Reflections of a Trauma Nurse/Counsellor’s Academic, Research & Clinical Experiences Mid-Way – Traumatogenic Wounds & Beacon Messengers
In my mid-thirties in the mid-eighties, I remember sitting in a sociology class and our professor announced that every family system has skeletons in their closets somewhere down the line and across the generations. Not only was I naïve about deception, I was also unaware of skeletons contained and held secret (closeted) by at least one living family member who contains the transgenerational wound – traumatogenic .
My masters to doctorate process spanned 8 years of intense theoretical studies and I progressed to bifocals. I am indebted to the vast number of academic/clinical teachers involved in my career/skill sets and development – quite amazing when I think back to the 16 year old who dropped out of school to simply be a practical nurse. I still like those two words. I am unable to formally acknowledge/thank all of my teachers to whom I remain grateful, however, there are some I refer to as ‘beacon messengers.’ It is their messages that stay with me and I hold onto dearly to sustain my faith, hope and fortitude to remain on track so that the bedside trauma nurse could and indeed did transition to become a trauma counsellor.
From 1989 to February 2012, I operated as a dual-role professional: a Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC) and Registered Nurse (RN). In June 2012 and after 46 years of service, I prematurely, but gracefully surrendered  and placed myself on the RN inactive list and this is another story. My current plan is to maintain my status as a CCC and owner, senior consultant of Matrix of Trauma (© MOT ™) for as long as my services are required and deemed helpful by the client population I serve. My beacon mentors originate from both fields of nursing and counselling:
Beacon Messengers in Nursing (1970 – 1985): Bev Brunton once asked me “Why are you doing… (Whatever nursing task I was working on)?” You helped me become a critical thinker. Dr. Erna Schilder asked me “Why would any nurse get a doctorate?” I could not even image that concept back then and unable to respond today. Dr. Ursula Dawe said in my candidacy statement that I was a complex being capable of multi-linear thinking. She always asked me if I was in trance. Three timely, unforgettable nurses and beautiful people who delivered succinct messages that stuck a deep cord within me and constantly challenged me into self-reflection.
Beacon Messengers in Counselling (1983-2012): I am indebted to my primary master and doctorate professors (official and unofficial). Dr. John D’Aboy for his gentle, wise manner with me and two specific messages: “What is your understanding of the nature of the person” and “now you know how not to be when you’re a supervisor!” What – a supervisor? That thought never even entered my mind.
Father Bernie Black remains the greatest pastoral counsellor I have met to date and he took me under his wing and carefully mentored me, imparting vast amounts of experiential, true life service experiences and stories always presented in the form of wise metaphors and parables. His guidance and instruction on life/death trajectories; faith/hope matters, the personal, academic and clinical transgenerational issues – all remains priceless. With his guidance, I completed a minor in theology by completing content analysis on 26 theorems or ideologies (‘isms’) that were organized accordingly and in relation towards furthering my understanding of the nature of the person being born good, neutral or evil . The primary psychological ‘ism’ I remain able to align myself with is existentialism with the core concepts of isolation, aloneness, death and meaninglessness . The main therapeutic approaches of care I remain able to align myself with are ideodynamic healing in hypnosis  and healing of the family tree work .
On a personal note, I continue on a path towards understanding of spiritual lives , non-locality , broken vessels , wounded healers, hermits and desert wisdom . I remember the first time I met Father Bernie. It was 1983 and I was in the midst of a moral dilemma concerning orders for a fluid challenge I believed, as a professional with conscience, that morally I was unable to perform. I asked the unit clerk to call a priest and spoke with my charge nurse. Not following-through on physician orders is serious business and I was worried this might be my last day of nursing. I walked out of my patient’s room and Father Bernie was walking towards the room. Our eyes met and he said, “My God, you’ve got freaky eyes.” I laughed, we laughed together and the tension dissipated.
During another rough, tough day during my PhD journey, I went to see him and I was crying. My primitive naïve innocence at my core was struggling with the content inherent in the lives of survivors of traumatic lifetime events. He looked at me with his kind eyes and stated, “What?” I said, “If I didn’t know my name, I would think I was going crazy.” He looked me directly in the eyes and stated, “Well, you know your name, don’t you?” I said, “Yes” and must have looked dumbfounded and he followed with, “Good. Get over yourself. We have work to do.”
To the unnamed professor I met in Santa Barbara during the 2 week candidacy/admission intensive into The Fielding PhD program, I am sorry your name escaped me, but your messages: “I have a feeling it would be alright to just come and have a cup of coffee with you” and “I sure hope you don’t get contaminated” remain vibrant. I responded yes to the coffee would be OK with me and do admit that at that time, I had no idea what you meant concerning me being contaminated. My naive innocence shone through once again and now I know you were referring to contagion effect and projection , so important for professionals to be alert and mindful of, especially concerning unresolved conflict and traumatogenic wounds. All the above wise words/messages remain soul food for me, every day I travel along the recovery and healing road with survivors from initial intake, candidacy to contract for service delivery and treatment programming towards healing.
