If you have experienced childhood trauma, you can speak with a Blue Knot Helpline trauma counsellor including for support and applications around national redress

1300 657 380
Monday - Sunday
between 9am - 5pm AEST
or via email helpline@blueknot.org.au


Do you live with disability?  Have you experienced abuse, neglect, violence or exploitation?

For support for Disability Royal Commission or general support contact our National Counselling & Referral Service

1800 421 468
9am - 6pm AEST Mon- Fri
9am - 5pm AEST Sat, Sun & public holidays


July 2019Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via eMail Share on LinkedIn

From the Editor

During winter it’s easy for many of us to slip into hibernation mode and not reach out as we might during the warmer months.  This might be a great opportunity to focus on yourself, and perhaps rediscover forgotten passions like reading a great novel or pursuing your creative streak.  But for those that need to connect more with others and with nature don’t let the cold air dull your motivation for getting outside. Try and be mindful about connecting with those friends and family members who are there for you and with whom you feel safe.  Importantly, make sure you seek good support when you feel you need it.

In this issue of Breaking Free, we publish our first article in a two-part series which looks at the challenges of parenting when you are a survivor of complex trauma.  Parenting isn’t easy at the best of times, but how do you do so effectively when your own experience can overshadow or bring self-doubt to the way you parent?  We examine a range of issues and strategies that can help you navigate your way through this challenging but rewarding phase of life.

Our self-care article is very closely linked to our lead article, in that it centres around recognising and managing our triggers.  Building that self-awareness, and having an arsenal of strategies will ensure that we can push through those rougher times in a way that is constructive, positive and self-empowering.

We are thrilled to announce that the popular Power, Threat, Meaning Workshops will be returning later this year.  We had a fantastic response last time, and have had many requests to repeat the workshops.  Professor David Pilgrim will be facilitating these workshops in Sydney and Perth in November, so make sure you mark these dates in your diary.

Until next time, if you have any comments about what you have read in this issue, contributions for the My Story section, or suggestions for future issues, please contact the editor at newsletter@blueknot.org.au

Warm regards
The Blue Knot Team

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Book recommendation

Parenting from the Inside Out -
How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive

Parenting from the Inside Out is the 2014 edition of the classic parenting bestseller from Daniel Siegel, MD, a psychiatrist and leader in the trauma field, and early childhood expert Mary Hartzell, MEd.  It was developed as a result of a series of parenting workshops that combined Siegel’s research around brain development and Hartzell’s experience as a parent educator to support everyone, including people with childhood trauma histories to raise resilient children.

This book draws on new findings in neurobiology and attachment research to explore the ways in which our childhood experiences shape our reactions, feelings and the way we parent. It explains how our relationships affect the way the brain develops and supports parents to develop a deeper understanding of their own history, so they are better able to build strong loving and secure relationships with their own children. This includes how to communicate better and how to be more mindful and aware of our own reactions. 

How many parents have found themselves thinking: 'I can't believe I just said to my child the very thing my parents used to say to me! Am I just destined to repeat the mistakes of my parents?' 

"Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzell have quite deftly managed to translate highly complex neuroscientific and psychological matters into lay strategies for effective parenting.  This is truly a must read for all parents and those aspiring to be parents."
- Marilyn B. Benoit, M.D., President, American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry

“This book uniquely pairs the clinical experience of a psychiatrist with the deep wisdom of a nursery school teacher. Together Siegel and Hartzell delicately peel back the many layers of parenting to reveal the pure nature of the relationship at its core.” 
- Neal Halfon, M.D., Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics, UCLA, and editor, Child Rearing in America.

The following youtube clip shows how unresolved feelings from the past can be alive in the present, and how understanding that can make all the difference.
Mary’s story – shopping for shoes

Click here to purchase the book.

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Seeking people who are interested in speaking to the media

From time to time Blue Knot Foundation is asked to speak to the media around a range of different topics related to complex trauma, childhood trauma and abuse, the redress scheme and others. This can involve print, radio, TV media as well as social media channels. As part of some of these interviews, journalists ask if Blue Knot knows of any survivors or family members, partners or friends who would be comfortable being interviewed either anonymously or using their name. If you would like to register your interest in speaking to the media should an opportunity arise and feel well enough supported and ready to do so please email marketing@blueknot.org.au with your contact details and we will get back to you.

It is important to know that the media often wants to explore a particular topic and angle and in this case, that will be the focus of a particular interview, rather than your full story. Every survivor’s experience and story deserves to be honoured and we will always do what we can to ensure that the media we work with is sensitive and informed.  

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Survivor Workshops

As a result of the generosity of our supporters and the success of our EOFY campaign and other donations, Blue Knot Foundation is excited to announce that we will be scheduling survivor workshops, 1 in each state and territory of Australia.

We will be announcing the dates and locations of these workshops in our August newsletter. A sincere thank you to everyone who donated to help us deliver this series of much needed educational workshops around the country.

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Blue Knot Day

Monday 28th October 2019

Our 10th annual national Blue Knot Day, a day on which Blue Knot Foundation asks all Australians to unite in support of adult survivors of complex trauma is fast approaching.
If you'd like to donate your time to volunteer to help coordinate a Blue Knot Day event in your community, please email events@blueknot.org.au for more information.

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Challenges of Parenting with a Complex Trauma History – Part 1

This is the first part of a two-part series about the challenges of parenting with a complex trauma history. Part 2 will appear in the August edition of Breaking Free

N.B. Where the word parent/s is used it also refers to caregiver/s.

Trauma in childhood is all too common. That means that many of us have experienced it – whether it’s physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect, growing up with domestic or community violence or other adverse experiences. In addition many of us have grown up with poverty, discrimination or have struggled with attachment issues. Some of us have experienced further trauma as an adult.

This means that many parents or people caring for children have trauma histories. Trauma in childhood as well as repeated traumas as an adult (complex trauma) can affect us when we become parents or caregivers.

Being a parent can be both challenging and rewarding. While most trauma survivors are as determined to become good parents as others, and often more so, parenting does not always come easily. Nor does it comes easily to anyone else! However if you have trauma experiences, you may be concerned about the sort of parent you are or will be. You may be determined to do a better job than your own parents, but maybe wonder how you will you be able to love and care for your child if you weren’t nurtured yourself. 

Rest assured that many survivors make ‘good enough’ parents. Why do we use the words ‘good enough’? Because no parent is perfect and nor for that matter is any child. 

If you are a survivor and want to do your best for your child, understanding how your trauma has affected you is a good start.  As we raise our children, our childhood experiences can be alive in the present, even when we think they’re no longer affecting us. Research shows that, with the right information, strategies and support we can all make positive parenting changes. As we heal our children do better too, emotionally and socially.  

Being a ‘good enough’ parent means doing things in the best interests of our child. This means providing a safe space in which our child feels nurtured and cared for – in which they can learn to trust and build connections through their interactions with us. And can learn to name and manage their feelings. The fact is that children don’t know how to regulate their feelings when they are born.  Parents help them learn to manage their distress e.g. when they’re hungry, tired, lonely or hurt. They do this through by co-regulating feelings with their children, through holding, soothing and connecting with them.  

When children are born their neurons (brain cells) have few connections. Connections develop over time as a result of the different experiences we have with our environment and our caregivers. The more positive, nurturing experiences we have the more robust the pathways which are formed. These help children to thrive in their environment. Children with good attachments and safe, nurturing environments are more likely to develop and meet their milestones. They are also more likely to have better health outcomes and build a sense of wellbeing and strong connections to those around them. 

Many of us who were subjected to trauma growing up did not experience safe attachments, nurturing, consistent relationships or safe stable home environments.  When we have our own children, some of this develops naturally but some of it also needs to be learnt. Intergenerational trauma means that families can sometimes carry trauma through to the next generation. We have an opportunity to change this process by changing our family patterns of raising children. And remember you don’t need to do this alone – there is a lot of information available and good support too.

Creating safety for you and your child

If you grew up in fear and didn’t have many of your needs met, or struggled to feel safe when you were a child, you may be easily triggered into a fight, flight or freeze response. These trauma responses are not your fault. They are to be expected if you experienced threat or danger as a child. These reactions include feeling anxious, being on guard or ‘hypervigilant’, or at other times, feeling numb and shutting down.

