Tag Archives: Childhood Trauma Fact Sheet

The Association Between Child Abuse, Trauma and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

childhood_trauma_and_early_signs_of_psychosis

‘Character depends essentially on whether a person is given love, protection, tenderness and understanding during the formative years or is exposed to rejection, coldness, indifference and cruelty.’

Alice Miller.


THE ASSOCIATION BETWEEN CHILDHOOD ABUSE, TRAUMA AND BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER.

Many research studies have shown that individuals who have suffered childhood abuse, trauma and/or neglect are very considerably more likely to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) as adults than those who were fortunate enough to have experienced a relatively stable childhood.

it is thought marilyn munroe suffered from BPD

It is thought Marilyn Monroe suffered from BPD

Kurt Cobain bpd
Did Kurt Cobain Suffer From BPD?

 

WHAT IS BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER (BPD)?

 

BPD sufferers experience a range of symptoms which are split into 9 categories. These are:

1) Extreme swings in emotions
2) Explosive anger
3) Intense fear of rejection/abandonment sometimes leading to frantic efforts to maintain a relationship
4) Impulsiveness
5) Self-harm
6) Unstable self-concept (not really knowing ‘who one is’)
7) Chronic feelings of ’emptiness’ (often leading to excessive drinking/eating etc ‘to fill the vacuum’)
8) Dissociation ( a feeling of being ‘disconnected from reality’)
9) Intense and highly volatile relationships

For a diagnosis of BPD to be given, the individual needs to suffer from at least 5 of the above.

frequently rejected in childhood, BPD sufferers live in terror of abandoment

frequently rejected in childhood, BPD sufferers live in terror of abandonment

A person’s childhood experiences has an enormous effect on his/her mental health in adult life. How parents treat their children is, therefore, of paramount importance.

BPD is an even more likely outcome, if, as well as suffering trauma through invidious parenting, the individual also has a BIOLOGICAL VULNERABILITY.

In relation to an individual’s childhood, research suggests that the 3 major risk factors are:

– trauma/abuse
– damaging parenting styles
– early separation or loss (eg due to parental divorce or the death of the parent/s)

Of course, more than one of these can befall the child. Indeed, in my own case, I was unlucky enough to be affected by all three. And, given my mother was highly unstable, it is very likely I also inherited a biological/genetic vulnerability.

 

EXAMPLES OF DAMAGING PARENTING STYLES:

 

1) Dysfunctional and disorganized – this can occur when there is a high level of marital discord or conflict. It is important, here, to point out that even if parents attempt to hide their disharmony, children are still likely to be adversely affected as they tend to pick up on subtle signs of tension.

Chaotic environments can also impact very badly on children. Examples are:

– constant house moves
– parental alcoholism/illicit drug use
– parental mental illness and instability/verbal aggression

 

2) Emotional invalidation. Examples include:

– a parent telling their child they wish he/she could be more like his/her brother/sister/cousin etc.
– a parent telling the child he is ‘just like his father’ (meant disparagingly). This invalidates the child’s unique identity.
– telling a child s/he shouldn’t be upset/crying over something, therefore invalidating the child’s reaction and implying the child’s having such feelings is inappropriate.
– telling the child he/she is exaggerating about how bad something is. Again, this invalidates the child’s perception of how something is adversely affecting him/her.
– a parent telling a child to stop feeling sorry for him/herself and think about good things instead. Again, this invalidates the child’s sadness and encourages him/her to suppress emotions.

Invalidation of a child’s emotions, and undermining the authenticity of their feelings, can lead the child to start demonstrating his/her emotions in a very extreme way in order to gain the recognition he/she previously failed to elicit.

 

3) Child trauma and child abuse – people with BPD have very frequently been abused. However, not all children who are abused develop BPD due to having a biological/genetic RESILIENCE and/or having good emotional support and validation in other areas of their lives (eg at school or through a counselor).

Trauma inflicted by a family member has been shown by research to have a greater adverse impact on the child than abuse by a stranger. Also, as would be expected, the longer the traumatic situation lasts, the more likely it is that the child will develop BPD in adult life.

 

4) Separation and loss – here, the trauma is caused, in large part, due to the child’s bonding process development being disrupted. Children who suffer this are much more likely to become anxious and develop ATTACHMENT DISORDERS as adults which can disrupt adult relationships and cause the sufferer to have an intense fear of abandonment in adult life. They may, too, become very ‘clingy’, fearful of relationships, or a distressing mixture of the two.

