We live in troubled times. Prejudice, oppression, poverty, climate change, and nuclear war affect everyone simultaneously thanks to the internet and TV. We see more and yet are more fragmented and powerless. These factors are creating trauma for everyone. Most people are now in a state of dissociation in which their feelings and emotions are severed from their thoughts.
Those of us with lived experience of recovery from trauma through extreme emotional states labelled mental illness are offering a gift. We have learned that our recovery from trauma is helped by three simple phases: emotional connection, emotional empowerment and emotional revitalization. We call this process emotional CPR (eCPR).
On Healing not retraumatising
Personally, I experienced four extreme emotional states from age 25-31. These we labeled catatonic schizophrenia though I now see them as essential to my recovery from childhood trauma and believe they saved my life. During each experience I would withdrawal from people and retreat into my own world of imagination. This was described as psychosis for which I was forcibly hospitalized, labelled, and forcibly medicated with major tranquilizers. I believe if I had been assisted on a voluntary basis in a peer-run respite that I would have recovered my hope, purpose and passion for living much sooner.
Many people with lived experience, world-wide are coming to similar conclusions. Though I am not opposed to medication, and descriptions of our conditions as needing assistance, I believe that the way assistance is applied by the mental health systems in all industrialized countries today is retraumatising.
In the US, thousands with lived experience have been fashioning peer-run alternatives to the present system for over 70 years. We have recently concluded that we need to work beyond the usual bounds of the mental health system and help society at large.
We realize that in order for us to reintegrate into society we need communities that we want to live in. Communities in which we and others can not only heal but can recover our humanity.
Developing our Six Steps
So, in response to these traumas, the National Empowerment Center, through international collaboration with many persons, has developed ways to heal from community trauma and recover our humanity through eCPR. We did not start with a theory, we started with our experience of what helped us most when we were in extreme emotional states.
We first developed principles of recovery from these extreme states by years of focus groups and consensus meetings. The most consistent factors in recovery were relationships of caring, that inspired hope and a voice of ones own. We have come up with six intentions of eCPR, which we find heal the three major impacts of trauma: disconnection, disempowerment and dehumanization. These are the six intentions:
- I will connect through feelings first by using my eyes, my ears, my heart and my respect
- I will feel your presence, and share my feelings in being with you, while I stay with you
- I will be with you without fixing, advising or judging you
- I am not sure what is best for you; together we explore the unknown and we uncover our power
- Together, we access the power to heal that lies within us, finding our natural state of wellness
- We authentically create new life and new hope in the present moment, which is revitalizing
Creating Safety, with Compassion and Love
We believe that healing begins through our reconnecting with our feelings. In extreme states, we often need assistance from others to enable us to embrace our emotional self safely. This requires being fearlessly present with compassion and love.
We find that eCPR enables individuals to become more in touch with their emotions through the participation in a group working according to these six intentions. That is the essence of community emotional CPR.
We now have trained over 3000 persons from all backgrounds in eight countries. Our eCPR resource Book has been translated into six languages (Spanish, Polish, Icelandic, two forms of Chinese, and Japanese). We believe eCPR can be taught and practiced across cultures because we focus on emotional communication, which is universal.
We have had numerous testimonies with people saying it changed their life. Participants find that they are able to communicate better in all realms of their life. Several graduates say it has become a way of life.
Daniel Fisher is a Psychiatrist and Co-founder of the National Empowerment Center, and is passionate about promoting alternatives to the medical model of distress. As a young biochemist he experienced psychosis, was hospitalised several times and given a diagnosis of schizophrenia. He graduated from Princeton University, went on to do his Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin and later his M.D. from George Washington University. He is a board-certified psychiatrist who completed his residency at Harvard Medical School, and is currently Executive Director of the National Empowerment Center.
Daniel Fisher is also one of our speakers at Compassionate Mental Health – Finding Meaning through Connection 4-5 October in Wales. Book now to join Dan. Limited spaces and tickets include an evening feast, plus a range of workshops and talks from leading voices and plenty of chance for participation and building community.