Enactive trauma therapy: Raising Traumatized Individuals’ Power of Action
withEllert R.S. Nijenhuis
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Available in Italian (simultaneous translation), English


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Enactive trauma therapy is influenced by the enactive approach in philosophy, psychology, and biology. In terms of this approach, like anyone else, traumatized individuals:

• Are essentially embodied and embedded in their environment;

• Are goal-oriented human organism-environment systems that primarily long and strive to preserve their existence;

• Are primordial affective systems oriented toward making sense of things;

• Bring forth, i.e., enact a mental and phenomenal self, world, and self-as-a-part-of-this-world

• Primarily gain knowledge on the basis of their goal-oriented sensorimotor and affect-laden actions

n this light, trauma is an injury to a whole human organism-environment system. Its core is a lack of integration of various dynamic modes of longing and striving: those that concern longings to live daily life and to avoid perceived threat (notably including traumatic memories) and those that involve longings to defend the integrity of the body. In dissociative disorders, these modes take the form of different conscious and self-conscious dissociative subsystems that enact their own mental and phenomenal self, world, and self-as-a-part-of-this-world. Chronic childhood abuse, maltreatment and emotional neglect are commonly associated with three prototypical dissociative subsystems or ‘parts’ --Apparently Normal, Fragile Emotional, and Controlling Emotional. These parts tend to fear, depreciate, and reject each other. Along with phobias of attachment, affect, and traumatic memories, the phobias that dissociative parts have developed regarding each other maintain the traumatized individual’s dissociative organization. Enactive trauma therapy is the endeavor to mend the integrative deficit. It is comprised of the patient and the therapist as two organism-environment systems that co-enact a common world and that long and strive to achieve common results. Together they spawn new actions and meaning. Their collaboration and communication resembles dancing: It takes pacing, attunement, timing, a sensitivity to balance, movement and rhythm, courage, as well as the ability and willingness to follow and lead. It involves the progression from passions to actions. Individuals engage in passions and experience sorrow the more they are mostly acted on, that is, influenced by external causes. The more they are their own master, the more they act, and the more they act, the more they experience joy. Joy, then, marks an increase of the individual’s power of action, which constitutes enactive trauma therapy’s primary goal.

About the Speaker

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Ellert R.S. Nijenhuis
Ph.D. è uno psicologo, psicoterapeuta e ricercatore che, per oltre trent’anni, si è oc-cupato della diagnosi e del trattamento di pazienti gravemente traumatizzati. I principali ambiti su cui scrive e tiene svariate presentazioni sono la dissociazione trauma correlata e i disturbi dissociativi. Il Dott. Nijenhuis ha avviato uno studio bio-psicologico dei disturbi dissociativi complessi, di cui continua ad occuparsi. Inoltre, lavora come consulente presso Clienia Littenheid, in Svizzera. Le sue pubblicazioni teoriche, scientifiche e cliniche comprendono: “La Dissociazione Somatoforme” (edito da Astrolabio Ubaldini); “Fantasmi nel sé. Trauma e trattamento della dissociazione strutturale” (edito da Raffaello Cortina Editore), di cui è co-autore insieme a Onno van der Hart e Kathy Steele. I primi due volumi della recente trilogia “The Trinity of Trauma: Ignorance, Fragility, and Control” sono stati pubblicati nel 2015, mentre il terzo volume “Enactive Trauma Treatment” è stato pubblicato nell’aprile del 2017. La Società Internazionale per lo Studio del Trauma e della Dissociazione ha conferito al Dott. Nijenhuis numerosi riconoscimenti, tra cui il Lifetime Achievement Award. Sito web: (l’iscrizione al sito è gratuita; una volta iscritti, è possibile accedere ad articoli scientifici e clinici sulla traumatizzazione cronica e la dissociazione).


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