How To Stop Taking Things Personally

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Taking Things Personally And Low Self-Esteem :

If we suffered significant childhood trauma, we are at greater risk as adults of suffering from psychological difficulties, including low self-esteem. And, if we have low self-esteem, we are particularly vulnerable to being hurt by others who criticize us and negatively evaluate us ; to put it in colloquial terms, we may be ‘thin-skinned’ and prone to ‘taking things personally’. (To read my article on the link between childhood trauma and low self-esteem in adulthood, click here.)

So what can we do to stop taking things personally? Below you’ll find several suggestions :

Methods We Can Use To Help Us To Stop Taking Things Personally :

  • understand that, often, those who criticize and negatively evaluate others do so because of their own problems – they may be inadequate, unhappy, frustrated, angry etc and displace (take out) these feelings on you or project their own shortcomings onto you (displacement and projection are defense mechanisms – click here to read my article relating to these).
  • if a person criticizes you and you feel s/he might have a point, try not to be defensive, but, instead, see if it’s possible to learn from what’s been said and then, if necessary, make changes rather than waste energy feeling bad
  • related to the above is the fact we are complex and, often, contradictory beings who make mistakes and that the mistakes that we make are just one aspect of us that does not define who we are
  • remember that even the most popular people will always be criticized and disapproved of by some – nobody  garners universal admiration, respect and approval
  • remember that not everyone has to approve of you all the time for you to live a contented life ; self-esteem is based upon what one thinks of oneself, irrespective of what others think. Allowing others to control how one feels about oneself is to give away power to them that need not be relinquished
  • real progress in society is very frequently made by those who are prepared to go against the grain irrespective of making themselves unpopular ; this is a virtue, not a fault and demonstrates strength of mind, character and possession of the courage of one’s convictions
  • ask yourself if you may have misinterpreted the situation. For example, if someone seems uninterested in what you’re saying, it may be that they’re preoccupied with their own concerns and not a sign you are boring them. Or if someone you know passes you in the street and seems to ‘blank’ you, could it be they simply didn’t see you?
  • realise it won’t benefit you (quite the opposite, in fact) if you ruminate on the perceived insult/slight/criticism etc. -to read my article on controlling rumination, click here
  • realize that whilst you cannot control what others think, you CAN control how you react to what they think
  • if you have done something wrong remember that, even if you have not been able to stop thinking about it, this does not mean others are thinking a lot about it too – they have myriad other things to worry about and what you do is unlikely to be central to their concerns and thought processes
  • develop self-confidence

 

Related Post :

HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE (HSPs)

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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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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PTSD Nightmares : Typical Content And Symbols

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A major symptom of CPTSD / PTSD is nightmares. I myself have suffered from these and they have led to frequent waking during the night, sheets and pillow cases damp with sweat, thrashing around in my sleep to the extent that I have, on several occasions, knocked the lamp (and several other items, such as piles of books, the alarm clock, cups of cold, unfinished tea etc) off my bedside table with arms wildly flailing about like those of a crazed and demented windmill and, even, falling out of bed a few times. I have also woken myself up shouting and, even, screaming, more than once.

A particular torment of nightmares is, of course, that after a day spent in mental anguish in a state of wakefulness, they prevent one from escaping this mental pain even in sleep so there is no respite from one’s suffering. Indeed, when one has intense and terrible nightmares, one fears going to sleep ; for us, it is not a time of mental recuperation, but of continued psychological torture. This can be so devastating to the morale that one may fear one will go permanently and irrevocably insane.

According to the Harvard psychologist, Dr D Barrett, an expert on dreaming and dream analysis, PTSD nightmares tend to contain the following types of themes / symbols :

The Themes And Symbols Of PTSD Nightmares

– dying

– monsters

– being chased

– being in danger

– being punished

– being isolated

– revenge

– being powerless

– being trapped

– guilt

– shame

– violence

– anger

– filth

– garbage

– physical injury

Nightmares, Suppression, Repression And Dissociation :

If we have extremely painful memories relating to our traumatic childhood then we may, as a means of psychological self-protection, cut off from them mentally.

In order to achieve this we may suppress the memories (i.e. try to put them to ‘the back of our minds’). This takes conscious effort and can be counterproductive – see The Rebound Effect below).

Alternatively, we may repress the memories ; this is an automatic / unconscious process that stores the memories away so deeply in the mind that they become inaccessible to conscious awareness. Mentallly cutting ourselves off from painful memories in such a manner is known as dissociation.

Processing Of Traumatic Memories

However, because these memories are dissociated, they remain unprocessed by the brain and a leading theory as to why dreams/nightmares occur is that they represent the brain’s attempt to process the dissociated memories.

Barrett’s  research has led her to the view that, immediately following traumatic events, a person’s nightmares about them tend to quite closely reflect what actually occurred. However, as the traumatic events that triggered the nightmares recede further and further into the past, the PTSD nightmares relating to them become increasingly symbolic.

What Can We Do To Alleviate Nightmares?

If our nightmares do not result in effective processing of our traumatic memories they can become ‘stuck’ ; this can lead to recurring nightmares that tend to centre upon the same themes.

To alleviate such nightmares, it is necessary to attempt to process the traumatic memories in our waking lives (assuming they have been suppressed rather than repressed – see above).

We can attempt to process the material contained within our nightmares in the following ways :

– by keeping a written record of the nightmares (e.g. by recording our recollections of them or writing these down using a pen and pencil kept by the bed etc)

– by describing our nightmares to another person (who is emotionally supportive, such as a therapist) and trying to work out what their themes and images may represent.

–  going through the nightmare in our minds when awake but changing its ending to a positive one – then mentally replaying/rehearsing this new, positive ending. It is then helpful to write out what happens in the nightmare, including writing out the new, positive ending. Alternatively, we could draw a series of pictures representing the nightmare, but, again, incorporating the new, positive ending.

– by imagining, when awake, carrying out a simple action in our dream, such as taking a single step, and saying to ourselves : ‘You are completely safe, this is just a dream’. If we then mentally rehearse this before we go to sleep we may find this action, carried out in our dream, will cue the comforting and reassuring thought (the action that is to act as the cue can be anything simple that is likely to recur in the nightmare).

Nightmares And The Rebound Effect

In relation to some of what has been said above, it is useful to look at a psychological phenomenon known as the rebound effect :

If we try very hard not to think about something, this, paradoxically, frequently increases the probability that we will think about it. The classic example that is given to first year psychology undergraduates is the instruction NOT to think about a pink elephant for the next minute. Of course, this instruction is impossible to carry out  (try it if you don’t believe me!).

This is known as the rebound effect and research suggests the phenomenon may apply to nightmares, too. One possible technique to reduce the probability of having a nightmare is, therefore, to actually think about whatever it is the nightmare represents (if this has been inferred from reflection / dream analysis) for a few minutes before going to sleep as trying not do so, because of the rebound effect, may actually increase the chances that the nightmare will occur, however counterintuitive this may sound.

RESOURCE :

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

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Effects Of Anger On Brain And Body

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We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site that, if we suffered childhood trauma, our risk of developing problems controlling our anger as adults increases, especially if our experience of trauma was so severe that we have gone on to develop borderline personality disorder.

Five major causes of anger are fear, rejection, frustration, disappointment and being negatively evaluated by others. When such causes occur, a chain reaction takes place within the brain :

First, the region of the brain known as the amygdala is activated (one of the consequences of childhood trauma is that the amygdala can become highly sensitive and over-reactive); in turn, the amygdala activates the hippocampus which, in its turn, activates the pituatary gland.

The pituary gland then activates the adrenal glands which produce stress hormones including :

cortisol

adrenaline

noradrenaline

THE ADVERSE EFFECTS OF CORTISOL ON THE BRAIN :

Excessive cortisol :

– harms the prefrontal cortex

– harms the hippocampus

– reduces levels of serotonin

I provide more details about these three adverse effects below :

Cortisol can cause neurons in the brain to absorb excessive quantities of calcium which, in turn, can cause these same neurons to fire too frequently and die.

Two areas of the brain which are especially vulnerable to losing neurons in this way are the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus ; let’s look a little more closely at the implications of this :

ADVERSE EFFECT ON PREFRONTAL CORTEX :

The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain involved in planning, judgment and decision making ; it follows, therefore, that the loss of neurons in this part of the brain impairs these functions.

ADVERSE EFFECT ON HIPPOCAMPUS :

The hippocampus is the part of the brain involved in short-term memory and the formation of new memories ; again, it follows that the loss of neurons in this part of the brain impairs these functions.

REDUCTION OF SEROTONIN LEVELS :

Levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin are lowered ; lowered levels of serotonin are associated with : increased aggression, increased sensitivity to painful stimuli, increased susceptibility to depression.

THE ADVERSE EFFECTS OF STRESS HORMONES ON THE BODY :

Excessive levels of stress hormones generated by anger also physically damage the body ; in particular, harm is incurred by :

the immune system

– the cardiovascular system

– the digestive system

Let’s look at how these bodily systems are damaged in a little more detail :

THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM : impaired functioning of the metabolic system, reduction in blood flow

THE CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM : increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, increased levels of glucose levels in the blood, increased levels of fatty acids in the blood, increase in tension of the arteries – these symptoms in turn increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

THE IMMUNE SYSTEM : impaired functioning of the thyroid, increase in the number of cells infected by viruses, reduction in the levels of diseases fighting cells, increased risk of cancer

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Effects Of Childhood Trauma On Educational Achievement

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A study was carried out by Perez and Wisdom (1994) that examined the effects of childhood trauma on educational achievement.

The study identified a group of eleven-year-old children who had experienced childhood abuse or neglect.

Twenty years after identifying this group the researchers gave these same individuals an I.Q. test and compared their results with those of a control group (individuals of the same social class, age, sex and race but who had NOT experienced abuse or neglect in childhood).

RESULTS FOR I.Q. TEST :

It was found that :

THE GROUP OF INDIVIDUALS WHO HAD EXPERIENCED CHILDHOOD ABUSE / NEGLECT HAD SIGNIFICANTLY LOWER I.Q.s THAN THOSE IN THE CONTROL GROUP.

Also, as part of this same study, the reading ability of the group of individuals who had suffered childhood trauma was compared to the reading ability of those in the control group.

RESULTS FOR READING ABILITY :

THE GROUP OF INDIVIDUALS WHO HAD EXPERIENCED CHILDHOOD ABUSE / NEGLECT HAD SIGNIFICANTLY LOWER READING ABILITY THAN THOSE IN THE CONTROL GROUP.

(In fact, the individuals who had suffered childhood abuse/neglect had an average reading ability of a child in sixth grade, despite the fact that they were, at the time of testing, thirty-one years of age.)

Other Findings Of The Study :

Significantly more individuals who had suffered childhood abuse/trauma did not complete high school compared to individuals from the control ; this is demonstrated by the figures provided below :

Individuals Who Had Suffered Childhood Abuse/Neglect :

  • 58℅ did not complete high school

Individuals From The Control Group:

  • 34℅ did not complete high school

A more recent study, conducted by Porche et al (2011) also supports the hypothesis that the experience of childhood trauma adversely affects academic performance. This study involved over 2500 young people aged between twenty-one and twenty-nine years and looked at :

  • the effects of witnessing domestic violence as a child on educational achievement
  • the effects of having been physically abused as a child on educational achievement

RESULTS :

  • 31℅ of those individuals who had experienced childhood physical abuse before the age of sixteen dropped out of school
  • 26℅ of those individuals who had witnessed domestic violence before the age of sixteen dropped out of school

COMPARED TO :

  • 13℅ of those individuals who had NOT experienced childhood trauma dropped out of school

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

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Can’t Let Go Of Childhood Trauma? Here’s Possible Reasons Why

Why Many Can’t Let Go Of Childhood Trauma

Sadly, in the absence of effective therapies, such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing Therapy) or other forms of psychotherapy, the adverse effects of childhood trauma can endure for a lifetime. But why is it so hard to let go of childhood trauma and finally free ourselves from the intense psychological suffering that, for all too many of us, it entails, in some cases leading to a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, complex posttraumatic stress disorder, or some other appalling mental condition making the lives of those afflicted all but unendurable (or unendurable.[ PERIOD ] – as in the tragic cases of those who take their own lives).

The reasons are complex and numerous, but I describe, as concisely as possible, some of the main ones below :

MIS/ INCOMPLETE / SUPERFICIAL DIAGNOSIS : many who go to see their doctors with mental ailments such as depression, anxiety, addiction and myriad other psychological complaints are treated only for the presenting problem with little or, more usually (in the UK, at least) no effort expense  to uncover THE UNDERLYING CAUSE WHICH IS OFTEN CHILDHOOD TRAUMA; THUS, THE UNDERLYING TRAUMA REMAINS NOT ONLY UNTREATED, BUT UNRECOGNIZED – a culturally entrenched failing or, even, perhaps not unarguably, wilful blindness in some cases.

THE BIOLOGICAL IMPACT OF TRAUMA : significant and protracted childhood trauma can adversely affect the physical development of the brain ; for example, if a child grows up in an environment in which s/he is constantly made to feel anxious and/or fearful, the region of the brain called the amygdala may be harmed, resulting in difficulties controlling intense emotions (this is known as emotional dysregulation).

DISSOCIATION : the child’s childhood experiences may become so psychologically painful that, as an automatic defense mechanism, s/he shuts down his/her emotions to block off conscious experience of them, entering a state of emotional numbness; this phenomenon is known as dissociation. However, the trauma will still negatively impact on the child on an unconscious level without his/her conscious awareness that this is the case. Therefore, when s/he is an adult, s/he may develop various psychological problems (such as addictions) oblivious to their underlying cause.

SUPPRESSION : because the memories of our traumatic experiences can be so painful, some try to force them out of their minds and suppress them.

DENIAL / MINIMIZATION : similarly, because it is so painful to accept that our parents, for example, might not have loved us or resented our very existence, we may, as a psychological defense mechanism, have entered a state of denial and/or have minimized the extent of the cruelty with which they treated us.

LACK OF RECOGNITION : when we are children, we have nothing with which to compare our family situation and no frame of reference. Therefore, even those who grow up in very dysfunctional families may not realize how abnormal their upbringing was until much later in life.

INVALIDATION : others may invalidate and undermine our perception of what happened to us as children as well as the pain we feel engendered by our early adverse experiences. For example, parents may deny they were abusive and ignorant members of society may glibly suggest that we  ‘just get over it and move on’ ; such invalidating attitudes can be highly damaging.

INTRUSIVE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS – those who have suffered childhood trauma often have intrusive negative thoughts such as ‘I am worthless’ or ‘I am unlovable.’ They may, too, suffer from flashbacks and nightmares.

COMPLEXITY : interactions with our primary caretakers are extremely complex and although we might know there was something profoundly wrong with how they interacted with us whilst we were growing up, clearly identifying why this was can be an impossibly overwhelming task- there is simply too much data to process and analyze

SUBTLETY :  out primary caretakers may have damaged us in subtle ways of which we are not consciously aware

DIFFICULTY TALKING ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO US : what happened to us may be too painful for us to talk about.

IDEALIZATION OF PARENTS : we may idealize our parents even if they treated us very badly; this is a psychological defense which you can read about in one of my previous articles by clicking here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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Forgiveness And Its Health Benefits

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Why Is Forgiveness Beneficial For Our Health And Prospects Of Recovery?

If we have suffered childhood trauma as a result of our parents’ abusive behavior or neglect, we may grow up feeling angry and resentful towards them. Furthermore, as a result of our childhood experiences, our own behavior in the past may have been dysfunctional and self-destructive and we may feel angry with ourselves about this.

Feeling angry towards our parents and/or ourselves, though, can act as a very major impediment to our recovery from the effects of our childhood trauma – so this is one vitally important reason why forgiving ourselves and our parents can be an extremely positive and helpful thing to do ; after all, feeling constantly bitter, angry and resentful is an exhausting and painful frame of mind to endure (in most cases simply harming ourselves rather than anybody else; this idea is pithily encapsulated by the well known aphorism that (to paraphrase) being filled with anger, vengefulness and resentment is akin to drinking poison and expecting our enemy to die. 

In short, being preoccupied with feelings of resentment keeps us trapped in the past and prevents us living in, and enjoying, the present.

Physical Benefits Of Forgiveness :

Also, the act of forgiveness, assuming it is freely chosen and authentic rather than something we have reluctantly forced ourselves to do, is most important for our physical health and I briefly explain why below :

      • being constantly angry locks our nervous systems into the ‘fight or flight’ state; this results in various physiological changes in our bodies which, in turn, makes us more susceptible to heart disease / attacks; it follows, therefore, that letting go of our anger and practicing forgiveness will make us less likely to experience such heart problems
      • chronic anger also increases our risk of diabetes
      • chronic anger increases the risk of high blood pressure

    Also, according to research carried out by The John Hopkins Hospital, practicing forgiveness can:

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Overcoming Feelings Of Dissociation

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What Is Dissociation?

I have already discussed the phenomenon of dissociation in the article : Always Zoning Out? Dissociation Explained to recap very briefly, dissociation is a biopychological process that operates as a defense mechanism to prevent disturbing thoughts/memories/experiences from penetrating consciousness due to the unbearable burden of stress they would bring about were this mechanism not in place.

In so doing, dissociation can function to protect us from potentially highly potent emotions such as helplessness, fear and shame.

What Does Being In A State Of Dissociation Feel Like?

Feelings of dissociation can be seen as lying on a continuum : relatively mild dissociation involves feeling mentally ‘hazy’,’foggy’ ‘ numb’ and somehow ‘not fully present’ nor fully engaged with reality ; at the other end of the continuum, dissociation can involve complete loss of conscious memory of a highly traumatizing event / series of events / periods of one’s life (I describe my own experiences of dissociation in the article linked to above).

Depersonalization And Derealization :

Two important types of dissociation are :
a) DEPERSONALIZATION : this state involves cutting off from one’s own thoughts and feelings so that they do not feel like one’s own but those of somebody else. Individuals in this state can feel like an ‘observer of themselves’, as if they were watching themselves on a film screen.

b) DEREALIZATION : as the word implies, this refers to a feeling of ‘unreality’ – as if what is going on around one is unreal, surreal or dreamlike even when it is, objectively, ordinary and quotidian.

Overcoming Feelings Of Dissociation :

According to Dr Harold Kushner, author of Healing Dissociation, in order to overcome feelings of dissociation / dissociative disorders it is necessary to :

– gradually, as part of a therapeutic process, to come to terms with, and accept, the reality of one’s traumatic childhood experiences (as opposed to being in denial about this, repressing it or suppressing it)

– firmly recognize the traumatic experiences are now over and in the past

– firmly recognize that because the traumatic experiences are over and in the past, how one feels, behaves, thinks and acts no longer has to be constricted by these experiences – one is free to start making fresh choices and take on a new, more positive approach to life

– come to an acceptance that injustice, pain and suffering are inevitable parts of life and that what is of greatest importance is how one responds adapts to this inescapable fact.

– find meaning in one’s experiences of suffering, such as how it has developed one as a person and how it can lead to posttraumatic growth.

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

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Complex PTSD Risk Factors

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What Are The Factors That Put Us At Risk Of Complex PTSD?

We have seen from other articles published on this site that if we have experienced significant and protracted trauma in childhood, we are at risk of developing complex PTSD as adults. However, there are many different factors at play which help to determine whether or not we actually will develop complex PTSD following a disturbed and dysfunctional childhood; I list and explain these factors below :

FACTORS THAT HELP TO DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT WE DEVELOP COMPLEX PTSD :

  • GENETICS: There is no gene for complex PTSD but research suggests that some individuals may be biologically predisposed to suffering from anxiety which, in turn, may make them more likely to suffer from complex PTSD as a result of growing up in a stressful environment.

 

  • IN-UTERO EFFECTS : Research has shown that if a mother is under severe stress whilst pregnant her baby is at risk of being born with elevated levels of CORTISOL (a hormone involved with the stress response).

This hormonal imbalance can lead to the baby being difficult to calm and soothe whilst distressed which, in turn, can lead to difficulties regulating emotions in later life and ultimately increase susceptibility to development of complex PTSD.

  • THE DURATION, SEVERITY AND TIMING OF THE TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE :

It will come as no surprise that :

a) the longer the time period/s over which the traumatic experience/s persist

and

b) the more severe the experiences,  the greater the probability is that the affected individual will go on to develop complex PTSD

Also, at which stage/s of one’s young life the traumatic experience/s occur are also of great significance. Two stages of life during which the individual is at particular risk of psychological damage are :

a) From birth until about the age of three years – this is such a vulnerable stage as our nervous systems are particularly delicate and fragile during this period and the way in which our brains physically develop at this very young age is particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of environmental stress.

b) Adolescence : we are especially vulnerable to psychological damage during this period of our lives as it is the stage at which we are forming our identity.

  • FAMILY DYNAMICS : Parents interact with different children within their families in different ways. For example, in a family with two children, one may be the favoured child whilst the other is treated as the family scapegoat. In my own case, my stepmother used to lavish attention upon her own biological son, whilst ignoring me ; indeed, step -families are at particular risk of having dysfunctional, inter-familial dynamics.

 

  • ADHD : A child with ADHD is at greater risk of being abused by his/her parents as the behaviors that are symptomatic of his/her condition may be misinterpreted (in a negative way) by them causing them to treat the child with ADHD negatively and damagingly rather than with understanding and compassion.

It should also be noted that if children who do not currently have ADHD are abused by their parents they are more likely to go on to develop it due to the adverse effects the stress of the abuse has on the physical development of their brains.

  • FAMILY CYCLE OF ABUSE : If a child is mistreated by a parent and this makes him/her feel threatened (physically, emotionally or both) the child’s fight/flight response may be repeatedly triggered. If this results in the child acting aggressively towards the parent/s (a completely normal defense mechanism) this may provoke the parent further thus setting up a vicious cycle.

Families at risk of developing such a vicious cycle include families in which a parent has PTSD, borderline personality disorder, narcissistic disorder, alcoholism or is a drug addict.

  • RESILIENCE : If a child is mistreated within the immediate family but has solid, dependable emotional support from a non-abusive family member (e.g. aunt, grandparent etc) or from outside the family, such as a youth leader or counselor, s/he is likely to be more resilient to the adverse psychological effects of this mistreatment.

To read my article on complex PTSD treatments, click here.

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

clinical hypnotherapy 300 100 - Right Brain Therapy : Benefits For Trauma Survivors

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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