produced misfortune on a continental scale. Is this not the stuff of authentic tragedy? Is this not what makes the tragedies of Sophocles and Shakespeare resonate with us today……….?

The film also made visible the fragility of democracy and how breaches in the rights of freedom of expression, disrespect of others’ dignity, prejudice, arrogance and power over paradigms can slowly but steadily erode it. Finally, the title Adults in the Room in itself is another interesting metaphor maybe of how often during our daily lives and during moments of negotiation or conflict we function from younger, exiled in subterranean rooms, parts of ourselves, and this holds truth for everyone on this planet whether they are simple civilians or people who run the world.

Continued from previous post…….                                                                                          

“If you believe your dignity is anchored deeply inside of you, you can endure just about anything.” – Donna Hicks

  1. Very briefly on the physiology of trauma

Somatic bottom up approaches are essential when dealing with trauma because trauma impacts our physiology

Our trauma response system is an evolutionary compelling force with survival value

When we ‘perceive’ danger we opt for flee or fight, but when this is not possible we have another biological choice – our vagal circuit leads to freeze and shut down responses automatically

Neuroception is our human capacity to detect safety and risk or danger in the environment without cognitive awareness

We have a nervous system that allows us to participate in other people’s nervous systems for better and for worse

Our bodies require co-regulation, but we live in a world where many people have lost their capacity to co regulate with each other because they don’t feel safe enough

Our physiological states shift with cues of trauma and this can script our expression and interpretation of others

Prosodic voices can soothe our physiology

  1. Trauma and dignity

Dignity can be defined as our inborn sense of value and worth, which cannot be stripped from us, but it can be wounded, abused and violated

Dr Donna Hicks’ 10 essential elements of dignity in brief:

Acceptance of other people’s identity and authentic selves without prejudice and bias always assuming that others have integrity

Inclusion; fostering a sense of belonging for all

Safety that involves both physical safety and protection from humiliation and allows freedom of expression without retribution

Acknowledgement: attention and responding to people’s concerns, feelings and experiences

Recognition: validate people for their talents, hard work, thoughtfulness, and help

Fairness: treat people justly, with equality and without discrimination or injustice, honoring their dignity

Benefit of the Doubt: treat people as trustworthy. Start with the premise that others have good motives and are acting with integrity

Understanding: believe that what others think matters

Independence: encourage people to act on their own behalf so that they feel in control of their lives and experience a sense of hope and possibility

Accountability: take responsibility for your actions

Continued from previous post…….

So, one only needs to look at one’s country’s history to get an idea of how much historical violence, wounding and unspoken suffering has occurred over the centuries. If we then consider how this cultural and collective trauma is tightly interconnected with our individual and familial traumas and legacies we can understand that it all creates a vicious ongoing cycle. The repercussions of this experience manifests as the residual energy from the traumas in our bodies and the accompanying symptoms, toxic narratives and practices, which are passed down through generations until people decide to acknowledge, break the silence and heal.

One of the speakers of the summit, Dr Scilla Elworthy, who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Award three times, believes that personal and collective trauma drives war and that the cycle of violence in many places where there is conflict will only stop through acknowledging, integrating events and healing, both at a collective level and at a personal level, through stillness and inner work and facing our fears.

She shares one activity she has used to do inner work, a type of Gestalt practice to work with her inner critic or inner dragon (we all have a critical inner part), especially, when it wakes her up at 3 in the morning. So, she uses two cushions (or chairs) and allows a dialogue to take place between her adult self and this younger inner part as she actually switches seats. The inner dragon usually has a gem (of insights and truths) under his paw. From an Internal family Systems approach this  critical inner part might have been viewed as a protector created a long time ago to prevent us from fully showing up and doing things in order to keep us safe in situations where silence and hiding were adaptive in the past.

More insights in brief from the Collective Trauma online summit

We need to move from trauma organised societies to trauma informed societies to healing oriented societies

It is now necessary to build trauma informed health, medicine, educational, cultural, religious, spiritual, political and economic contexts and systems

Most trauma occurs in relational fields, and relational safety is important for recovery and resilience. It is important to share stories in safe spaces and in communities

Destructive instincts are essentially our life instincts traumatized and distorted and turned into death instincts

Trauma is about broken connection to our body, our cells, others and reality

More on the physiology of trauma in next post…..