Summer down under. A hot stormy beach day with friends, one of my favourite things.

Laughing as the undertow pulls us off our feet. Leaping over the waves, or diving through them.

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When I was 12 we took a trip to the big city. My mother took me to the beach because my father was elsewhere that day. There were waves and rocks, and as much as I loved being in the water, I was scared. We lived in the outback – I was used to the river, not waves.

My mother would not budge from the sand. She was terrified of water and told me to go in by myself. I tried but the waves kept pushing me on to the rocks. I ended up back beside her on the sand.

The next morning while she thought I was still asleep, she told my father how I didn’t even stay in the water for five minutes. There was disdain, contempt. I felt useless.

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Reseacher and clinician Diane Poole Heller talks about the importance of corrective experiences to challenge old perspectives, to build missing resources and heal early attachment trauma.

My primary caregiver was not able to bond with me in kindness, there was only hostility. As children do, I generalised this experience to all relationships, believing them to be unsafe and myself to be deficient.

Healing involves accessing and embodying positive emotional states long enough for new neural pathways to emerge. We need to spend at least 30 seconds in these emotional states, in repeated doses.

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Now I live by some of the best beaches in the world. The waves still scare me, as they probably should, but I face them.

I hold the scared parts of me tenderly now. I stand up for them, I accept these things about myself. I spend time with people who do the same, who regard me with kind eyes and reflect back acceptance of me just as I am.

I look out into the world and focus on the kind eyes that look back. I learn that it’s ok to show up and have fun, to be all in. This helps me arrive more completely into the world, instead of feeling alienated.

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Summer down under. A hot stormy beach day with friends, one of my favourite things.

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