Autobiographical and social-psychological investigation of childhood trauma

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Blog post 2 – 6th August 2021

The archaeology of childhood traumatic stories – An auto-ethnographical approach

By Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

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My own trauma journey

Metal_Dog__Long_Roa_Cover_for_KindleLong before I got down to writing about the trauma problems of other people, I had to work on my own childhood trauma damage.  One of the ways that I did that was to write my own autobiographical stories about my origins and my ‘relationships’.  Beginning with my story of origins, and moving on to my story of relationship problems, I eventually found my way into attachment theory and the work of Dr Allan Schore on the traumatizing effects of serious disruptions to early attachment bonds between mother and baby.

One of the main ways I did this work was to create an ‘alter ego’ – who I called Daniel O’Beeve.  I then put Daniel into those situations through which I have lived, and which I could dredge up from my memory banks; and I observed how he got on – from the ‘outside’ – (objectification!).  I then retrieved a lot of my old traumatic nightmares, and rewrote them in a literary style.

And then I created a set of ‘alien psychologists’ who could observe Daniel’s journey, through a “wormhole in space-time”, and to make comments about how to understand what is going on in his life, in a way that Daniel and I could never have commented! (Clearly this has to be called “a fictionalized autobiographical story”; and none of the characters in this story should be confused with any real individual, living or dead!)

I published all of that work in a book called Metal Dog – Long Road Home. And this is the Amazon books description of that book:

Book description

We are unaware of our childhood traumasDaniel O’Beeve was a victim of childhood developmental trauma, before anybody had even thought to conceive of such a concept.  He was a victim of abuse and neglect long before anybody gave a damn about the emotional welfare of children.

Daniel’s parents were both born into highly dysfunctional families; poor rural families that lived from hand to mouth; families who had been trained by the priests to “beat the fear of God” into their children.

Daniel’s parents did not love each other.  They had an arranged marriage, and never learned to even like each other.

When Daniel was just eighteen months old, his father lost his farm and had to move to Dublin city, to eke out an existence as a gardener. Daniel was born into this mess. Unloved and unloving; beaten and emotionally abused; he grew up with very low emotional intelligence; no capacity to make contact with another human being; and a fear of everything that moved suddenly or rapidly.

He was then thrown into a city school at the age of four years, into a playground in which he was the only “culchie” (or hill billy) – in a sea of “city slickers” (called “Jackeens” by Daniel’s parents) – and this was against a backdrop of dreadful (‘racist’) antipathy between the Dublin and rural cultures in general. 

In ten years of public schooling, Daniel did not make a single friend.

With no map of healthy human love, or workable human relations, he entered the world of work at the age of fourteen, like a drunk thrown out of a pub, late at night, in total darkness, mind reeling, and feelings jangled; and from this point forward he has to try to make sense of life; to make sense of relationships with girls; and to make some kind of life for himself.

Metal_Dog__Long_Roa_Cover_for_KindleFor more, please go to Metal Dog – Long Road Home.

This is where I reveal some of the ways in which my childhood trauma affected my difficulties with trying to “got off” with a girl or woman, in a way that might possibly work. For more, please go to Metal Dog – Long Road Home.

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That’s all for now. One day I will write up the precise methodology used in this work; but until then, try this outcome or product of my work.  It contains rich clues to the ways in which a child can be damaged by our current family and community structures. And it is rich in psychological insights.

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Best wishes,

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

The Institute for Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy

ABC Bookstore Online UK

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Email: Dr Jim Byrne.***

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Childhood developmental trauma and autobiographical writing

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Blog Post D3: Theory of trauma and childhood brain development

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

1st July 2021

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Daniel O’Beeve’s Development Trauma, and the long road to recovery

A case study in recovery from childhood trauma

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2021

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Introduction

brick-man-image2Traumatic experience in childhood is very real. The idea that children forget their serious adversities, and are unharmed by them, is false.  The very fact of being traumatized in early childhood – by parental neglect, aggression, abandonment, or even serious communication mis-attunement – leaves its mark on the right hemisphere of the child’s brain, in the form of deficits in the development of their social and emotional intelligence. (Dr Allan Schore, 2015)[1], [2].

It takes a long time, and a lot of effort, to undo the damage of early childhood trauma; and most people never succeed in doing the work that is needed to get them onto a normal road of development and reasonable adult functioning.

One of the best ways to work on early childhood trauma is to write your own autobiography (Goswami, 2020[3]) – preferably in a somewhat fictionalized form, to allow some distance from the pain, so that it can be digested without re-traumatizing yourself.

