I joined Twitter last October to see if Trump would win or lose the US election. I had not watched the news or followed politics for years; too much, too soon had made me unwell: Psychosis. I saw Trump’s tweets and thought, ‘Is this guy for real!?
I had no clue then I would be thanking him now. Trump introduced me to the wonderful world of Twitter; incredibly talented minds constantly fact checking his tweets. Journalists, lawyers, doctors, psychologists, professors. Others with no qualifications equally impressive.
It was so refreshing to read quality responses, to see humour used to make people feel safe in a world seemingly, increasingly mad, and available to people all around the world for free. I did not know Tharnicaa and Kopika would bring me towards Australia’s fractured political landscape or that I’d do the same.
The first thing in Australia that caught my eye was everyday without fail Ron Baumann retweeted the family of four – Priya, Nades, Kopika and Tharnicaa – famously known as the Biloela family: #HomeToBilo
I admired his devotion: sharing the truth for justice. I wondered how can I help bring them #HomeToBilo. I taught Psychology at James Cook University. I remembered one simple truth: we are much more social and emotional beings than what scientists once taught us to be: “cognitive machines”.
Unless we connect to something emotionally it is essentially meaningless. Climate change is the best example. How many facts were shared and how few immediately responded. Facts alone rarely change us. It is emotion that puts energy into motion.
That is why advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry; known as the dark side of Psychology. Let’s emotionally manipulate you to buy stuff you don’t need to impress people you don’t know. There’s also the “bliss state”: Products like Coca Cola, Doritos or chocolate 🍫 perfectly crafted to a state of “bliss” that you must return to for another hit.
However, the field of emotion is not all dark. Emotion can be used in many beautiful and profound ways. One way is to share the truth for justice to achieve personal, social and political change. History’s greatest visionaries were all emotionally intelligent. Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, Princess Diana, Oliver Sacks, the Dalai Lama, Sadhguru and so on.
It was these types of individuals who inspired me to ask the first daily question:
“My name is Tharnicaa. I’ve been detained by the Australian Government for 1047 days. What’s your name and where do you live? #HomeToBilo #Auspol”, on the 16th of January 2021.
One simple question delivered as if it had come from a little human being, locked inside a detention, on a far away Island, by a country with the power, wealth and resources to instantly set them free; prides itself in values such as a “fair go” for all; is “one and free”. It’s one thing to cognitively place a stranger into a box (e.g. a refugee).
***Since the creation of this website the Biloela family were released from detention, returned to Biloela and granted permanent protection in Australia. However, hundreds more people still remain stuck in a system that requires urgent reform.***
It’s something else to be humanised; to be deeply recognised: the power of emotion. The question received hundreds of answers and thousands of retweets. I knew some would not approve. I was called a “political pedophile”; Note: I am not aligned with any political party.
My focus is to share the truth for justice. #Justice4Australia has a threefold plan: 1) Psychology 2) Justice 3) Power. Psychology: I’ve made threads on Psychology classics (e.g. On Being Sane in Insane Places) and contemporary pieces (e.g. Neuroplasticity, Trauma Informed Care, Power Threat Meaning Framework) that have transformed people’s lives.
I’ve made threads on trauma-informed tools for survival and wellbeing (e.g. Threat System vs Peace System; Intimacy and Play; Window of Tolerance; Self-Esteem: (competition) vs Self-Compassion: (collaboration), Three Phase Approach to Healing Trauma) to help everyone to have a basic understanding of survival and wellbeing.
Justice: Trauma endures when we fail to break the cycles: the negative operation of power. Neuroscience and wisdom traditions converge: safety, truth, freedom, health and wellbeing benefit us all. We have the science. We have the technology. The 21st century needs each one of us to break the cycle of injustice and trauma, together, one day at a time. #YouBelong
I have made a petition – I Can’t Call Australia Home: Trauma Informed Care – that calls on the Australian Government to implement all recommendations from the 2021 Human Rights Watch World Report: Australia and to partner with Blue Knot Foundation National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma for a Trauma Informed Australia to help raise awareness of the link between injustice and trauma:
Power: The negative operation/s of “power” (i.e. a family member, educator, employee/er, government, religious institution, war, climate change) triggers our “threat” system: we then fight, run, freeze or collapse to stay alive.
We make “meaning/s” of this event (i.e. “I’m different/not the same”, “everyone’s out to get me”, “the world is unsafe”) to make sense of the world. Trauma endures when “meanings” and “threat responses” stay and pass their expiry date (e.g. months, years, decades).
While each injustice differs and mental illness has many forms, because we are all interconnected, there is one basic premise: All our stories share the same trauma; the negative operation of power. This awareness reduces alienation or isolation: “I’m different/not the same”, or “nobody could possibly understand what I’m going through”.
It also drops the stigma (e.g. incarceration) so we can focus on what is really required: switching from trauma to survival and wellbeing. However, survival and cultivating wellbeing requires access to power: #Justice4Australia
What is power? Physical, psychological, social, culture, country and spiritual protectors empower us as humans. They are vital for survival and to cultivate wellbeing. When we are denied these fundamental protectors, our human rights are violated; we are unable to celebrate safety, truth, freedom, health and wellbeing.
Today far too many are denied what is essential for wellbeing. Many end up believing they have failed life. My dream is that we all see that we have not failed life. We are apart of a larger system/s we depend on for survival. All our traumas endure, if those in power of these system/s fail to break the cycle/s.
Do our systems use a trauma-informed approach for First Nations Australians, refugees in detention, people with addiction, individuals in prison, members of parliament who have been allegedly raped or sexually abused? I will never forget being at the launch of a mental health service that introduced trauma-informed care.
When Trauma-Informed Care was introduced to Australia it spread like a wildfire in mental health. Practitioners acknowledged all relationships contain the dynamic of power. Trauma-informed care includes: safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration and empowerment.
This particular service wanted to empower individuals experiencing mental illness. So they arranged for individuals experiencing mental illness to run the service for themselves, so they could all help each other to recover. A renowned Psychiatrist was invited to speak at the launch of the service. The Psychiatrist addressed the audience of professionals and people of all different stages of recovery. I had a dual identity: a mental health professional and in recovery from Psychosis.
The Psychiatrist said, “For the last couple of hundred years Psychiatry has asked many questions trying to work out what is wrong with you. However, what Psychiatry has failed to do, is to ask “you” what “you” think is wrong with you? What can we do for you?” In other words, how can we, in a position of enormous power, empower you?
What an absolute game changer.
People who had spent up to 30 years in the mental health system said this was the first time that they felt acknowledged as a human being. They no longer felt intellectually defined by their diagnosis. Essentially, they were humanised with empathy. The power imbalance between the professional and patient immediately dropped: the real work of healing could begin.
Around the same time we developed some trauma-informed programs with tools for survival and wellbeing. Again, this was the first time many were taught psychosocial-education for recovery. The program helped many to develop a sense of stability, clarity, the ability to regulate their emotions easier, connection and belonging. #YouBelong
Essentially they learnt to move out of being “stuck” in a constant state of threat system (i.e. due to outdate “threats” and “meanings”) and develop their self-soothing system, or what I like to call our peace system. The byproduct of clarity is peace: joy is simply peace dancing. With clarity we will always find peace.
Trauma-Informed Care transformed the way individuals recover from mental illness. It also transformed their experience within the mental health system that is far too often described as broken or even worse; more damaging. I believe the 21st century requires another step:
The Power Threat Meaning Framework. This trauma-informed framework names all the systems of power and rightly highlights that, ultimately, social and political change is required for all individuals to have access to resources essential for survival and wellbeing. This is why we are witnessing a universal call for human rights and climate action.
If we embraced Trauma-Informed Care and the Power Threat Meaning Framework, every person who depends on Australia’s systems for their survival and wellbeing should have their fundamental human rights: safety, truth, freedom, health and wellbeing.
That is essentially my vision for #Justice4Australia: Empowering Psychology pieces and trauma informed tools for survival and wellbeing; a call for human rights, climate action and a trauma informed Australia; having systems in power that ensure that all of us can be well so that we can move forward to create a trauma informed world.
Grace Tame is Australian of the Year because she achieved personal, social and political change (i.e. Power Threat Meaning Framework). Grace Tame has urged Australians to use their voices to break cycles of the abuse: negative operation/s of power. Grace has essentially given Australians “permission” (i.e. it is okay) to share their stories in a cultural space that has traditionally taught us that this is taboo.
Look at the enormous snowball effort that Grace Tame instigated. Brittany Higgins, Kate Thornton, Christine Holgate and many more. Look how quickly #March4Justice emerged across the nation. Look how many people were talking about sexual abuse and rape openly on a daily basis for months on Twitter. This is typically unheard of. Grace Tame’s campaign even led to changed legislation: #LetHerSpeak.
This year Brittany Higgins’ campaign resulted in the Jenkins Review and the innumerable stories of abuse in Parliament House. These are brilliant examples that the lived experience of trauma can drive personal, social and political change. There are many others who have done this throughout life. So just imagine if this was achieved on a grand scale.
I cannot see a more suitable framework to take us into an increasingly traumatic future. Trauma Informed Care goes beneath what divides humanity and directly addresses our survival and wellbeing. A trauma informed world would be the evolution of Neuroplasticity: local wisdom, science and compassion.
Since I was born in Australia, my primary focus includes supporting the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the need for human rights and climate action, and trauma informed systemic changes that are culturally safe, in order to adequately change systems from within to walk safely into the future together.
Now you know the power of Trauma Informed Care. Let’s turn this framework into a mindset for personal, social and political change. If you are unable to, you might need help first, to get safe or become ‘unstuck’ from trauma. Reach out for trauma informed care. #YouBelong
Dr Louise Hansen
PhD in Psychology
Human Rights Activist
#HealingTrauma #Justice4Australia #YouBelong
Trauma Informed World was inspired by Kopika and Tharnicaa; two faces that remind us everyday of Australia’s cruel refugee system. One of many systems in Australia that remind us of the negative operation of power. #HomeToBilo
You can listen my talk with Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, President of Blue Knot Foundation on my own healing journey, training and study and how it has informed my work and advocacy for a trauma informed world here:
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