A Psychologist's Journey and Discoveries from Wretched Beginnings to a Thriving Life
Randolph, MA -- (ReleaseWire) -- 07/28/2015 --"There is growing evidence that love-connections are right up there after air, water, food, and physical safety as an essential human need. Children become wrecks without them. Adults feel starved without them and try to substitute all sorts of things in hopes of feeling it." So says psychotherapist and somatic-relational teacher Don St John, Ph.D.
In his new book, "Healing the Wounds of Childhood," Dr. St John shares his personal story of serious emotional and physical abuse. "I wouldn't wish my beginnings on anyone. There was only one possible way for me to survive the brutality and toxic stress I endured, and that was to shut myself down. Essentially, I was incapable of feeling anything, even love, if it had been offered to me. I was numb." Yes, his story is extreme, but it required Dr. St John to leave no stone unturned to discovery how to restore his humanity.
He wanted to be able to experience a long-term intimate relationship with one person, to be able to tune into another's emotional experience and empathize, to feel good and free in his body and spirit, to speak in front of groups without fear, to age with vitality and grace, and to look forward to all of life's adventures. "As a young man embarking upon adulthood, I would have received an F in all those subjects," he admits. "But now, I'd earn at least a B+ -- and so can everyone else who heals from his or her life's wounds." With a twinkle in his eye he adds, "Healthy aging should also include erotic aging. It follows from healing our early wounds."
Trauma has become a buzzword in recent years with so many soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan during the past dozen years. "The cost to society and the suffering of these individuals is enormous," Dr. St John emphasizes, "making understanding trauma vitally important work." But he believes that the discussion about trauma should be widened to include most of us.
He asks whether any of the following apply to you:
-Did you have a mother who was depressed for a long time after your birth?
-Did you suffer a traumatic birth?
-Did your parents divorce before you were seven years old, which suggests they were miserable for several years prior to that?
-Did you have an alcoholic parent or a parent with a serious anger problem?
-Were you in a serious accident in childhood?
-Did you have one parent who, regardless of how caring he or she might have been, had no clue what it meant to be emotionally present?
-Did you have a parent who was heavy handed in expecting you to adhere to standards well above your age?
If so, then you may not have received what you really needed: a good dose of someone being present with you, someone who could truly see you and touch your heart with theirs. When you don't receive what you need, there are emotional, health, and relationship consequences. Just as there are consequences if you don't receive the vitamins and minerals you require in your diet.
The wounds of life don't just affect your psychology or your emotions. Dr. St John goes on to say, "They affect the very cells, tissues, and structure of your body, your brain, your nervous system, and your beliefs about who you are and your relationship capabilities. Therefore, to come close to your full potential, you must address all parts of you. It is imperative we stop thinking of the body and mind as separate structures. Mindbody or bodymind is a whole."
Dr. St John understands how our physical health, our mental health, and our relationship health are all related and how, through coherence -- a concept that brings all three components together -- we can heal and enrich our lives. "You can grow continually, regardless of your age and regardless of the hand you were dealt," he assures readers. "You can increase your capacity to let love in. You can become more coherent human beings. By that I mean we can continue to unfold our sensual, sexual, spiritual and relational capacities throughout our lifetime. This is what I mean by erotic aging."
Dr. St John concludes, "Now in my seventies and defying the odds, I would say that my life has been an adventure for the past forty years, and I have been thriving for the last twenty or more. This is a story of hope, and the message I want to share is this: If I can do it, so can just about anyone else."
Healing the Wounds of Childhood
By Don St John, Ph.D.
About Don St John, Ph.D.
Don St John, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, somatic-relational teacher, coach, public speaker, and author. He is an Authorized Continuum Movement Teacher and a Hellerwork Structural Integration Practitioner and Trainer. He has taught classes and given presentations in several states in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, and Brazil.
For the past 47 years, he has been immersed in both the psychotherapeutic and somatic therapy worlds. His roots were in traditional clinical psychology, but early on, he realized from his own experience that the body must be included. Thus began his journey in both the psychotherapeutic and somatic realms.
Don's doctoral dissertation, written at the Western Institute for Social Research, focused on the consequences of, and recovery from, relational maltreatment in early childhood. He lives in Salt Lake City with his wife of 30 years, Diane, the co-founder of Paths of Connection. They have been teaching together for 25 years.