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:
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).
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 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 Heal Trauma) so that it is possible for anyone to cultivate wellbeing.
Justice: Trauma endures when we fail to break the cycle: the negative operation of power. Neuroscience and wisdom traditions now converge: safety, truth, freedom, health and wellbeing are a benefit for all. We have the science. We have the technology. The 21st century only needs humans willing to break the cycle: the negative operation of power.
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:
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 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 wellbeing. However, cultivating wellbeing requires access to power: #Justice4Australia
What is power? Physical, psychological, social, culture, country and spiritual protectors empower life. They enhance wellbeing. When we are denied these 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 they see they have not failed life. We are apart of a larger system/s we depend on for survival. All our traumas endure if the system/s fail to break the cycle/s.
Do our systems use this trauma-informed approach for First Nations people, refugees in detention, people with addiction, individuals in prison, members of parliament who have been 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 involves: safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration and empowerment.
The service was designed to give power to those with mental illness; they would run the service themselves, so they would help each to recover. A renowned Psychiatrist was invited to speak at the launch. The Psychiatrist addressed the audience of professionals and people all at different stages of recovery from mental illness. I had a dual identity: a mental health professional and was 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 had 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 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 they felt acknowledged as a human being. They no longer felt cognitively defined by their diagnosis. Essentially, they were humanised with empathy. The power imbalance between the professional and patient also dropped: the real work of healing could begin.
Around the same time we developed some trauma-informed programs with Tools for Wellbeing. Again, this was the first time many were taught psychosocial-education for recovery. The program helped many find: stability, clarity, the ability to regulate their emotions easier, and a sense of connection and belonging.
Essentially they learnt to move out of being “stuck” in their 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 find peace, joy, love compassion, blissfulness and ecstasy.
Trauma-Informed Care transformed the way individuals recover from mental illness. It also transformed their experience within the mental health system that is 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 wellbeing.
If we embraced Trauma-Informed Care and the Power Threat Meaning Framework, every person who depends on Australia’s systems for their survival should have their fundamental human rights: safety, truth, freedom, health and wellbeing.
That is essentially my vision for #Justice4Australia: Empowering Psychology pieces and Tools for Wellbeing; a call for human rights and for a Trauma Informed Australia; having systems in power ensure 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 voice to break cycle 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 traditionally taught us that this is taboo.
Look at the enormous snowball effort that Grace Tame instigated: Brittany Higgins, Kate Thornton, Christine Holgate, many more. Look how quickly #March4Justice emerged across the nation. Look how many people were talking about sexual abuse and rape on a daily basis for over a month on Twitter!
Grace Tame is a brilliant example that the lived experience of trauma can drive personal, social and political change (they changed the legislation!). There are many others who have done/doing this. So just imagine if we achieved this on a grand scale (e.g. make Australia’s systems trauma-informed and then a trauma-informed world).
I cannot see a more suitable framework to take us into an increasingly traumatic future. Trauma Informed Care goes beneath everything that divides humanity and directly addresses our survival and wellbeing. A Trauma Informed World would be the evolution of Neuroplasticity: science and compassion. #HealingTrauma #Justice4Australia #WeAllBelong
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 #WeAllBelong
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
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