This site examines possible therapeutic interventions for BPD and ways the BPD sufferer can help himself or herself to reduce BPD symptoms.

 

 

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

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Copyright 2015 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Mindfulness : A Very Effective Technique for Treating Conditions Related to Childhood Trauma

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MINDFULNESS is an exciting technique, its effectiveness supported by much research evidence, which is now becoming very popular as a tool for the treatment of conditions related to childhood trauma, including depression, anxiety, difficulties regulating emotions and borderline personality disorder (BPD). It derives from Buddhist philosophy.

The technique teaches people to improve their coping ability and resilience by concentrating on :

– how they breathe

– observing

– accepting

– adopting a non-judgmental attitude

Individuals are encouraged to just accept and observe their thoughts, their physical sensations (perhaps caused by anxiety) and their emotions as they come and go in the mind.

The technique emphasizes the importance of just observing these phenomenon in a detached way, stepping back from them, avoiding engaging with them or getting caught up in them. A metaphor for this would be watching leaves on a stream float by.

Mindfulness is also all about being intensely involved in the MOMENT (rather than thinking about the past or future). It is about accepting the moment as it is and being fully involved in it – for example, becoming aware of our breath going in and out, the feel of the temperature on our skin, the feel of the seat we are sitting in, the feel of the clothes against our skin, the colour of the walls – everything, in fact, which is currently impinging upon the senses. By existing in the moment, unconcerned by the past or present, we can just dispassionately, non-judgmentally ‘watch’ our concerns and worries as they pass through our mind.

In this way we can detach ourselves from stressors, and, with practice, we can prevent our previously unhelpful, ‘automatic responses’ to stress. The technique also encourages us, as we simply observe, in a detached manner, thoughts and feelings passing through our minds, to label them. For example, ‘worry’, ‘fear’ etc; the reason for this is explained below:

NEUROLOGICAL EXPLANATIONS ABOUT WHY MINDFULNESS WORKS:

As I have already said, there is a lot of evidence showing MINDFULNESS to be a very effective coping technique. In terms of how the brain works, this has been explained in the following way: – labelling our emotions rather than engaging with them activates the PREFRONTAL CORTEX (an area of the brain) which reduces anxiety – a high level of MINDFULNESS correlates positively with the level of neural activity in the PREFRONTAL CORTEX; this has the effect of dampening down acivity in the AMYGDALA (high activity in the brain area known as the AMYGDALA is associated with intense emotions); in this way, we become much calmer. – the effects of practicing MINDFULNESS, and the subsequent effects on the brain given above, result in us being able to achieve much greater emotional regulation (emotional control).

As well as reducing anxiety, depression and helping us to master our emotions, MINDFULNESS, research has shown, also benefits the immune system, helps people control obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and is also used to help control chronic pain. Furthermore, people who continue to practice mindfulness have been found to have stronger coping skills and greater resilience than others.

TO FIND OUT ABOUT MINDFULNESS TRAINING CLICK ABOVE

TO FIND OUT ABOUT MINDFULNESS TRAINING CLICK ABOVE

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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Addressing the Effects of Childhood Trauma with Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Part 2

In part 1 (the post published immediately before this one), I introduced the new and promising therapy called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT); as I said, there is growing evidence that it is a very effective treatment for conditions which may arise as a consequence of an individual having suffered childhood trauma (especially those who have developed borderline personality disorder -BPD).

As a quick reminder, five key skills which DBT endeavours to teach those who choose to undergo the therapy are:

1) CORE MINDFULNESS
2) TAKING THE ‘MIDDLE PATH’
3) DISTRESS TOLERANCE
4) EMOTIONAL REGULATION
5) INTERPERSONAL EFFECTIVENESS

In part one I covered 1 and 2 above. It seems quite logical then (!) that I should, in this post, move on to look at number 3 – DISTRESS TOLERANCE:

3) DISTRESS TOLERANCE

Practitioners of DBT try to instil the view in their clients that sometimes it is easier, and psychologically healthier, to stop struggling against reality, and,(they tell us) we need to accept that we, nor anybody else, for that matter, can prevent painful events from occurring in life (sometimes extremely painful ones, if we’re going to be up-front about it), nor can the painful emotions they bring with them. It is hardly a new idea, but practitioners of DBT also remind us that some painful things in life cannot be changed and that the only viable option we really have, therefore, is to accept the fact. This, of course, is difficult and requires considerable inner strength. By accepting the things which cannot be changed, though, it is reasoned, we free up energy which could have been wasted (by, say, being angry and bitter about the existence of these unchangeable facts) to deal with what CAN BE CHANGED.

DBT therapists tell us that there are certain skills we may wish to develop which will INCREASE OUR ABILITY TO TOLERATE DISTRESS; these are:

a) distraction/improving the moment
b) self-soothing
c) considering pros and cons of the situation
d) radical acceptance

Let’s briefly look at each of these in turn:

a) distraction/improving the moment – eg distracting ourselves with activities we enjoy, keeping our minds busy ; reminding ourselves of the good things in life ; reminding ourselves that it is better to think clearly and in a focused way about our problems ‘after the storm has passed’ (rather than try to make decisions when in the middle of an intense crisis which may be over-determined by our emotions) ; remind ourselves that difficult periods will pass

b) self-soothing – eg we can use postive self-talk (see my posts on cognitive behavior therapy for more on this – to access the posts just type ‘CBT’ into this site’s search facility) ; meditation/relaxation activities/breathing exercises ; using our imaginations to recall a soothing and comforting memory or place (if recalling a place it can be helpful to imagine, for a while, actually being there) ; thinking of things in life which are meaningful to us and give us the motivation to get through the difficult period.

c) considering the pros and cons of the situation : eg we may wish to consider how getting through a very difficult period may benefit us – for example, we may learn from it, it may strengthen us, it may make us more compassionate and sensitive towards others, we may be able to pass on the benefit of our experience to help others, it may even open up completely unexpected avenues in life which may not otherwise have been available to us (bad events do sometimes lead to positive outcomes, however indirectly – it is often worth keeping that in mind).

d) radical acceptance : this might involve trying to view what is happening, however undesirable, from as objective and detached a perspective as possible – a bit like watching the events unfold around somebody else in a movie ; another, perhaps surprising, technique suggested by DBT therapists is to try to, literally, half-smile. This sounds strange and even rather silly, but research shows that just as the mind can affect the body (eg thinking about something embarrassing and going red in the face) so too can the body effect the mind – in this case, the idea is that the half-smile ‘fools’ the brain into ‘believing’ things aren’t as bad as all that. It is obvious, however, that in certain situations this technique would be highly inappropriate (I need hardly list examples).

I will look at skills 4 and 5 (emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness) that DBT teaches in my next post.

I hope you have found this post of interest. Please click on the ‘follow’ icon if you would like immediate notification of all future posts. New posts are added to this site at least twice per week. It is also possible to subscribe to my weekly newsletter. Also, if you would like to leave a comment, I will respond asap.

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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Addressing Effects of Childhood Trauma with Dialectical Behavior Therapy : PART 1-Introduction.

I have already written one post about the very promising new therapy for treating the effects of childhood trauma called DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOR THERAPY (DBT); this therapy has been found to be particularly effective in treating those who, in part due to their childhood experiences, have gone on to develop BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER (BPD).

Five skills are central to DBT; these are as follows:

1) CORE MINDFULNESS
2) TAKING THE’MIDDLE PATH’
3) DISTRESS TOLERANCE
4) EMOTIONAL REGULATION
5) INTERPERSONAL EFFECTIVENESS

In this introductory post, I will concentrate upon 1 and 2 above. I will go on to examine 3,4 an5 above in later posts (to be published very soon). So let’s start by looking at 1:

1) CORE MINDFULNESS: DBT describes the mind as having 3 components (these are concepts, not actual distinct physical part of the brain, obviously). The 3 components are:

a) the reasonable mind
b) the emotional mind
c) the wise mind

Let’s examine each of these in turn:

a) the reasonable mind: this can be summed up, according to DBT, as the part of the brain which acts according to reason, logic and rationality

b) the emotional mind: according to DBT, this is the part of the brain which operates on the basis of our feelings (when the ‘heart controls the head’)

c) the wise mind: ideally, according to DBT, we should allow this part of the brain to guide us; it is A BALANCE BETWEEN 1 and 2 above, when the reasonable and emotional brain are operating in effective HARMONY.

If we are able to operate in ‘wise mind mode’, this will mean we can maintain control and prevent ourselves from becoming a victim of our own intense emotions. In order to see the importance of this, we need only consider times in our lives when our behaviour has been dominated by our emotions and the negative effects this may have led to. Indeed, not learning to control emotions can leave our lives in ruins, not least due to the frequent self-destructive effects of our emotional outbursts.

