Intention: Mindfulness, Practice, Closure

I’ve never been much for the New Year’s resolution thing. It seems for most people to consist of grand declarations and promises of way too many changes, usually about losing weight, lasts about a minute, and then goes to the back of the drawer for another year. I do like the idea of vision and intention, especially around milestone dates, and I always recommend making modest, doable commitments. A sure way to freeze and fail is by promising too much. The AA founders got it right teaching one day at a time. A goal too big is guaranteed to overwhelm.

Our “Gregorian” or western calendar year begins in January, although the solstice makes a lot more sense to me as a marker of new beginnings. The longest night of the year giving way to the gradual return to light is a natural demarcation. Although we are still a ways out from spring, it is a turning of the corner.

Although I have, as ever, myriad changes small and large I want to make, only one intention is worthy of making formally, which is to write a layperson’s book about neglect. I entered the field of trauma when the PTSD diagnosis had barely made its quiet 1980 appearance in the DSM. The field of psychotherapy took years to recognize and understand that trauma was an assault on the brain, body, and nervous system and required specialized treatment approaches, many of which took years to be elaborated upon, let alone taught. Not uncommonly, my older clients lament or curse all the lost time in unhelpful or insufficiently helpful (and sometimes even damaging!) therapies, with often well-meaning therapists who just didn’t know. Now the larger world liberally uses the term, and even is, “trauma-informed.” The medical, education, and even legal worlds have become aware, as has the general public to a large extent. I am so glad. 

What will it take to make the larger world “neglect informed?” Well, my intention is to continue my mission about that, with the hopefully achievable goal of writing a book that will help the child of neglect learn to recognize themselves, so they better understand what is “wrong.” The larger world outside of them must learn to identify a set of problems that require attention, empathy, and a certain, specialized kind of help. Part of the commitment is to not neglect my husband, the cheese, or my own self-care in the process! Oy vey, am I slipping into too many intentions?

What will it take to make the larger world “neglect informed?”


The working title of the new book is Too Much of Nothing, which in addition to being a pretty good summary of neglect trauma, is also a favorite old Dylan song from 1967. A catchy but informative subtitle has been harder for me to come up with, as I have not been able to think of an accurate “opposite” of neglect. Attention to neglect? Spotlight on neglect? All eyes on neglect? None have been entirely accurate or effective.

Sometimes after making a spectacular cheese-making mess in the kitchen, and doing an equally spectacular job cleaning it up, when my husband walks in, there is no evidence that cheese has been made, other than the quiet nascent wheel of cheese, at work in the cheese press. I might be disappointed when he does not notice the fastidious cleaning job I have done. I can’t fault him. It is undeniably much harder to see, let alone celebrate, what is not. Or even when there was awareness of the phenomenon that no longer is, it is often less than noticeable. I recently injured myself, and after being beset with intense pain for several weeks, only with effort, with mindful attention, did I notice that wow! It doesn’t hurt anymore! Similarly, I only occasionally, with great gratitude, remember the decades of eating disordered obsession when my mind was crowded with thoughts and fears about food and weight 24/7. Now for decades, I have been blessedly free of that tyranny, and have all that bandwidth for other, much more worthwhile pursuits. Only rarely do I remember to be grateful for that. It is simply much harder to notice what is not there: another reason why neglect is so hard to “see.”

Mindfulness might be a fitting opposite of neglect. However, it has become a popular, even commercialized, word in the world, at least in the US. It used to reside in the domain of spirituality. In Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, mindfulness has a particular meaning. It is the capacity to both perceive experience from inside of it, while also observing that same experience from the outside a kind of dual attention, much like what I think the psychoanalytic folks refer to as “observing ego.” 

From a brain standpoint, this is what we aspire to in trauma healing. In a trauma state, one gets so swept by the experience of the limbic brain, the fight/flight response, that the thinking, reasoning, and verbal brain goes offline. A major task of healing is to bring the prefrontal cortex, that thinking brain back online, so trauma can be remembered rather than ceaselessly and miserably re-lived. I will have to consider if indeed mindfulness is the opposite of neglect. Meanwhile, it is a good practice when we can do it.

In a trauma state, one gets so swept by the experience of the limbic brain, the fight/flight response, that the thinking, reasoning, and verbal brain goes offline.


Practice is another wonderful word with a number of poignant meanings. I like them all. As a noun, it can be a body of repeated, habitual, perhaps ordered behaviors like a spiritual practice. It can be an organized training session as for a sport, like soccer practice. It can be a field or organization of work like a psychotherapy practice. Probably my favorite of all, however, is the verb: rehearsal and continuing effort to improve a bit at a time. Malcolm Gladwell famously said it takes 10,000 hours of practice to brilliantly excel at something, which means we all have a shot with determination and effort. Mister Rogers famously sang, “You’ve got to learn your trade, everything takes practice, if you want to make the grade, you’ve got to practice practice!” 

So as we see in the new year, my humble intention is to write the best book I can, to bring neglect information to a wider audience, to help more of the neglected to be recognized, visible, and helped; and to not be too neglectful in the process. What is yours?

Best wishes of the season and Happy New Year to all!  

Today’s song:

My book “Working with the Developmental Trauma of Childhood Neglect: Using Psychotherapy and Attachment Theory Techniques in Clinical Practice” was published on August 31st. It provides psychotherapists with a multidimensional view of childhood neglect and a practical roadmap for facilitating survivors’ healing.

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