When you become a parent you are exposed to a range of different situations, some of which can trigger you. When this happens you may not be able to be as present and available to your child, as you want to be. Being aware of your reactions and learning to identify your triggers is a good first step to being able to manage these trauma reactions. Being a parent is intrinsically challenging and stressful, so building in some self-care time is an ongoing way of settling the stress and anxiety that is there for all parents.

It can also be helpful to try different grounding and self-soothing strategies to learn what works for you when you are feeling triggered and dysregulated. This can help you settle your nervous system, so you can start to feel safer and more in control. When you do, you can be more present and less reactive with your child. This in turn helps model some good regulation management and problem solving skills for child and most importantly can help you provide them with a secure base. When a child has a secure base, they are more able to explore and learn and develop the skills they need as they go out into the world.

Learning to trust

If you are a survivor, you may have grown up believing that people can’t be trusted. Feelings of betrayal can be very strong. These feelings can affect the way you connect with people, including with your child. However the good news is that the brain can change right through life. As you start to have more positive experiences your brain can build different pathways. And healthy relationships with a trusted friend, partner or counsellor can help you be kinder with yourself, build your capacity to trust and develop greater empathy for others, including your children.

As you learn to be there for yourself as others are there for you, you can, in turn, start to be there for your child, more consistently. And become more sensitive to their needs and emotions, over time. No one can do this all the time but as you develop these skills it will help your child to develop emotionally and socially, and foster their health and wellbeing, too. 


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Self Care Resources

Recognising and managing our triggers

A trigger is a psychological stimulus which acts as a reminder of previous traumatic experience/s and sets off feelings of trauma, as if the trauma is happening in the present. A trigger can come from:

Our experience - how another person makes us feel e.g. strong feelings such as rage or distress; threat or perceived threat - the experience of authority, conflict, feeling judged, feeling controlled, having no voice, feeling trapped or lack of safety. 
Our environment - from sounds, sights, tastes, smells and places. For example, hearing the sound of squealing brakes may ‘trigger’ a person who has been in a car accident.  In childhood trauma, triggers can be more difficult to identify and may be very small things that remind us of our childhood or of a challenging time or event in our lives.

Similarly to when a person is in a situation which they find threatening, a trigger can precipitate a sudden intense physiological response i.e. fight, flight or freeze response. The body goes into high alert, with all its resources going to react to the situation. The reaction may cause a person to feel overwhelmed with intense feelings such as sadness, anxiety or panic. It may also sometimes cause a flashback. A flashback is a vivid often negative memory that occurs seemingly without warning, and is like being back in the moment of the trauma.

The term ‘Window of tolerance’ is used to describe the zone of arousal in which a person can tolerate the ebb and flow or emotions and function at their best. When a person is in this zone they can usually receive, process and integrate information about what is happening around them and also manage the demands of everyday life. As a result the person can then reflect, think rationally and make decisions without feeling overwhelmed or withdrawn.

During times of extreme stress, trauma or when they are triggered people go into states of hyper or hypo arousal related to their flight, fight or freeze responses. When this happens a part of a person’s brain known as their pre frontal cortex shuts down and they are not able regulate their emotions. During these periods a person can be said to be outside their Window of tolerance.

When triggers cause us to come out of our Window of Tolerance it can be challenging and confusing. If a person’s brain perceives the current trigger as a still present threat rather than a past event, the person is reminded of the trauma and their body acts as if the event is happening. Triggers can be subtle and hard to identify, both for the person experiencing them and for those interacting with them. 

If triggers are not understood it can seem as if the triggered person is overreacting. This can include reactions such as anger, aggression, running away, avoidance, appearing unresponsive, shutting down.

Responses to triggers can also become habits, as people tend to look for patterns and tend to do things in the same way.  So sometimes reactions to triggers can become habits.  

While we can’t get rid of all the potential triggers in our environment (although we sometimes try), we can attempt to become aware of them and reduce their impact.
Learning to be aware of when we’re triggered contributes to our increasing our self-awareness. It also increases our ability to communicate honestly and authentically with others and build and foster trusting relationships. If we can become aware of what triggers us, we can help ourselves to reduce our triggers, manage our reactions to them and self-regulate.