One of the ways that I have processed my own childhood trauma is to write the fictionalized autobiography of my alter ego, Daniel O’Beeve.

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Metal_Dog__Long_Roa_Cover_for_KindleDaniel O’Beeve was traumatized by parents who knew nothing about love. Parents who did not love each other, and saw their children as burdens; who had to have the fear of God beaten into them. Parents who lost their farm and had to move to the city to eke out a living on poverty wages, living among people who considered them second class citizens.

Trauma was piled on trauma when he was emotionally abandoned by his mother at the age of eighteen months; and again when he went to school and found he was an alien, unwelcome by his city-born peers. Furthermore, he had had his ‘fierceness switch’ turned off by his brutalizing parents, and so he could not defend himself physically.

Eighteen years later he managed to stumble into psychoanalysis, and related therapies, which patched him up for a return to the odyssey of trying to find out who he was, and where he might belong.

For more, please go to Daniel O’Beeve’s autobiography.***

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

Director of Publishing

The Institute for E-CENT

Email: Dr Jim Byrne.***

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[1] Schore, A.N. (2015) Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development. London: Routledge.

[2] Van der Kolk, B., Mark Greenberg, Helene Boyd, John Krystal, (1985) ‘Inescapable shock, neurotransmitters, and addiction to trauma: Toward a psychobiology of post-traumatic stress’. Biological Psychiatry, Vol.20, Issue 3, 1985, Pages 314-325,

[3] Goswami, U. (2020). ‘How to heal through life writing: Learning to write about trauma helps you to process the painful experience, and gives you the life skills to overcome it’. Psyche/Aeon Magazine. Online: https://psyche.co/guides/to-start-to-heal-from-trauma-in-your-life-write-about-it

Books about trauma and emotional intelligence

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Blog Post No.2 – 27th February 2021

Emotional Intelligence and Trauma Recovery – Books update

By Dr Jim Byrne

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2021

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Preamble

The thinkerEarlier today, I posted a blog to the ABC Bookstore Online, which provides some updated information about two of my current books in progress.  Later it occurred to me that followers of the E-CENT Institute might also be interested in this information.  This is the basic message:

I have now resumed my work on my main Trauma Book – (Transforming Traumatic Dragons: How to recover from a history of trauma – using a whole body-brain-mind approach); and yesterday I wrote the intro to one of my appendices for that book.  Here is an extract from that appendix:

Appendix L: Some insights into the Polyvagal Theory of Dr Stephen Porges

By Jim Byrne, Updated 26th February 2021

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Introduction

brick-man-headIn this appendix, I want to introduce a brief set of insights into the Polyvagal theory, which is central to Dr Bessel van der Kolk’s approach to Developmental Trauma Therapy[1]. The Polyvagal theory and Dr Van der Kolk’s approach to trauma have both influenced my own system of Interoceptive Processing of Intense Traumas.

The Polyvagal theory explains the ways in which the vagus nerve participates in the calming of bodily arousal, and also in face to face interpersonal communication as a form of affect (or emotion) regulation.

The bottom line of the Polyvagal system can be summarized like this: The autonomic nervous system has three levels of hierarchy:

– 1. Social engagement and connection, which regulates our levels of arousal to produce a sense of safety and protection. This operates through the ventral vagal complex (VVC), which regulates facial communication and tone of voice, heart rate, breathing, etc., (and which is highly developed in humans).

– 2. Nervous arousal (as in fight or flight), which is a survival-enhancing response to signs of threat or danger. This level is controlled by the limbic system, including the amygdala and hippocampus, and the hormonal system. (This system is found in all mammals, including humans).

– 3. Immobilization, or freeze/faint/closedown. This is also a survival-enhancing response of signs of extreme threat or danger, where the fight or flight response is not able to help. It is controlled by the dorsal vagal complex (DVC) which links to the heart and lungs, and also to the guts), The DVC is rooted in the reptilian brain (or brain stem, in humans).

Body-brain-mindThe signals which trigger us into one or other of the three states described (in para 1, 2 and 3) above are not noticed consciously.  Rather, they are sensed through a process which Stephen Porges labelled as ‘neuroception’, which means “detection without awareness”. (See Dana 2018)[2].

Level 1 of this system – (social engagement and connection) – facilitates a process of co-regulation of emotions, whereby, when I encounter you, I help to set the level of arousal of your autonomic nervous system (by seeming to be, or seeming not to be, trustworthy [and encouraging you to feel safe or unsafe with me]). And you regulate the level of my autonomic nervous system by the way your nonverbal signals, of face and voice, strike me: (Do you seem safe and trustworthy, or not?!)

But let us back up a little.

Let us begin with the human brain as a whole, and its many connections to parts of the body. …”

…End of extract.

For more, please click this link: Transforming Traumatic Dragons: How to recover from a history of trauma – using a whole body-brain-mind approach***

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Recently I swerved away from that book, and began working on a new book…

A new book on Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence book temp coverI had become distracted from working on the trauma book (above) – which I am co-authoring with Renata Taylor-Byrne – because I wanted to begin work on my new book on Emotional Intelligence.  Here’s an extract from the Introduction to that new book:

Introduction

The first and most important aspect of emotional intelligence is self-understanding.  To “know thyself” is an important goal; and to examine the kind of life you are leading – and the kind of like you really want – that it just as important.

Let me begin, here in this Introduction, to clarify some of the insights I’ve had over the years about the nature of a human individual, and how we are ‘wired up’.

Firstly, if you want to understand yourself fully, it would help if you knew how stressed your mother was when you were in her womb, because that is where the basic wiring of your brain began to be laid down.

But more importantly than that, it would help if you knew how securely attached your mother had been to her own mother when she was a baby, because she is most likely to have passed on to you the same kind of (secure or insecure) attachment style that she got from her mother.

The first five or six years of your life would have laid down some fundamentals of your personality, including the creation (in your own mind) of a life script, encouraged by your parents, siblings, neighbours, teachers, other relatives, etc.  And that life script tells you (from subconscious levels of mind) what is going to happen to someone like you, as you progress through your life.  (Don’t worry. You can rewrite this script, and I will show you how in Appendix A of this book).

When you were born, you were essentially a little body, with a set of basic emotions (or ‘affects’), mostly a capacity to perceive and evaluate pleasure and pain; ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sensations.  Those innate affects or simple emotions are then socialized into a set of ‘higher cognitive emotions’ by your daily encounters with your mother (or main carer), you father (in most cases), your other relatives, peers (as you begin to move around and begin to go to kindergarten or pre-school, etc.)  From the beginning…”

…End of extract.

For more, please click this link: How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence***

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drjim-counsellor9So now I have resumed working on the Transforming Dragons book, and hope to have it on sale by Easter.  I hope you find this information helpful.

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

The Institute for E-CENT

ABC Bookstore Online

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Dr Jim’s Counselling and Psychotherapy Division

Email: Dr Jim’s Counselling Division

Telephone: 44 1422 843 629

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[1] Van der Kolk, B. A. (2015). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York: Viking.

[2] Dana, D. (2018) The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation. London: W. W. Norton & Company

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Fictionalized autobiography of childhood trauma and adult damage

Blog Post: 16th August 2020

E-CENT Institute Blog

By Dr Jim Byrne

Books about childhood trauma – how to recover – how I recovered – and a fictionalized autobiography of childhood/manhood

Including a FREE eBook about the life of an emotionally abused boy, and his struggle to become a loving man

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Jim and the Buddha, 2I am aware of the principle of ‘concentration of power’ on our top priorities, which was popularized in the 1980s, by Dr Charles R. Hobbs, and re-presented in recent times by Garry Keller and Jay Papasan, in their book, ‘The One Thing’.  We are more likely to be successful if we focus on just a few important priorities.

Nevertheless, I have been switching back and forth between three books on Childhood Development, Trauma, and Recovery, for the past couple of months or more.

The three books in question are as follows:

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Recovery from Childhood Trauma:

How I healed my heart and mind – and how you can heal yourself

By Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Front cover,1Many people struggle with emotional distress, just below the level of conscious awareness, which mars their life chances, and limits their capacity for happy relationships. Much of this distress could and should be classified as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); or emotional distress which follows on from a traumatic experience, which is too stressful (at the time of occurrence) to be processed into a coherent story.  And even more should be defined as Complex-PTSD, arising out of protracted child abuse in early childhood.

The author describes the main traumatic experiences that occurred in his childhood, which hung like a dark cloud over his emotional and relational life, up to the age of almost forty years or so.  He also describes the various therapeutic processes that he used to try to process his undigested childhood pain.  Chief among those strategies were the writing of his Story of Origins and his Story of Relationship, both of which are reproduced in this book, along with analysis and commentary. He also includes guidelines for the reader to do their own writing therapy on their own childhood trauma, which will greatly improve the quality of their emotional and relational lives.  And he emphasizes the importance of exercise and other body-based healing approaches. His hope is that the reader will use this book to become happier and healthier, and more at ease in their own skin; with a better prospect of moving forward into a more enjoyable future life.

For more information, please click this link.***

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Transforming Traumatic Dragons:

How to recover from a history of trauma – using a whole body-brain-mind approach

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Revised, expanded and updated: June 2020

Front cover 2, Dragons Trauma book June 2020From Ancient Athens to Vietnam and Zambia, individual lives have been ruined by stress, strain, abuse and neglect. Madness, serious unhappiness and unworkable lives were most often the result.

Many common problems with physical and mental health are a result of childhood trauma, and/or being an adult who is abused by another adult.

Early childhood trauma (like physical and emotional abuse, and neglect), and other forms of prolonged trauma (like domestic abuse), affect the very structure of the human brain, and the behaviour of stress hormones in the body.

But the good news is this: It is possible to recover from all forms of trauma, given the right kind of approach. And this book offers you just such an approach to self-healing.

Dr Byrne discusses the following topics: What is trauma?  What is post-traumatic stress disorder?  What is Complex-PTSD?  How widespread is Complex-PTSD?  What are Adverse Childhood Experiences?  What are some solutions to Childhood Developmental Trauma or Complex-PTSD? The meaning and importance of the concept of Traumatic Dragons.

This book contains a comprehensive self-therapy program, to help you to heal your own traumatic wounds, from prolonged childhood abuse or neglect, or other forms of prolonged traumatic experiences.

If you are suffering from the aftermath of prolonged traumatic experiences, this book will be a great help to you. If you work slowly and methodologically through the program of self-healing, described in this book, you will gain by the calming down of your body, brain and mind; and the emergence of a sense of happiness and inner peace.

For more information, please click this link: Transforming Traumatic Dragons

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But the third book – next – is the one I have chosen to prioritize, and it is now available on Amazon stores around the world.  This is it:

Fictionalized autobiography of an Irish Catholic boy: The autobiography of a traumatized child.

Title: Metal Dog – Long Road Home

By Jim Byrne (writing through his alter ego, Daniel O’Beeve)

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Metal_Dog__Long_Roa_Cover_for_KindleThis is the fictionalized autobiography of Jim Byrne (writing through his alter ego, Daniel O’Beeve). None of the characters in this story should be confused with any real person, alive or dead!

Here is a brief extract, intended to give you a flavour of the quality of this personal (fictional!) story:

Extract: I went inside (the fish and chip shop in Blackpool), blinking the rain out of my eyes, and immediately recognized the leopard-skin coat and black fishnet tights on the raven-haired customer in front of me at the counter.  She lived in the house next to the one in which I was lodging.  I’d seen her come and go a few times as I sat at the table in the bay window, eating my breakfast or my evening meal.

She had the appearance of an actress or model.  Tall, elegant, heavily made-up, and she walked with a wiggle, in extremely high, black, patent leather stiletto heels.  As I stood behind her on the queue, she ordered cod and chips.  Then I ordered the same.  She turned to look at me and said, “Horrible weather!”

I agreed.

Her fish and chips were wrapped within seconds; she paid; and she headed for the door.

My fish and chips were wrapped next, and I followed suit.

I did not expect her to be waiting at the exit to speak to me…

For more, please click this link: Fictionalized autobiography – Metal Dog, Long Road back to near normality.***.

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This is how I announced that book on LinkedIn today:

Childhood trauma and abuse: For the next 5 days, beginning on Sunday 16th August, this book will be available for FREE as a Kindle eBook. The author explores problems of attachment theory, affect regulation, personality adaptations, and childhood trauma – all in the context of a fictionalized autobiography which examines three different perspectives on the nature-nurture debate. Dr Jim Byrne has combined his experience of 22 years of dealing with clients with childhood abuse and neglect, and his hobby of reading psychological thrillers, to create a unique book…  Get your copy for FREE…  Here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08FRPSSGV

Please take a look and see what you think. Do you think this fictionalized autobiography helps to expand or deepen your understanding of complex childhood trauma; or to deepen your empathy for victims of child abuse?

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That’s all for today.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

Attachment theory and complex childhood trauma

E-CENT Blog post – 1st July 2020

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Trauma therapy, attachment theory, self-help resources, and the story of childhood trauma

How I worked on my own adverse childhood experiences, and used the resulting insights to help clients with childhood developmental trauma

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling, at The Institute for Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT)

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, July 2020

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Childhood amnesia about traumatic abuseSome therapists look for the source of their clients’ upsets in the client’s beliefs, as if the client invented their own belief system, independently of their parents, teachers, religious institutions, and the mass media – and as if their current beliefs and attitudes were not strongly impacted by their current socioeconomic environment, and the current physical state of their body and brain.

Last week I worked with a depressed man, Frank (not his real name), over Skype (not the actual channel of communication) about the fact that he is involved in an unhappy marriage. He is 57 years old, on his third marriage, and his current wife seems to hate him, or strongly dislike him; is willing to tolerate being married to him; but does not want to have anything much to do with him – (even though they live together in a tiny house, and have done so for about five years).

Frank’s formulation of his problem was this: “I want Josie to love me, actively; and to engage in passionate sex on a frequent basis!”

To me, it seemed pretty clear this this was like somebody who lives in Africa, and knows Africa well, wanting snow on the equator in August; or a cool breeze in the Kalahari Desert at noon.  Totally unrealistic; and this should have been obvious to Frank if he was “thinking straight”.  (But then “thinking” is another story!)

We are unaware of our childhood traumasIn my view, Frank seemed to be acting out a childhood problem of insecure attachment to this mother: an inability to get close to his mother, and to get the kind of pleasure and comfort he needed from her, 55 years ago!

Many of my clients’ problems seem to track back to childhood attachment issues; or childhood trauma; both of which are outside of the awareness of the client.

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I am currently expanding and updating my book on how to resolve complex trauma, caused by prolonged childhood abuse. The new title is this:

Transforming Traumatic Dragons:

How to recover from a history of trauma – using a whole body-brain-mind approach

Front cover Dragons Trauma book June 2020

This book began its life in an embryonic form in July 2011, as

E-CENT Paper No.13: Completing your past experiences of difficult events, perceptions, and painful emotions.  

The paper began like this:

Preface

“You cannot find peace by avoiding life”.  Virginia Woolf

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“Whatever you resist persists”.  Werner Erhard

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Window1The core of the theory and practice of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) is built around the concept of “reframing your experience” of life, so that it will show up in a more tolerable and bearable way than if you frame it unrealistically, illogically and/or unreasonably.  Normally the client knows what the problem is.  It is available to their conscious awareness.  And the E-CENT counsellor encourages them to look at it through a variety of ‘lenses’ or ‘windows’, so they can see it differently. (Byrne, 2009b).

On the other hand, sometimes a client may have a problem buried in their past, about which they know nothing, and this buried problem – this ‘denied pain’ – is the main driver of their current depression, anxiety, panic, or anger.  With these kinds of archaic problems of repression, we use techniques related to the concept of “digging up” and “completing” that archaic experience; of “digesting it”; so it can be filed away in an inactive file, in the background of their life, where it cannot cause them any more psychological problems.

However, these two processes cannot be totally separated.  Humans are interpreting-beings. We cannot see our experience directly, and we cannot complete our experience of some kind of ‘objective reality’. In fact, when we are trying to complete an experience, we either see it through an ‘empowering lens’ or a ‘depowering lens’.  Therefore, we must never fail to engage in empowering processes of reframing our experience, as we are completing it. (This is especially true when dealing with old traumatic experiences).

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drjim-counsellor9Then, in 2016, I produced a book, entitled ‘Facing and Defeating Your Emotional Dragons’; which used the processes of ‘reframing experiences’ and ‘completion’, with the proviso that the reframing process must be mastered by the client before they ever attempt the completion process, in order to avoid re-traumatizing themselves.

I am now (in June/July 2020) updating that book, and expanding it, to take account of the insights and therapeutic processes of Dr Bessel van der Kolk (The Body Keeps the Score), combined with other influences, and my own more recent clinical experience.

The title of this revised and expanded book is this:

Transforming Traumatic Dragons:

How to recover from a history of trauma – using a whole body-brain-mind approach.

And you can read about the content of this book here:

https://abc-bookstore.com/how-to-resolve-childhood-developmental-trauma/

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PS: I would also recommend that you take a look at the following, rated information pages:

Recovery from Childhood Trauma: How I healed my heart and mind – and how you can heal yourself.

And

Also:

Freud, Mammy and Me: The roots and branches of a simple country boy. Volume 1 of the fictionalized autobiography of Daniel O’Beeve

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ecent logoThat’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

The Institute for E-CENT

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