Category Archives: Posttraumatic Growth Articles

What Is Happiness?

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What Exactly Is Happiness?

Is it possible to recover from complex posttraumatic stress disorder or borderline personality disorder (both of which those who have suffered severe and protracted childhood trauma are at risk of developing in adulthood) and finally be happy? The answer is yes; people who have suffered these disorders can and do recover to the extent that they describe themselves as happy (even if, whilst ill, they considered ever becoming happy an absolute impossibility). But what exactly is happiness?

Factors Found To Correlate Positively With Reported Levels Of Happiness:

The psychologist David Myers found that the following correlated with happiness:

– peace of mind

self-esteem

– good self-care (e.g. healthy diet, sufficient sleep, exercise)

– meaningful / satisfying / enjoyable activities

– satisfying social interaction

– good coping skills

– good problem solving ability

– initiative

– meaningful and achievable goals (as opposed to goals which overstretch one, which are more likely to be set by those with low self-esteem in the belief that extraordinary achievement will make them feel better about themselves)

– absence of time pressure / control over how one spends one’s time

– good planning ability (both long-term and short-term)

– NOT feeling the need to achieve great success for its own sake (although great success may come about as a by product of doing something which the person finds truly meaningful, rewarding and satisfying)

– ability to live in the present (rather than constantly dwelling on the past / worrying about the future)

– NOT clinging on to feelings of blame and bitterness

The Happiness Course :

Another psychologist interested in this field of study, Michael Fordyce, theorized that if we start to do the sort of things happy people do we can reduce our levels of depression, anxiety and stress and, hopefully, become happy ourselves. In other words, we need to start acting as if we’re happy, even (or especially) when we’re not.

He conducted research into this and the findings of that research supported his theory. As part of this research, he devised what he termed the happiness course which helped individuals who undertook it develop key skills intended to increase their levels of happiness, including :

– socializing more

– planning achievable and meaningful goals

– developing optimism

– learning to live in the present

– developing expressiveness

– developing spontaneity

The PERMA Model Of Happiness:

Martin Seligman, a leading expert in the field of positive psychology developed the PERMA model which he proposed contained the five major constituents that lead to happiness; these are :

POSITIVE EMOTION (optimism about past, present and future)

ENGAGEMENT – having activities to do in which one can fully absorb oneself

RELATIONSHIPS – having supportive, rewarding relationships

MEANING – having a meaningful purpose in life

ACCOMPLISHMENT – achieving goals

To find out much more about this model, visit Matin Seligman’s Positive Psychology site.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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Right Brain Therapy : Benefits For Trauma Survivors

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How Useful Is Right Brain Therapy For Trauma Survivors?

Why is it that right brain therapy may be more appropriate for trauma survivors as opposed to therapies that concentrate largely upon the left brain?

Right Brain And How We Relate To Others :

One of the main symptoms of complex posttraumatic stress disorder (from which we may suffer if we experienced significant and protracted childhood trauma) is having problems relating to others.

The brain is made up of two halves, called hemispheres : the left hemisphere (or, left brain) and the right hemisphere (or, right brain). It is the right brain that plays a vital role in how we relate to others because it is intimately involved with many functions that affect how we get along, or, don’t get along, with other people. These functions include :

– our ability to empathize with other people

– our ability to trust others

– our ability to identify with others

– our ability to read the emotions of other people from their facial expressions

– our ability to form healthy attachments with others

– non-conscious communication

Because these functions can be impaired if we have complex PTSD, and because they are controlled largely by the right brain, it follows logically that therapy to restore these functions to their optimum levels should, too, concentrate on the right brain.

Why Do These Functions Reside In The Right Brain?

This is because, in the first two years of life, according to psychodynamic theory, our interactions with our primary caregiver very significantly lay the foundations of our emotional life, including our expectations regarding relationships with others ; these expectations are encoded, on an unconscious level, in the right brain.

Right Brain Therapy And Self-Esteem :

Those with complex PTSD also frequently have significant problems in relation to their sense of self-esteem and therapy for this, too, is also likely to be especially effective when it concentrates upon the right brain. Again, according to psychodynamic theory, this is because the foundations of our self-esteem are (and it is worth repeating) acquired in our first two years of life and are encoded, on an unconscious level, in the right brain.

It follows, therefore, that if our interactions with our primary caregiver in the first two years of our lives are dysfunctional in a way that leads us to believe others do not regard us as of value and worth, we are at high risk of developing into adults who have an ingrained, deeply embedded, unconscious set of negative expectations with regard our relationships with others and our self-esteem.

In other words, such poor expectations regarding our relationships with others and low self-esteem have their foundations in a set of unconscious beliefs, stored in the right brain, that were laid down during the first two years of our lives.

Right Brain And Our Sense Of Safety :

Another feature of complex PTSD is that of a constant feeling of being unsafe and under threat. Research conducted by Schorre (2003) suggests that the sense of how safe, or unsafe, we feel is largely dictated by the right brain.

How Does Right Brain Therapy Work?

Right brain therapy can work by modifying behavior patterns encoded on an unconscious level in the right brain.

Right Brain And Implicit Memory :

Memories stored in the right brain before the age of about two years are known as IMPLICIT memories. This means we are unable to articulate them in words as they are not stored at a linguistic level. Therefore, such memories can only make themselves known to us in ways that are non-verbal (e.g. via our feelings, body sensations and mental imagery).

However, when these memories are triggered and give rise to these feelings, body sensations and mental images we are unaware of their origin for the very reason that they derive from these unconscious/implicit memories in the right brain.

Only right brain therapy then, that can modify these implicit memories on an unconscious level, may be truly effective as left brain therapy, relying on language, is unable to effectively connect with such non – linguistically stored memories.

Examples Of Right Brain Therapy :

These include :

– Art therapy

– Play therapy

– Self-hypnosis / Hypnotherapy

– Mental imagery

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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Social Support And Posttraumatic Growth

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We are more likely to cope with trauma, overcome it and go on to experience posttraumatic growth if we have a good social support system around us. Indeed, those with access to good social support systems tend to have both a better sense of general emotional wellness (Henderson and Brown, 1988) and lower levels of depression (Lara et al, 1997) when compared to those individuals who lack social support.

What Are The Benefits Of Having A Good Social Support System?

Human beings are naturally social animals and it is a basic and fundamental instinct for us to try to bond, connect and form attachments with others; the benefits we may gain from such relationships to others when we have experienced trauma include providing us with :

  • a greater sense of meaning in life
  • a greater sense of safety
  • a greater sense of belonging
  • a greater sense of affirmation / self-worth
  • someone to confide in
  • someone to advise us about coping strategies
  • someone to help us understand and process what has happened to us
  • someone who can help us look at what has happened from a new and original perspective
  • someone who can help distract us from our negative ruminations and feelings
  • someone who can help to emotionally sooth us

In fact, having good social support not only improves our psychological health, but also has benefits for our physical health such as strengthening our immune system (Kiecolt-Glaser and Glaser, 1992).

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Perception Of Social Support Versus Actual Social Support :

Research has also found that even if, by any reasonable, objective measure, we are receiving adequate social support during and after traumatic periods its benefits will be greatly diminished if we do not perceive it as adequate ; for example ; if we perceive someone we are close to as being unreceptive when we confide in him/her information about our traumatic experience – irrespective of whether they actually are unreceptive – our sense of emotional well-being will be diminished (Cordova et al., 2001).

From such research we are able to infer that in order for us to have a significantly increased chance of coping with trauma and experiencing posttraumatic growth, it is not necessarily enough to receive adequate social support – we must, too, believe that those providing this support genuinely care about us.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Posttraumatic Growth : Achieving Maslow’s ‘Self- Actualization’

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The concept of posttraumatic growth hinges on the idea that, although suffering trauma can be devastating, some individuals not only merely survive their traumatic experiences, but go on to achieve a higher level of personal development than they would have been able to obtain had these traumatic experiences not occurred in their lives.

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Above : Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs

According to the psychologist Maslow (famous for his theory concerning the human hierarchy of needs), the highest level of human psychological need, and the hardest to attain, is what Maslow refers to as SELF-ACTUALIZATION. Below, I outline what he meant by this :

MASLOW’S CONCEPT OF SELF-ACTUALIZATION :

According to Maslow, very few individuals achieve ‘selfactualization’, but the characteristics of those who do are as follows :

People who have attained self-actualization are, according to Maslow, those who 

– feel grateful for things many may take for granted

– view problems as challenges

– make independent judgments based upon own experience rather than due to culture / societal trends

– are creative and original

– have just a few close / intense friendships rather than many relatively superficial relationships

– are comfortable being alone

– have an acute sense of humour (though not the type of humour that hurts others)

– are interested and curious about a wide range of things

– are democratic

–  are nondiscriminating / nonprejudice / accepting of other people’s differences

