A couple of years ago at Echo we made a conscious decision to always balance our message about the impact of childhood trauma with the recognition that the human spirit is incredibly resilient and often goes on to become stronger, wiser and kinder as a result of suffering. This is called post-traumatic growth.
We dedicated our March 2018 conference to this theme.
“Thank you! This is one of the best conferences I’ve been to. Each speaker was carefully selected and highly impactful.” (Participant)
“Frontiers of Resilience” was jam-packed with speakers from all around the country and the world, who inspired us to persevere in the business Dr. Hardy called ‘hope manufacturing.’ Dr. Hardy demonstrated a good deal of hope as he attempted for the second year in a row to beat the East Coast snowstorms. We were delighted that this year the elements could not prevent him from delivering a powerful speech about “Finding the Hero Within” – reminding us how hard it is to offer hope to young people who have only known abuse, that despite what appears to be an impenetrable shield of invincibility they are the ones who are vulnerable even though it feels like we are the ones who get hurt when our well-meaning attempts of connection are rebuffed.
“Validating something about the person whom you are working with can really be the first step in healing” (Participant)
The personal story of Tonier Cain gave emotional life to our theme, bringing our audience to their feet in recognition of what she has overcome and her choice to dedicate her life to helping others. Pointing to a mug shot taken at the height of her crack cocaine addiction, she asked the audience if they could have believed that the woman in the picture could be the same person standing before them. “You don’t have the right to deem someone hopeless. Please don’t give yourself that. That is not your right.” The story of Tonier’s early life was documented in “Healing Neen.” If you missed her conference presentation, videos of Tonier and other speakers will be posted on our website soon.
“Tonier Cain… wow! What a life! She showed me HOPE is real!”
Dr. Rachel Yehuda opened the second day of the conference talking about the impact of trauma on gene expression. Dr. Yehuda is an expert in the field of epigenetics, which like other science about how the body responds to trauma can often seem to be presenting trauma survivors with a somber and inescapable fate. Dr. Yehuda reminded us that epigenetics is the study of the microbiological changes that can be created but also reversed during a lifespan. When our bodies adapt to a dangerous environment, it makes sense to pass these adaptations to our children. When these adaptations get in the way of wellbeing, it is called trauma; when they continue to serve future generations it is called resilience.
“That trauma is intergenerational – not just epigenetically but on a community level – ‘ a state that becomes an enduring trait’” (Participant)
Elizabeth Rosner (Survivor Café) was scheduled to speak briefly after Dr. Yehuda to personalize the science of generationally transmitted trauma and resilience. Her warm and wise words about being a child of Holocaust survivors as well as a breast cancer survivor provided one of the most pleasant surprises of the conference. For those of you who asked for more, don’t worry – for sure we will be inviting her back!
The entire conference was treated to the work of Elaine Miller-Karas as a segue to the body-based breakout workshops. She invited conference participants to get into their bodies using a simple song. As her resilience-building work around the world has proved, sometimes simple is good.
Some of the most enthusiastic breakout reviews were for Yoga for Trauma Recovery and Embodied Childraising. If you didn’t get a chance to catch them or just are wanting more, both of them will be offered as one-day trainings in the summer.
“Yoga was fantastic! I can totally utilize these strategies with clients” (Participant)
Overall, 93% of the conference participants considered the two-day experience to be good or excellent. Given the sold out crowd, the one consistent complaint was lack of space. To resolve this issue, next year we will reduce the number of seats available, so make a note in your calendar to register early and avoid disappointment!
“It is heartening to know such passionate, brilliant, and connected people are assisting us in learning how to work with traumatized youth and families” (Participant)
The Echo Team would like to thank all our speakers and participants for making the 2018 conference such a success!