The first thing to do is to notice when we’re being triggered. We can notice this in our body as our body expresses our reactions to our triggers first. We may feel our chest tightening, our heart racing, a lump in our throat, sweaty palms, a knot in our stomach or a sense of being unsettled or uncomfortable. 

Once we’ve noticed that we are triggered it is good if we can we can pause and reflect. Using grounding and mindfulness skills and techniques can assist in this process. It can be good to breathe – slow deep breaths and do what we need to do, to go to safe calming space within ourselves. This is not always easy but with practice and support these skills are accessible to almost everyone.

In our June edition of Breaking Free we included an article about what you can to do help ground yourself. It might be helpful to read that article and see what might help you, or read the information on our support page for additional information. Do what you can to try and limit your reaction to your trigger, so you can separate yourself from it, react less and explore it later. This is not always easy so be understanding with yourself if you do react to it. Triggers and trauma responses can be deep-seated and can take time to make sense of and manage. 

When you are feeling calm and have time it is a good idea to try and explore the trigger. What started the trigger, and what in particular triggered you? Have you ever been triggered by something like that before? Why might this trigger you – something from the past? What is the meaning of that trigger for you? What do you need to do for this to not trigger you in the future? What would it mean for you to try and change the story around that trigger, and its meaning? 


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Power, Threat, Meaning Workshops return by popular demand

Earlier this year, Blue Knot hosted a series of workshops around the Power, Threat, Meaning Framework. These proved to be overwhelmingly popular.  We are privileged to bring another round of these to those of you who missed out before. This year they will be held in Sydney and Perth, and facilitated by the esteemed Professor David Pilgrim, an author of the framework.  

The Power Threat Meaning Framework is a radically new approach to understanding distress and unusual experiences without using psychiatric diagnosis. In our current systems, few people are offered an  alternative to diagnosis  or provided with a choice about how to understand their distress. The dominant explanation is that they are suffering from ‘mental illness’ to be diagnosed and medicated. This viewpoint does not additionally consider the complex reasons behind people’s distress including trauma and adversity. Symptoms and diagnosis is only one viewpoint, with which not all professionals agree. 

The Framework was produced jointly with users of services and a team of psychologists in the UK, under the auspices of the Clinical Division of the British Psychological Society. It was developed using a robust evidence base grounded in biological research, psychology, neuroscience, social science and trauma studies. 

One of the main aims of the Framework is to offer everyone a way of creating new, more hopeful narratives or stories about their lives and the problems they may have faced or still be facing, instead of seeing themselves as blameworthy, weak, flawed, or ‘mentally ill’.  As a result people experiencing mental distress have been able to take up lives that are fulfilling and meaningful, even if they still have difficulties. The framework can suggest new ways forward, sometimes working alongside professionals and sometimes through self-help or peer support.  
Blue Knot Foundation is hosting workshops that will explore how power operates in people’s lives, the threat it poses, the responses people have and the meaning they make of it to offer new ways forward. Attendees from all backgrounds are welcome.  If you missed out last time, now is your chance to participate in this insightful and practical workshop.  If you are interested in reading about the framework and are unable to attend a workshop, the publication may be purchased here.


6th November 2019: Sydney
1st November: Perth

Venue details are still being confirmed.  Email us here to register your interest in attending.

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Power, Threat, Meaning - Workshops

These unique events will be delivered in Perth and Sydney by Professor David Pilgrim straight from UK. David Pilgrim is Honorary Professor of Health and Social Policy, University of Liverpool and Visiting Professor of Clinical Psychology University of Southampton.

There are two versions of the workshop tailored according to whether you are a mental health consumer and/or survivor of complex trauma, or whether you work in the sector.  Please choose the session most relevant to you.


Professional Workshop

This full day workshop is for those working in diverse professions across different sectors:

This workshop will introduce people to the Power Threat Meaning Framework, produced in the UK by a group of psychologists and service users from a strong evidence base drawn from research. The Framework offers an alternative to traditional psychiatric diagnosis. The Framework offers a way of exploring what has happened to people, how they responded and what meanings they attached to their life experiences. This workshop also attracts CPD points for practitioners.