– are compassionate towards fellow members of society

– are spontaneous

– have the ability to derive child-like pleasure from becoming engrossed in simple activities

– are self-accepting (including accepting their weaknesses and faults – therefore not defensive and not in need of presenting and hiding behind false social image of being artificial / superficial)

– are authentic / true to oneself (as opposed to being unthinkingly and unreflectively conformist) / ability to resist and not be manipulated by social pressure

– have a strong sense of reality

– possess humanity

– possess humility

– have strong sense of purpose

– do not expend useless energy worrying about relatively trivial problems

– are focused upon personal growth and self – development rather than conventional and often hollow achievements such as wealth and status

Resource :

Downloadable self-hypnosis MP3/CD : Meet Your Human Needs.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE( FAHE)

 

 

 

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Why Some Individuals ‘Bounce Back’ And Thrive After Trauma

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I have already published many articles on this site showing how significant and protracted trauma during childhood can lead to the development of a complex form of post traumatic stress disorder in later life. But some ‘bounce back’ and even go on to thrive.

Interest in post traumatic stress disorder really took of in the 1980s and, during the 1990s, researchers noted that whilst post traumatic stress disorder shattered many lives, some individuals eventually found that their lives were enhanced following their traumatic experience. This may, at first, seem counter-intuitive, so I explain how this how positive transformation following trauma may come about.

Researchers O’Leary and Ickovics developed a categorization system to highlight the difference between individual responses to trauma. This system involved four categories :

Category One – Succumbed :

Those who had their ability to function in life devastated were said by O’Leary and Ickovics to have ‘succumbed’. (NB. this word is in no way a suggestion that individuals who who fall into this category are in anyway weak or deficient in any way whatsoever – after all, everyone’s life and ability to function can be devastated by trauma; nobody is immune).

Category Two – Survival With Impairment :

This second category represents those who, after their traumatic experiences, were able to resume some semblance of their former lives, but were not able to function as well as they had previously.

Category ThreeResilient :

This category comprises those individuals who were resilient enough to the effects of their traumatic experiences to carry on with their lives with a similar level of functioning to that displayed previously.

Category FourThrive :

Individuals in the fourth and final group were actually able to become more fulfilled in life, and function at a higher level, than prior to their traumatic experiences.

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Why Are Some Individuals Able To Bounce Back And Thrive As A Result Of Their Traumatic Experiences?

As one might very well expect, psychological researchers quickly became very interested in trying to discover just exactly what factors were at play that allowed some people to actually improve their quality of life as a result of their traumatic experiences.

Research carried out to date suggests that about seven out of ten people who have experienced significant trauma derive at least some benefit to their lives as a result.

Those who are more resilient are likely to benefit most from their experience of trauma. So what factors help to make a person resilient?

Factors That Help A Person To Be Resilient:

Research suggests that the following factors help a person to be resilient to the adverse effects of trauma :

– on optimistic nature

– a high level of self-esteem

– a sense of humour

– strong relationships / secure attachments with significant others

– the ability to be capable of trusting others

– a sense of one’s own control (psychologists refer to this as having an internal locus of control)

– a strong sense of self-reliance / self a sufficiency / perceived ability to cope / resourcefulness

– good interpersonal / social skills

In What Ways May People’s Lives Improve After Trauma?

First, the experience of significant trauma can help the individual to put the smaller problems in life into their proper perspective.

Second, because the love and support of others is so crucial to recovery from trauma, many come to more fully appreciate the vital importance of their relationships with others, which, in turn, can make them work harder to maintain and strengthen such relationships. (This may not be applicable to all trauma survivors, such as those with Asperger’s syndrome)

Third, by surviving significant trauma, many individuals gain a new sense of their inner strength in a similar way to how a person who gets through an SAS training course may gain a strong belief in their powers of endurance.

A final example of how a person’s life may actually be enhanced by surviving trauma is a greater appreciation of life in general, the development of a more helpful ‘philosophy of life’ and a strong desire to make the most of every single day.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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Recovery From Complex PTSD

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According to Peter Levine, an expert on the adverse effects of childhood trauma on our adult lives and the complex post traumatic stress disorder that can result, typically there develops various signs in victims that may indicate the recovery process is underway. The main signs of recovery that Levine identifies are as follows :

1) A REDUCTION IN THE NUMBER, AND INTENSITY, OF EMOTIONAL FLASHBACKS THAT WE EXPERIENCE (an emotional flashback is when an event occurs in our lives that triggers similar painful emotions to those we experienced as a child in relation to our traumatic experiences – such flashbacks may result in regressive behaviour such as extreme, uncontrollable, childlike tantrums. For example, if we had a cold and rejecting father who was always denigrating us, we may over-react when we are criticized by our boss at work).

2) WE BECOME LESS SELF-CRITICAL (those who have suffered childhood trauma very frequently, and erroneously, blame themselves for their terrible childhood experiences and/or internalize the negative view parents/primary carers had of them when they were children – to read my article on how a child can falsely come to see him/herself as ‘bad’ and how this inaccurate self-view may be perpetuated, click here).

3) WE BECOME LESS ‘CATASTROPHIZING’ (many who suffer childhood trauma develop into adults prone to extremes of negative thinking, often referred to as cognitive processing errors.’ One such cognitive processing error is that we may be prone to ‘catastrophizing’ which means we tend to always expect the worst and to interpret situations in their worst possible light. Often, too, we attribute the worst possible intentions and motivations to the behaviour of others. As we begin to recover, this tendency diminishes).

4) WE START TO FIND IT EASIER TO RELAX (one of the worst aspects of my illness was a perpetual, tormenting feeling of the most intense agitation making anything even vaguely approaching relaxation utterly impossible, every medication was tried – and failed; even electro-convulsive shock therapy (ECT) was tried on several different occasions over the years – again, utter failure. When we finally do start to recover, however, the ability to relax gradually returns).

5) WE BECOME LESS DEPENDENT UPON OUR LEARNED DEFENSE MECHANISMS (it is very common for those of us who have experienced childhood trauma to develop into adults who feel very vulnerable to being hurt or exploited by others if we ourselves were hurt and exploited by our parent/s or primary-carer/s during our early lives. In order to protect ourselves, we may have unconsciously learned to develop certain defense mechanisms such as aggression  or avoidance. As we recover, however, we find we become less reliant on these psychological defenses, according to Levine.

6) OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS START TO IMPROVE AND WE BECOME LESS INTIMIDATED BY SOCIAL SITUATIONS (another common outcome of significant childhood trauma is that we can find, in adulthood, that we are quite inept when it comes to forming and maintaining relationships with others. We may, too, find social situations very intimidating, and, even, develop social phobia. A sign of recovery, however, is an easing of such interpersonal difficulties).

 

FOUR MAIN STEPS ALONG THE ROAD TO RECOVERY :

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Levine states that the main steps to recovery are as follows :

1) PSYCHOEDUCATION

2) REDUCING SELF-CRITICISM

3) GRIEVING FOR OUR CHILDHOOD LOSSES

4) ADDRESSING ‘ABANDONMENT DEPRESSION’

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

1) The first step of recovery from complex PTSD, according to Levine, is psycheducation (which is sometimes referred to as ‘bibliotherapy‘. This involves learning about our psychological condition and becoming aware of how it is linked to our adverse childhood experiences. Levine also emphasizes the usefulness of learning about mindfulness).

2) The second step of recovery from complex PTSD is to, in Levine’s phrase, shrink our inner critic.’  In other words, we need to gradually learn how to stop taking such a negative view of ourselves and of everything we do – one effective therapy which can help us to achieve this is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). (To read my related article, entitled :‘How The Child’s View Of Their Own ‘Badness’ Is Perpetuated’, click here).

3) The third step of recovery from complex PTSD, says Levine, is to grieve for our childhood losses. These losses may include our missing out on feelings of safety, security, simple childhood happiness and a care-free state of mind as well as a loss of any self-esteem we may have once had. To read my article about coming to terms with childhood losses, click here). Levine suggests that this process may take up to two years.

4) The final step of recovery from complex PTSD is to address what Levine calls the core issue, namely our ‘abandonment depression.’ An important part of this step is also to learn how to be self-compassionate. (To read my article about abandonment issues which may we may develop as a result of childhood trauma, click here).


Resource :

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TAME YOUR INNER CRITIC | HYPNOSIS DOWNLOADS


 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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The Adversity Hypothesis : Posttraumatic Growth

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‘He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.’

AESCHYLUS, AGAMEMNON 


The vast majority of studies examining the effects of trauma on the individual have concentrated on the negative effects such as depression, anxiety, phobias, flashbacks, nightmares, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and so on. However, more recently, an increasing number of studies have focused on how the experience of trauma may, in some ways, actually benefit us.

Indeed, the ADVERSITY HYPOTHESIS puts forward the proposal that adversity and suffering are necessary for optimum human development.

Closely linked to the adversity hypothesis is the concept of posttraumatic growth (PTG).

The theory of posttraumatic growth suggests that some individuals who undergo traumatic experiences find that they grow and develop as a person in beneficial ways once the trauma is over. These benefits often include :

  1. Discovering/developing strengths and abilities that weren’t apparent prior to the traumatic experience and becoming a more confident person as a result.
  2. Feeling stronger as a person in the knowledge one can survive great difficulty and suffering.
  3. Developing a greater appreciation of life once the trauma is over.
  4. Strengthening of pre-existing valuable and meaningful friendships/bonds/relationships (the colloquial expression ‘finding out who your real friends are’ is of relevance here).
  5. Gaining of a better perspective on life.
  6. Gaining insight into life’s priorities and what one really wants to do with it to make it fulfilling – often leading to decisive and positive life-change.
  7. Gaining a deeper insight into life in general leading to spiritual growth and development.

Indeed, there may well be other benefits, but the above list represents the main ones so far highlighted by the research carried out to date.

It is also worth noting that research carried out by Pennebaker (1990) suggests that if we are able to ‘make sense of’ our traumatic experiences in a way that is meaningful to us we are particularly likely to benefit from posttraumatic growth.

Also, research by Helgeson (2006) suggests that individuals are most likely to start to benefit from posttraumatic growth if their traumatic experiences ceased two years ago or more.

COPING PROCESS OR OUTCOME?

Whether posttraumatic growth represents an active coping process or is a more passive outcome of the experiencing of trauma (or, indeed,  is a combination of the two) is still a matter of debate amongst psychologists; notwithstanding this, not everyone who experiences trauma also experiences posttraumatic growth.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Recovering Our Self-Esteem : 6 Key Elements.

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If we have experienced significant childhood trauma, such as parental rejection, our self-esteem is likely to have been severely damaged. However, it is possible for us to rebuild it.

Branden (1994) identified six key foundations upon which the development of a healthy level of self-esteem is built; these six building blocks of self-esteem are as follows:

THE SIX KEY FACTORS THAT UNDERPIN A HEALTHY LEVEL OF SELF-ESTEEM:

1) Being consciously engaged with the present

2) Being accepting of oneself

3) Taking responsibility for oneself

4) Having a definite and meaningful purpose in life

5) Having personal integrity

6) Having a capability to act in an assertive manner when necessary

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Let’s look at each of these in turn:

1) Being consciously engaged in the present :

When a young child is playing, s/he becomes ‘lost’ in the present, utterly mentally involved with the activity and living entirely in the here and now.

As adults, we tend to lose this ability; instead of living in the present we dwell on/ ruminate about the past (as is often the case for people suffering from clinical depression) and/or worry about the future (which frequently occurs, often to an obsessive degree, in people who suffer from an anxiety disorder), rarely living for now.

Whole lifetimes can be wasted in this manner, possibly spent using drink and drugs in a futile attempt to recapture this childhood mental state of unsullied psychological purity.

However, we can train ourselves to live more in the present through the practice of mindfulness meditation. Indeed, research into the positive psychological effect of mindfulness meditation had yielded impressive results.

2) Accepting oneself :

This means accepting both one’s good qualities and bad (after learning from our mistakes and undertaking not to repeat them we need to forgive ourselves, acknowledging we are a highly fallible human being, like everyone else, rather than torturing ourselves with guilt. Also, making mistakes ourselves can give us empathy for others around us who make mistakes too, and help us not to judge them.

3) Taking responsibility for ourselves :

If we deny any responsibility for our own lives, we deprive ourselves of the motivating belief that we can significantly contribute towards the shaping our own destinies.

4) Having a definite and meaningful purpose in life:

This could be finding one’s true vocation (rather than a job one would rather not do due to financial necessity) which may involve downsizing and living a less materialistic life.

And, of course, some find meaning through religion, spirituality or a political or social cause.

5) Having personal integrity :

This means living an authentic life that is true to who we are, developing our own moral code based on personal reasoning and attempting to live by it.

6) Having a capability to act assertively when necessary :

A key component of this is to value our own needs and not allow ourselves to be exploited by others. This means having the strength and courage to stand up for ourselves in a firm, but not aggressive, manner.

Resource:

hypnosis packs 200x133 - Recovering Our Self-Esteem : 6 Key Elements.Ten Steps To Solid Self-Esteem. Click here.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

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Freeing Ourselves From Anger About Our Past.

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It is far from uncommon for those of us who have experienced a traumatic childhood to remain angry and resentful about the past, specifically, perhaps, about how our parents badly treated us. This can result in us bearing grudges and feeling bitter for years, decades, or even for a whole lifetime.

We have all heard the expression, ‘forgive and forget’, but how applicable is it to the kind of situation that I have just described?

Well, first of all, it is not possible to forget (unless, that is, we have unconsciously repressed the memories of what happened to us as a means of psychological defense).

But what about forgiveness? As we are all different, and as our past experiences are also all different, this boils down to a matter of personal choice. Notwithstanding this, many psychologists advocate forgiveness, not least because the act of forgiving is very likely to benefit us, and, of course, the flip side of this is that a decision NOT to forgive is liable to damage us.

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How Does Remaining Angry Harm Us?

If we constantly brood about how we were wronged in the past this can be mentally exhausting and cause us to feel perpetually anguished, unhappy and unable to enjoy the present or look forward to the future.

It also gives more power to those who wronged us : not only have they hurt us in the past, but, by refusing to let go of what they did to us, we allow them to keep us unhappy, both now and in the future. To put it colloquially, we permit them to score a double whammy against us.

By staying angry, bitter and resentful we may perpetuate a self-destructive feeling of unresolved anger (which we may displace onto others, ruining our relationships); emotionally exhaust ourselves with constant feelings of animosity and, in some cases, hatred; get caught up in a futile mental cycle of revenge fantasies and of waiting for those who hurt us to make amends (which, sadly, often never happens).

Moving On:

Instead of inflicting this pointless mental suffering on ourselves, we have the option to take what lessons we can from our adverse experiences and move forward with our lives, perhaps even turning these adverse experiences to our own advantage, in as far as this may be possible.

The Bottom Line :

The bottom line is straight-forward :

Does holding on to anger, bitterness and resentment make our present lives, and future prospects, better or worse?

It is, of course, up to each individual to decide.

Resources:

LET IT GO : self-hypnosis downloadable MP3. Click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

The Vital Importance Of Having Our Traumatic Experiences Validated.

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Research has established, beyond doubt, that, all else being equal, the greater our experience of childhood trauma, the worse both our physical and mental health are likely to be during our adulthood, and the more likely we are to die prematurely.

Research has also shown that having our perception of our childhood trauma, and its adverse effect on us, validated is an essential part of our recovery.

Surrounding my own childhood experiences there has always been a conspiracy of silence by family members. My feelings about my early experiences have been met variously with evasion, denial, contempt, disdain, cold dismissiveness, minimisation, stone-walling, passive -aggression and straight- forward lies.

When our experiences are NOT validated, or, worse still, shamelessly refuted, recovery becomes almost impossible : insult is added to injury, with the likely outcome that our condition will actually become worse .

When our experiences and their effects remain NON-VALIDATED, our very sense of reality is undermined which puts us in danger of developing psychosis (a condition in which we become pathologically detached from reality).

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When we are told things such as ‘stop harping on about the past’ or, ‘you sound like a broken record, let it go’, it is this very contemptuous dismissal of our feelings that perpetuates our condition. The tacit implication is that we are self-absorbed, self-pitying, egotistical and should stop blaming our problems on our childhooods as this is wrong and selfish. But let’s examine the logic (or lack, thereof) of this rebuffal to our fundamental beliefs about our early traumatic experiences:

Can we take seriously the suggestion that a child who was frequently beaten to a pulp by a drunken father (as a hypothetical example), or the person whose brain development was impaired by emotional abuse (as another hypothetical example), and develops psychological problems in adulthood as a result, is somehow being weak and self-indulgent, and is wrong and unentitled to suggest his/her childhood may be linked to his/her adult difficulties?!

Of course we can’t. In fact, it takes an awful amount of inner, mental strength to face up to and acknowledge the harm done to oneself by one’s childhood, and doing so is absolutely key to one’s recovery. 

Recent research has shown that if a person’s feelings about their traumatic experiences in childhood are just sympathetically listened to and validated, and their pain and suffering as a result of their trauma is acknowledged and authenticated, their condition improves, even in the absence of any additional, active therapy.

This is powerful evidence that having our feelings about our childhoods validated is absolutely essential in order for us to recover from our adverse experiences.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc, PGDE (FAHE).

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