2) TAKING THE MIDDLE PATH: This is a metaphor for avoiding the trap of constantly seeing issues in terms of BLACK AND WHITE (eg all good/all bad and a marked tendency to perpetually think IN TERMS OF EXTREMES). DBT stresses the importance of teaching ourselves to FOCUS MORE ON THE GREY AREAS and to try to take A BROADER RANGE OF PERSPECTIVES when considering issues, to think more FLEXIBLY and to THINK LESS IN ABSOLUTE TERMS.

Taking the middle path, according to DBT, also involves BOTH VALIDATING OUR OWN THOUGHTS/FEELINGS AND THOSE OF OTHERS. Even if others don’t understand, DBT stresses that we need to comfort ourselves when distressed by reminding ourselves that how we are feeling is real and makes sense under the current circumstances we find ourselves in. We can remind ourselves, too, that no matter what others may think, NOBODY UNDERSTANDS US AS WELL AS WE UNDERSTAND OURSELVES (others can’t understand what it is ‘to be in our heads’; we should not be ashamed of how we feel). By applying this compassion and understanding to ourselves, as part of ‘taking the middle path’ it seems fair that we should extend similar understanding to others – we can accept what they feel, as non-judgmentally as possible, irrespective of whether we approve or not.

My next posts will look at the other 3 key skills DBT teaches us (3,4 and 5 above, namely: DISTRESS TOLERANCE, EMOYIONAL REGULATION and INTERPERSONAL EFFECTIVENESS.

I hope you have found this post of interest. Please leave a comment if you would like to; I’ll respond a.s.a.p.

New posts are added frequently to this blog, please click on ‘FOLLOW’ if you would like immediate notification of all newly published articles.

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

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Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

childhood-trauma-fact-sheet

DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOR THERAPY (DBT) is an exciting new treatment option for those suffering with BPD. It is a therapy which has elements in common with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

It is an evidence-based treatment (ie it is backed by scientific research).

In the past, BPD was considered to be extremely difficult to treat, but, with the development of therapies such as CBT and DBT, the prognosis is now far more optimistic.

DBT was originally created by the psychologist Marsha Lineham; at first, it was developed with the treatment of females who self-harmed and were suicidal in mind. However, since then, its possible applications have become much broader; it is now used to treat both males and females suffering from a large array of different psychological conditions.

As already stated, DBT has many elements in common with CBT; in addition to this, it also borrows from ZEN and a therapy, which is becoming increasingly popular, called MINDFULNESS.

DBT has been particularly successful in the treatment of BPD (for information about BPD see Category 3 of the main menu : BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO CHILDHOOD TRAUMA). It is thought that one of the main CONTRIBUTING FACTORS of BPD is a traumatic childhood in which the child grows up in an INVALIDATING ENVIRONMENT (eg made to feel unloved and worthless). Such a childhood environment is especially likely to result in the child developing BPD in later life if he/she also has a BIOLOGICAL VULNERABILITY (carries certain genes making him/her particularly vulnerable to stress).

When a person is suffering from BPD the condition causes him/her to REACT WITH ABNORMAL INTENSITY TO EMOTIONAL STIMULATION; the individual’s level of emotional arousal goes up extremely fast, peaks at an abnormally high level, and, takes much longer than normal to return to its baseline level.

This condition leads to the affected individual – a victim of his/her uncontrollable, intense emotional reactions – prone to stagger in life from one crisis to the next and to be perceived by others as emotionally unstable. It is thought that, due to the invalidating environment which the sufferer experienced in childhood, the normal ability to develop the coping strategies needed to regulate emotions is blocked, leaving the person defenceless against painful emotional feelings and leading to maladaptive (unhelpful) behaviors.

It is this problem which DBT was is now used to address. The therapy teaches individuals how to cope with, and regulate, their emotions so that they are no longer dominated and controlled by them. This is vital as the inability to control feelings will often wreck crucial areas of life, including friendships, relationships and careers. It is because of these possible effects that DBT also helps individuals develop SOCIAL SKILLS to help reduce the likelihood of them occurring.

DBT has been found to be effective in helping people suffering from a large range of psychiatric conditions; these include;

– self-harming
– depression
– suicidal ideation
– bipolar
– anxiety
– ptsd
– eating disorders
– substance abuse
– low self-esteem
– problems managing anger
– problems managing relationships/friendship

-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-69,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_childhood traumachildhood trauma therapies and treatments

Above eBooks now available on Amazon for immediate download. $4.99 each. CLICK HERE

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

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A Closer Examination of The Effects of Childhood Trauma. Part 2

In Part One I looked at how childhood trauma can adversely affect an individual’s ability to control his/her emotions and his/her ability to maintain relationships and interact socially.

In this post, Part 2, I wish to look at how 3 other areas of the individual’s functioning may be adversely affected by the experience of childhood trauma. These are:

– Behaviour
– Physical Health
– Cognitive Functioning (thinking skills).

Let’s look at how each of these 3 areas of functioning may be negatively affected now:

BEHAVIOUR – Because the effects of childhood trauma are so complex, it is not possible to fully articulate them; a demonstration of their effects, then, may frequently be ‘acted out’ through DISTURBED BEHAVIOUR. Some individuals may become withdrawn and emotionally ‘flat’, others may become disruptive, aggressive, hostile and attention seeking.

PHYSICAL HEALTH – Sometimes, a secondary effect of emotional distress may express itself physically – in other words, the individual may develop psychosomatic symptoms (the term ‘psychosomatic’ refers to the mind’s effects upon the body – chronic and severe stress, in other words, can create physical symptoms; it is important to point out here that, just because a physical symptom is psychosomatic, it does not make that symptom any less real or harmful than physical symptoms caused by non-psychological factors).

What sort of physical symptoms can occur as a result of protracted and intense stress? Examples can include changes in appetite, insomnia, headaches and stomach aches, although this list is not an exhaustive one.

COGNITIVE (THINKING) SKILLS – Severe and chronic stress can impair an individual’s ability to think clearly, concentrate and learn; these impairments mean that the individual will be unable to live up to his/her potential. This can result in difficulties maintaining employment; if this happens, self-esteem and self-confidence are often adversely affected.

CONCLUSION – It is important to point out that just because an individual does display symptoms like those described above, it does not mean for certain that the affected individual has suffered extreme childhood trauma. However, because the symptoms signal great distress, it is likely that if childhood trauma is not responsible, other serious stressors are at play.

I hope you have found this post of interest. Please leave a comment if you would like to.

New posts are added to this blog at least twice a week.

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

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A Closer Examination of The Effects of Childhood Trauma. Part One..

It has been stated in several of the posts which I have already published on this site that our childhood experiences have an incalcuably large effect on how we develop later on in life, and, in particular, the quality (or lack, thereof) of the relationship we had with our parents. Research has informed us that the effects of early, adverse experience may permeate and poison major areas of the affected individual’s life later on in life.

I’d like to start by recapping the major areas of a person’s life that the experience of childhood trauma may affect; these effects can last for many, many years, and, if effective treatment is not assiduously sought and implemented, even a whole life-time :

1 – the individual’s ability to regulate (control) emotions
2 – the individual’s capacity to form lasting relationships and integrate/interact in an appropriate manner socially.
3- the individual’s behaviour
4- the individuals cognitive ability (thinking skills) and achievements related to this
5- the individual’s physical health

In PART ONE of this post, I will look only at numbers 1 and 2 above. Numbers 3,4 and 5 will be examined in PART TWO, to be published shortly.

Let’s examine each of these in turn:

1) THE INDIVIDUAL’S EMOTIONAL HEALTH – Effects of childhood trauma can, and frequently do, lead to the individual developing a perpetual and pervasive sense of unease, fearfulness and anxiety in later life. Often, in an attempt to reduce these distressing feelings, the individual may WITHDRAW FROM INTERACTING WITH OTHERS. In earlier childhood, such anxiety may have expressed itself through self-harm such as hair pulling or creating lesions (sometimes with a knife) to the flesh.

If early stress in life has been protracted in nature, sleep disruption (eg constant waking, vivid, intense nightmaers etc) may frequently develop.

If some of the trauma in childhood was of a particularly intense nature, it may also lead to ‘flashbacks’ in later life, together with the types of nightmares mentioned above.

In later life, too, the individual who has experienced childhood trauma may develop a constantly ‘flat’ mood, devoid of excitement or joy; indeed, the ability of the brain (this need NOT be permanent) to feel positive or pleasant emotions may be completely lost (psychologists term this type of joyless, ‘flat’ emotional state, in which the brain loses its ability to create positive feelings, ANHEDONIA). A mental state such as this will also, often, be accompanied by intense feelings of (usually irrational) GUILT.

However, some may be emotionally affected in a different way : as a result of having suffered childhood trauma the affected individual’s emotions may become HIGHLY VOLATILE and UNPREDICTABLE. The individual may become very quick to anger. and, also, as a result, s/he may develop a reputation as someone who is EMOTIONALLY UNSTABLE and prone to EXTREME EMOTIONAL OVER-REACTIONS. The term ‘over-sensitive’ may also be freely banded, in relation to the suffering and hurt individual, by incomprehending and bemused others, and they are likely, sadly, to ‘wash their hands’ of the individual, preferring not to invest time attempting to get to the root of things and offer help and support.

As the individual who has experienced childhood trauma gets older, CHRONIC FEELINGS OF INTENSE EMOTIONAL DISTRESS MAY DEVELOP. Relentless anxiety, which will, invariably, be a significant component of such distress, may, too, lead to a state of constant exhaustion and dibilitating fatigue. This, in turn, may well lead to DEPRESSION; the depression may, itself, then lead to alcoholism or misuse of other mood altering substances.

Finally, as a result of severe childhood trauma, DISSOCIATIVE (see my post on DISSOCIATION) symptoms may appear; when dissociative symptoms do develop, research suggests that such symptoms are linked to EXCESSIVE ANGER and LOW SELF-ESTEEM.

2) THE INDIVIDUAL’S CAPACITY TO FORM LASTING RELATIONSHIPS AND INTEGRATE/INTERACT APPROPRIATELY SOCIALLY – Different individuals will be affected later in life, with respect to their social functioning, in different ways. These include:

– becoming very withdrawn (tragically, this may lead to them being perceived as sullen, morose and unlikeable, which is then likely to lead on to SOCIAL REJECTION , and, even, perhaps, total OSTRACISISM).

– becoming ‘difficult’ (frequently, this also has damaging knock-on effects, such as conflict with others, and, thus, as above, social rejection)

– becoming easily angry at other people to ‘push them away’ (often this will operate on an unconscious level) : the individual may have been so denigrated by others in childhood that s/he has been made to feel worthless and ashamed (having INTERNALIZED THE VIEW OF HIM/HER THOSE CLOSE TO HIM/HER HAVE TAKEN – as a result, very often, of PROJECTING THEIR OWN GUILT onto him/her (who may well have been turned into A CONVENIENT FAMILY SCAPEGOAT, deflecting the need for other family members to examine their own consciences).

– in adulthood, too, sexual promiscuity may also develop, possibly (and, again, unconsciously) in a (futile) attempt to gain attention and love.

I hope you have found this post of interest. I look forward to seeing you again for Part Two, to be published imminently! Please click on the FOLLOW icon if you would like immediate notification of all future post publications. Or you may wish to leave a comment, to which I’ll reply a.s.a.p.

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

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How to Cope with Difficult Memories, Part One.

In a previous post, I wrote about traumatic memories and talked about how psychologists have divided them into two types:

1) Flashbacks
2) Intrusive memories

Such memories can be very painful and emotionally distressing. Let’s look at strategies which we can implement to help manage our problem memories:

1) Flashbacks: strategies which are helpful in managing them:

There are three main ways which can help us to achieve this:

a) PLANNED AVOIDANCE
b) ‘GROUNDING’ TECHNIQUES (which act as DISTRACTORS)
c) THOROUGH REVIEW OF THE FLASHBACK (this technique is connected to the psychological technique known as DESENSITISATION – by repeatedly exposing oneself to the feared object, or, in this case, memory, gradually weakens its negative psychological impact)

PLANNED AVOIDANCE: this technique involves avoiding TRIGGERS that, by experience, we know trigger our traumatic memories. This can provide valuable ‘breathing space’ until we feel ready to try to process and make sense of our memories, usually with the help of a psychotherapist. In order to use this technique, it is necessary, of course, to, first, spend some time thinking about what our personal triggers are.

‘GROUNDING TECHNIQUES: this technique is based upon DISTRACTION; the rationale behind it is that it is impossible to focus on two different things at the same time. So, the idea of the technique is to strongly focus on something neutral, or, better still, something pleasant – the brain, when we do this, will be unable to focus on the memory which was giving rise to distress and emotional pain.

It does not really matter what we choose to focus on in order to distract us – it might even be, say, the chair in which we sit: what is its colour, its shape, its texture and feel to the touch, the material from which it is made…etc…etc..? I know this sounds rather silly, but, if we concentrate on it like this for a while, almost as if we were carrying out a forensic examination (think Poirot or Sherlock Holmes), it can act as a powerful, temporary distractor when we feel, potentially, we could be overwhelmed by our thoughts and memories.

We can implement the grounding technique by using what are known as ‘GROUNDING OBJECTS’ – this term refers to physical objects (ideally, easily transportable, so, a full sized model of, say, