Category Archives: Posttraumatic Growth Articles

Freeing Ourselves From Anger About Our Past.

Freeing Ourselves From Anger About Our Past.

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.

Freeing Ourselves From Anger About Our Past.

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.

The Vital Importance Of Having Our Traumatic Experiences Validated.

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).

The Vital Importance Of Having Our Traumatic Experiences Validated.

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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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Radical Acceptance : A Method To Help Us Cope With Trauma

 

Radical Acceptance :  A Method To Help Us Cope With Trauma

The psychologist, Linehan, developed the therapeutic method known as radical acceptance in order to help individuals cope with life’s myriad difficulties and so help them to recover from the psychological effects that may arise from having experienced childhood trauma, such as, for example, depression and anxiety.

NB The radical acceptance method forms part of the therapy known as dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT).

Radical Acceptance :  A Method To Help Us Cope With Trauma

The Futility Of ‘Blocking Out’ Reality:

When we attempt to ‘block out’ reality, it frequently leaves us, in the long-run, feeling worse rather than better. It also takes up a considerable amount of mental energy, quite possibly leaving us feeling constantly exhausted, depressed and anxious. (You may wish to read more about this in my article entitled: ‘Why Fighting Depressive Thoughts Can Worsen Them.’ )

Negative events leading to psychological pain are an  inevitable part  of life for everyone. Indeed, even those whose lives we may, superficially, envy will have to face illness, death of friends and loved ones, together, of course, with the prospect of their own eventual demise ; not to mention all the other losses, humiliations, misery, torments and suffering life involves.

According to radical acceptance theory, we need to accept and face up to the negative elements of our lives rather than to try to suppress the painful emotions they evoke. This is because when we suppress our negative feelings, our ability to feel positive feelings is also reduced. Indeed, trying to suppress negative feelings can lead us to feel emotionally numb, dissociated, anxious and depressed.

Denial Of Reality Leading To Addictions:

Furthermore, if we do not permit ourselves to accept our reality, we may, in a feverish and desperate attempt to escape it, turn to dysfunctional and harmful addictive behaviors such as drug taking, excessive drinking, gambling, overeating and workaholism.

Delayed Recovery:

Finally, it should be stated that the denial of our reality, however unpalatable, according to the radical acceptance theory, serves only to delay the psychological recovery process.

We cannot change what has happened in our lives, only our reaction to it.

Resource:

Radical Acceptance :  A Method To Help Us Cope With Trauma  Develop Self Acceptance Downloadable Hypnosis Audio.

 

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

 

 

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Twelve Signs We Are Recovering From The Effects Of Childhood Trauma

Twelve Signs We Are Recovering From The Effects Of Childhood Trauma

 

These 12 signs that we are recovering from our traumatic experiences are as follows:

 

1) More able to live in the present:

We finally come to the full realisation that the past is truly over and that the trauma we experienced need no longer be central to our identity nor define us as a person

2) Greater inclination to contemplate the future:

This is due to the fact we are no longer trapped in our past nor obsessed with ceaselessly analysing it

3) Become less avoidant:

Before, we may have felt it necessary to avoid situations and people which reminded us of our traumatic experiences. However, we no longer feel compelled to do this as we find such reminders less difficult for us to cope with

4) Able to participate more fully in life:

Our energy is no longer exhausted by merely just about managing to cope and survive ; we can begin to start actively pursuing positive activities

5) Our trauma-related thoughts, feelings and memories become easier to deal with :

We still experience such thoughts, feelings and memories but no longer with the intensity which we previously found so overwhelming

6) Become less reliant on dysfunctional coping mechanisms :

For example,we may find we have more control over drinking too much alcohol, drug use, over-eating etc

Twelve Signs We Are Recovering From The Effects Of Childhood Trauma

Above: Posttraumatic growth. See number 12 below.

7) More able to control our emotions :

For example, anger and fear (emotional volatility and dysregulation is often one of the hallmark symptoms resulting from the experience of childhood trauma).

8) Reduction in negative thoughts about ourselves:

Another extremely common symptom of having experienced significant childhood trauma is the development of the false belief that we are an intrinsically bad person (click here to read my article about this phenomenon).

Part of our recovery involves rediscovering our positive qualities which may have been lying dormant or may have been masked by feelings of anger, self-absorption, resentment and cynicism.

9) Reduction in feelings of helplessness :

It is also extremely common for survivors of childhood trauma to develop a condition known as learned helplessness (click here to read my article about this).

However, when we start to recover, this feeling of helplessness begins to disperse and we subsequently become more aware that we are in a position to choose to do things to help ourselves and to exert some control over our future. In short, we start to feel more empowered.

10) Feeling that we are starting to get back some self respect :

(Many who experience childhood trauma lose their self-respect – this may involve self-sabotaging behaviour, continuously putting oneself at risk, believing oneself to be unworthy of love or happiness, complete lack of interest in appearance etc).

11) A cessation in the forming of unhealthy relationships:

If we have suffered severe childhood trauma, many of us develop what is known as a repitition compulsion (click here to read my article on this) which involves us (unconsciously) seeking out relationships with others who are likely to treat us very badly. We may, too, put up with bad relationships as we have developed (again, quite possibly unconsciously), a kind of ‘ I don’t deserve any better’ mentality.

However, with the return of our self-respect, we can decide to no longer tolerate such destructive relationships.

12) No longer feel like a victim:

Instead, we can start to concentrate upon posttraumatic growth. This may entail, for example, using our former deep suffering to initiate positive change eg becoming a stronger and more resilient person, gaining a better perspective on life, developing a better ability to empathise with the suffering of others, and to help them.

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

 

 

 

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Escaping The Pain of The Past

 Escaping The Pain of The Past

If we had a troubled childhood, it is not unusual to find we become preoccupied with certain elements of it, or even obsessed. In this way, we can let it define who we are now in a way which is not good for us, preventing us from enjoying the present, and stopping us from feeling any optimism regarding the future.

We become, essentially, prisoners of our past.

However, freeing ourselves from this darkest of prisons we have constructed around ourselves is not easy; in fact, it is a process which can be both long and arduous.

A very important part of this process is to allow ourselves to fully experience the feelings that the memory of our traumatic childhood gives rise to and not to repress them. In other words, we must allow ourselves to grieve for our past and for our lost or stolen childhoods.

KUBLER-ROSS’S FIVE STAGE GRIEVING MODEL:

Kubler-Ross’s model, which can be applied to the grieving process that relates to remembering a lost or stolen childhood (although the model was originally intended to describe the grieving process following the death of a loved one) involves five stages we may need to go through before our grief can heal. These five stages are shown below:

1) Denial – during this stage, we find it hard to believe our loss has actually happened; it can seem unreal. In the case of childhood trauma, for example, we may find it very hard to believe that our parent/s or primary caregiver had/have betrayed us.

Instinctively, we do not want to think ill of our parents, especially when we’re children.

This is why many children who are mistreated feel guilty; they (irrationally) turn the blame that should be directed at the parent/s onto themselves to protect themselves from the knowledge that their parents are bad/have behaved badly.

2) Anger – once such denial has been overcome, anger about one’s lost childhood can follow (to read my article about childhood trauma and anger, click

3) Bargaining – not everyone experiences this stage but it may include trying to make ‘deals’ with any particular deity one believes in through prayer (eg ‘ if you just get me through this, I promise…’ etc).

4) Depression – now that the reality of one’s loss really starts to sink in, together with its accompanying implications, one can finally allow oneself to feel the sadness evoked by the loss. It is important to allow oneself to fully feel this sadness, as it is cathartic in that it allows one to work through and process one’s pain (click here to read one of my related articles).

5) Acceptance – finally, we reach a stage at which we have processed what has happened to us, have psychologically integrated the experience and accepted it as part of our life experience. We have come to terms with it and no longer let it control and hinder us – we are ready to move forward in our life.

It is important to note, however, that not everyone goes through these exact stages – therefore, when we go through the process of grief, we need not worry if our evolving feelings precisely mirror this model.

After coming to terms with our adverse childhood experiences, there are various things we can do to help us move forward in our lives:

1) We need to stop seeing ourselves as a victim.

Clinging on tenaciously to our sense of betrayal, our anger and our blame of others serves mainly only to hurt ourselves. Whilst we cannot change the past, we can change our attitude to it and, by doing this, we can prevent the memory of it from inflicting further serious damage on our progress in life.

For example, we can start to consider what we may have gained from our experiences – perhaps it’s made us stronger or given us the empathy any insight to help others experiencing various forms of psychological distress.

2) Take a step back from life and consider what we really want from it, and then start setting ourselves relevant, challenging, but achievable, sub-goals and goals to help us to achieve our desires, whether these be to run our own business, help others, study or whatever else we set our heart on.

3) Surround ourselves with positive, like-minded, empathetic and supportive people (as far as this might be possible). This may involve joining a particular club, group or society or changing our social milieu.

4) Seek out opportunities, however small, to help us to achieve our sub-goals and goals. We are much more likely to achieve our goals if we choose something we really like doing and for which we have an aptitude. Whilst most of us need to make money, the importance of doing a job/having a career that is intrinsically rewarding cannot be over-emphasized.

Indeed, studies show that once we’re reasonably comfortably off, having more money, even vastly more, makes very little difference to our happiness in the medium and long-term. Some people waste a lifetime learning this, becoming trapped upon what psychologists refer to as a ‘hedonistic treadmill’.

Escaping The Pain of The Past

Hypnosis downloadable audio for help with getting over the past. CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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Copyright 2015 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Childhood Trauma : Recovering and Flourishing

Childhood Trauma : Recovering and Flourishing

We have seen in other posts on this site that not only can one recover from trauma, one can grow as a result (this is referred to by psychologists as POST-TRAUMATIC GROWTH; click here to read my article on this) and, indeed, flourish.

In this context, the psychologists Hubbert and So used the word ‘flourishing’ to mean arriving at a higher level of psychological functioning’ than one had prior to the experience of trauma. This may include :

– having a greater appreciation of life than one had had prior to the experience of trauma

– greater appreciation of relationships with others

– a better awareness of what really matters in life and a new ability to prioritize in relation to this new awareness

– a new appreciation of one’s own mental strength and ‘toughness’

– an ability and inclination to use adverse experiences in a positive way

– the development of a spiritual side to one’s nature

 

Childhood Trauma : Recovering and Flourishing

 

THE FEATURES OF FLOURISHING :

According to Huppert and So, there are three CORE features of flourishing and six ADDITIONAL features.

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

 

CORE FEATURES :

– positive emotions

 

engagement and interest

(eg having interests which completely absorb us so that we lose the feeling of self-consciousness with which we are usually encumbered – rather like a young child lost in a world of play and imagination)

 

meaning and purpose

(having ‘meaning’ in life often means pursuing an endeavour for its own sake, rather than as a means to an end such as money and material gain)

 

ADDITIONAL FEATURES :

self-esteem

 

– optimism

 

resilience

(the ability to be able to cope with life’s set-backs without being overwhelmed)

 

– vitality

 

– self-determination

(being substantially in control of one’s own life –  eg not being blindly dictated to by convention, society or culture)

 

– positive relationships

 

STATISTICS :

The research conducted by Hubbert and So suggest that only about 18% of adults in the UK could be defined as ‘flourishing’. This compares with 33% of adults in Denmark, who, according to the statistics, are the most ‘flourishing’ people in Europe.

 

IMPLICATIONS FOR PUBLIC POLICY :

Whilst most nations measure success by the country’s generated wealth (referred to as GDP, or GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT), the current government in the UK is now also looking at ways to measure people’s ‘happiness’ in order to determine national success, which theories such as the above will, no doubt, will help to inform.

The area of psychology which deals with human ‘flourishing’ is known as POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY (click here to read my article about this).

 

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

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Copyright 2014 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Recovery : Writing as Therapy

Recovery : Writing as Therapy

If we were emotionally wounded as children, writing down our thoughts and feelings, perhaps in a journal, can be extremely therapeutic. Or, if a we are particularly creative, writing a novel or poetry about early experiences can be extremely cathartic.

Alternatively, writing a letter to the person/people who hurt us, explaining how their treatment of us has affected us, can also be extremely helpful (whether or not we actually send the letter).

Indeed, it is not uncommon to hear writers say, because of the difficult early experiences they have had, that they actually feel compelled to write and start to feel unwell if they are somehow prevented from doing so.  Franz Kafka is an example of this – he had a very bad relationship with his father and, as well as writing novels (and the well known short story – Metamorphosis), he wrote a famous letter to his father (although he never actually sent it).

 

Recovery : Writing as Therapy

Above – Franz Kafka

 

EXTERNALIZATION : One of the main reasons why writing about our early life trauma can be so effective at helping to feel better is that it gives us the opportunity to EXTERNALIZE what has happened to us, rather than keeping it painfully bottled up inside.

It also helps us to organize out thoughts about what happened to us, as well as helping us to gain a better understanding of how we have been affected by our experiences. Indeed, understanding what has caused us to have problems in our adult lives is of fundamental importance if we are to properly recover.

Furthermore, writing about our negative experiences helps us to put distance between them and ourselves  and allows us to view things more objectively. This can come as a great relief and lessen any painful, intrusive thoughts we may have been suffering.

 

Recovery : Writing as Therapy

Above ebook now available on Amazon for instant download. $4.99. CLICK HERE.

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

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Copyright 2014 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Recovery : Re-programming Our Subconscious

Recovery : Re-programming Our Subconscious

We reprogram, to some degree, our subconscious minds every single day due to our various emotional responses to people, situations and events.

Very simply put, if we experience something we like we program our subconscious in such a way that we are encouraged to repeat it, and, if we experience something we do not like, we program our subconscious in such a way that we are encouraged to avoid it in future.

Unfortunately, if we have experienced difficult childhoods, it is likely our subconscious has been programmed in a negative way. This programming may well have helped us to survive our childhoods, but, as adults in a different situation, the programming is very likely now to be holding us back in life.

Most people do not realize that their day-to-day behaviour is massively influenced by experiences held below the level of conscious awareness, and, because of this, are not aware of how much their childhood experiences may be influencing, in a very negative way, how they currently experience their lives and how they function (or fail to function).

Indeed, childhood trauma may program our subconscious to form very negative beliefs such as:

– everybody is completely untrustworthy

– I am utterly unlovable

– I am worthless

– people will always reject me

– all people are a danger to me, I must attack them before they attack me

Recovery : Re-programming Our Subconscious

For most of us, such negative programming will have its roots in our relationship with our parents/primary care-givers as they tend to have the most influence over how we come to perceive ourselves. However, other influences include friends, other relatives and the culture/wider environment in which we grew up.

Fortunately, we can reprogram our subconscious minds through various techniques such as self-hypnosis. Doing this is so useful because it is much easier for us to change our behaviour and how we feel about life by re-programming our subconscious than it is to use effortful, conscious will-power (although, of course, the latter should also be used).

A COMPUTER ANALOGY:

If we have experienced a traumatic childhood, it is likely our ‘software’ (i.e. our subconscious’) has been programmed in such a way that it is now dysfunctional. Essentially, we need to put in new ‘software’ (i.e. reprogram our subconscious).

This can be achieved by implanting new ideas and new ways of viewing things into our subconscious, in a consistent fashion, so that they take root in our minds and grow to such an extent that we find our lives significantly, even dramatically, improved.

For more about the effectiveness of hypnosis, I recommend my affiliated site (see also RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS in the MAIN MENU):

HYPNOSISDOWNLOADS.COM

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

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