Debriefing and decompression of the presenting crisis state while obtaining the gist of the present critical event within the context of family life and transgenerational wounds is key.
The listening and recording of the gist of complex traumatic narratives is delicate work requiring containment and support, titrations and interweaves – a dance really, akin to a kind of psyche tango in my opinion, and that is another story. Critical occasions and choice points  arrive and the client can move on the recovery and healing road towards stabilization, addressing maladaptive coping behaviors, making amends, obtaining a sense of resolve and closure or continue in survival mode: stuck in overactivation, contagion effect, digressing, rekindling, projecting and recapitulating – the attending to the wounds of the past in the here and now.
I pay close attention to my teacher’s instructions: pacing and timing is everything! The client is responsible for the content and the therapist is responsible for the process. I observe for barriers to a therapeutic process, any red flags or high conflict issues and mobilize damage control measures  to ensure safety and security for all. Sheldon Bilsker  remains, in my opinion, the #1 counselling hypnotherapy teacher I had met to date during my career. He introduced me to the great metaphorical healing techniques of Dr. Milton Erikson and Dr. Joe Solanto, my Provost for the remainder of my PhD process. Sheldon remains a life-time mentor plus an unexpected computer/www advocate – ever so patient…..gently coaxing me along……in my own time and way…..along a techno journey…..knowing I would find the right time…..that’s right….. to part with the 235…..ever so heavy that hard-drive…..the bulkiness of it all…..the screen and modem are relics…..I will know the right time…..to let go….of all that old stuff, now…..look at the latest…..knowing I will do just fine…..not to worry…..that’s right…..relaxed and ready…..back now…..to this moment in time…..feeling fully alert and awake…..thank-you so very much Sheldon and Dr. Joe!
Over-the-top, the phenomenal, critical and traumatic lifetime experiences are moments in time that disturbs one’s soul (abuse of children, popcorn strolls, steam-bath men, AIDS, axe murder, professionals who abuse clients: all initially shocking, horrific, unbelievable and unspeakable. The top 5% of anything that remains irreconcilable. Those high-conflict divorce cases stuck in custody disputes gone amuck in hidden agendas and full of undue influence, inordinate costs and degrees of abuse that entraps and harms children . Almost unimaginable, some of the God awful stories disclosed to me to bear witness to. Some are mind-boggling and a few are treatment resistant, nevertheless, normative case scenarios in my small private practice located in a small hamlet in Alberta, Canada.
Is this work I engage in my calling, passion or birthright? The answer began with rude awakenings and transformation into a trauma nurse counsellor spanned two decades. My family-of-origin/ancestry, my children and clients remain the best teachers of life for that is where the expertise, the awe’s and aha’s reside within the experiential moments. On my 50th birthday, my parents were visiting, my mother awoke and came to see me all excited, saying, “You’ll never guess what I dreamed about…..the day you were born…..do you want to hear about it?”
As my mother had never shared my birth details with me before, naturally I was curious and interested. She calmly, but matter of fact stated, “There was no doctor available …..you were breech and stuck…..I was bleeding…..so they packed us in ice!”
Author: Dr. Linda AK Thompson, BGS, MA, CCC, PsyD, FAAETS Owner, Matrix of Trauma (© MOT ™): Research, Advocacy, Healing
- Allen, Jon G. (2001). Traumatic Relationships and Serious Mental Illness. Wiley & Sons Ltd
- Aziz, Robert (1990). C.G. Jung’s Psychology of Religion and Synchronicity (10 Ed). The State University of New York. ISBN 0-7914-0166-9
- Bilsker, Sheldon. (1986). The Orca Institute: www.orcainstitute.com
- Desiderata: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desiderata
- Hollies, Linda H. (1999). Inner Healing for Broken Vessels: Seven steps to a Woman’s Way of Healing.
- McAll, Kenneth (1982). Healing The Family Tree. London, Sheldon Press
- Nomura, Yushi. (1982). Desert Wisdom: Sayings from the Desert Father. Doubleday & Co.
- Nonlocality: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonlocality
- Rossi, Ernest L.; Cheek, David, B. (1994). Mind-body Therapy: Methods of Ideodynamic Healing in Hypnosis. Norton: ISBN-10: 039331247X
- Talbot, John M. (2002). Come To The Quiet: The Principles of Christian Meditation. Penguin Putman: New York: NY
- Thompson, Linda A.K. (1996). The Matrix of Trauma: A dissertation – partial fulfilment for requirements for degree of doctor of psychological traumatology in psychological assessments and etymology. © Unpublished/Sealed. Summit University of Louisiana, New Orleans: Louisiana
- Thompson, Linda A.K. (1998). Conflict & Damage Control. Private Practice Policy & Procedure for NCS & MOT.
- Thompson, Linda A.K. (2011). War-Torn Children of High-Conflict Divorcing Parents (HCDP). A small 8 case file record review concerning the 15 children. Unpublished.
- Yalom, I. (1980). Existential Psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA