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Enactive trauma therapy: Raising Traumatized Individuals’ Power of Action
withEllert R.S. Nijenhuis
Recordings of the course available without time limits
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

Read the Speaker’s biography

Ellert R.S. Nijenhuis
Ph.D. is a psychologist, psychotherapist and researcher who, for more than 30 years, has been involved in the diagnosis and treatment of severely traumatised patients. The main areas on which he writes and gives various presentations are trauma-related dissociation and dissociative disorders. Dr Nijenhuis started a bio-psychological study of complex dissociative disorders, which he continues to work on. In addition, he works as a consultant at Clienia Littenheid in Switzerland. His theoretical, scientific and clinical publications include: "La Dissociazione Somatoforme" (published by Astrolabio Ubaldini); "Fantasmi nel sé. Trauma and treatment of structural dissociation" (published by Raffaello Cortina Editore), which he co-authored with Onno van der Hart and Kathy Steele. The first two volumes of the recent trilogy 'The Trinity of Trauma: Ignorance, Fragility, and Control' were published in 2015, while the third volume 'Enactive Trauma Treatment' was published in April 2017. The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation has presented Dr Nijenhuis with numerous awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award. Website: (membership is free; once registered, you can access scientific and clinical articles on chronic trauma and dissociation).


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