This workshop will facilitate a group process for professionals to apply the framework to their own role and influence from a non-diagnostic approach inclusive of culturally specific perspectives and practices. 

Learn more and book

Consumer/Survivor Workshop

This half-day workshop is for mental health consumers and/or survivors of complex trauma

The Power, Threat, Meaning Framework fosters respect for the many ways in which distress is experienced, expressed and healed across the globe. This can help people create more hopeful narratives about their lives and difficulties they have experienced. This is a workshop that acknowledges the power of lived experience, trauma and adversity whilst offering a framework for understanding self, healing and recovery. 

If you are a mental health consumer or survivor who has already registered for the professional workshop please contact the Blue Knot Foundation on (02) 8920 3611 or admin@blueknot.org.au

If you are a professional please do not register for the consumer/survivor workshop, as places are limited. It is important that as many people with lived experience can benefit from this free event.

Learn more and book




Hear more about the Power Threat Meaning Framework

Listen to Akima Thomas, director of Women and Girls refuge share her thoughts on the PTM framework




Listen to John Cromby co-author of the Power Threat Meaning Framework speak about why the framework is going to be a game-changer.

Listen to Marco Turner from Headspace share his thoughts on the Power Threat Meaning Framework Workshops


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Dissociative disorders are nearly as common as depression. So why haven’t we heard about them?

Dissociative disorders are often said to be rare. But this soon-to-be published analysis of international studies suggest they affect 10-11% of the population at some point in their lives. Read more

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Moment a rookie MP breaks down speaking about her difficult childhood

Bridget Archer, the new Liberal member for Bass in Tasmania's north, revealed her unhappy childhood as she praised a Morrison Government initiative targeting domestic and sexual violence.  Read more

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Ghosthunter podcast now available on Audible

Paranormal activity, a family's terrible forgotten secret and a police investigation converge in a five-part docu-series. Listeners are taken on a captivating audio journey of paranormal ghost hunts, court hearings and the raw emotion of people faced by hard truths.  The podcast is free for members, or free with a 30 day trial for non-members.  Listen here

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Michael Jackson fans sue singer's alleged abuse victims for 'damaging memory of the dead'

Celebrity and victims' testimony challenge what we are willing to believe.  Read more

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Study: Psychiatric Diagnoses Are ‘Scientifically Meaningless’ In Treating Mental Health

No two people are exactly alike. Therefore, attempting to classify each unique individual’s mental health issues into neat categories just doesn’t work. That’s the claim coming out of the United Kingdom that is sure to ruffle some psychologists’ feathers.  Read more

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Disclaimer - Blue Knot Foundation makes every effort to provide readers of its website and newsletters with information which is accurate and helpful. It is not however a substitute for counselling or professional advice. While all attempts have been made to verify all information provided, Blue Knot Foundation cannot guarantee and does not assume any responsibility for currency, errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the information provided.


Health Direct


Head to Health


“Blue Knot Foundation has a key role to play in the building of community capacity in care provision to those who have experienced childhood abuse and trauma in any environment.”

NIALL MULLIGAN Manager, Lifeline Northern Rivers

“I think Blue Knot Foundation is a fantastic support organisation for people who have experienced childhood trauma/abuse, for their families/close friends and for professionals who would like to learn how to more effectively work with these people.”

Psychologist Melbourne

“It's such a beautiful thing that you are doing. Helping people to get through this.”


“It was only last September when I discovered the Blue Knot Foundation website and I will never forget the feeling of support and empathy that I received when I finally made the first phone call to Blue Knot Helpline, which was also the first time I had ever spoken about my abuse.”


"At last there is some sound education and empathetic support for individuals and partners impacted by such gross boundary violations.”


Contact Us

Phone: 02 8920 3611
PO Box 597 Milsons Point NSW 1565
Hours: Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm AEST

Blue Knot Helpline
Phone: 1300 657 380
Email: helpline@blueknot.org.au 
Hours: Mon-Sun, 9am-5pm AEST

For media comment, please contact:
Dr Cathy Kezelman
+61 425 812 197
+61 2 8920 3611
or ckezelman@blueknot.org.au

For media enquiries, please contact: 
Jo Scard
+61 457 725 953 
or jo@fiftyacres.com