Reflections on LIFT

“Beauty will save the world”

Dostoevsky (in “The Idiot”)

How do you describe LIFT to someone who has not encountered it? I think it was Leo Tolstoy who wrote “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” (it was, I checked). Since I keep using this quote, and to save myself from hypocrisy, I did a bit of research about ‘Complex Trauma’ and trawled through the Tim Fletcher web site checking off a horrifying number of the 60 characteristics of Complex Trauma listed therein. After consultation with the wife (who decided to partner my voyage into the unknown) I decided to join the LIFT programme starting at the second week of February.

The programme is totally online and comprises three axes of engagement; for each topic module there is a sequence of 5 curated videos on Youtube of lectures by Tim Fletcher to a live audience. Each of these is accompanied by a pdf of notes and associated Focus Questions. Each LIFT participant is assigned to a group of between 5 and 8 people and the group meets together in an online Zoom session facilitated by an experienced facilitator/therapist to answer and reflect upon these queries. These sessions are either 3 evenings a week or 5 daily lunchtimes. (The third axis is the optional one-on-one sessions that one can book with a LIFT therapist for further and deeper work.) The whole programme has two stages; part one, of 5 modules, is an introduction to the topic of Complex Trauma, and in part two, of 10 modules duration, one delves into individual topics in much greater detail such as Shame, Anger, Emotions, Co-dependency, Relationships (especially family), Boundaries, Grief, and Healthy Tools.

Having dived in, I thought I would feel intimidated to join a ‘working’ LIFT group where everyone was familiar to each other – it would have been easy to have felt outside the group – but in practice, group acceptance was immediate and by the end of the first session I felt a part of the whole group. The combination of learning the vocabulary of complex trauma & therapy, coming to understand psychological and brain science theories, getting an understanding of how complex trauma in childhood can affect you the rest of your life and then having an environment of being able to share deeply the things that have affected one’s life has been transformative.

In Phase 1 of the programme, which I started in mid-February, I opted for the daily zoom sessions and so covered one module with 5 sessions every week for five successive weeks. Even though phase1 was an introduction to the huge topic of C.T the daily demands of this work – watching a new video every day, preparing answers to the Focus Questions, engaging with the Zoom group every lunchtime – was exhausting and by the end of Phase 1 I was ready for a rest before beginning the digging and delving of Phase 2.

Starting Phase 2 in mid July my group of seven (5 guys, 2 women) in Phase 2 was, in many ways, unique. We were so tight. Many of the group Zoom sessions were utterly emotionally exhausting. For three evenings a week (a more relaxed schedule than in phase 1) over a period of four months total we shared personal stories some of which we had never shared with anyone else before. We journeyed through the jungles of our lives revealing and dealing with traumatic experiences, feelings, personal stories, and a few uplifting moments that had shaped or distorted our lives and in some cases blighted them. Stories of being assaulted, of chronic shame, of parental abandonment, childhood trauma, spousal & parental abuse, of racial bigotry, of recovery & relapse, of addiction, anger, and parental narcissism – to name just a few. When you’ve been hunkering down in these sort of emotional trenches together with a close, tight group of comrades you develop a strong bond. I observed some amazing personal transformations; one person blossoming after imposing a boundary, another making huge progress with family relations, others taking giant steps in resolving spousal conflicts, and so on. It was so inspiring, nay, exhilarating to see such profound changes taking place.

I ‘graduated’ from the programme on my last evening’s session in early November. A whole crowd of ex-group members joined and together with the facilitators gave me a whole half an hour of roasting saying nice things about me :-).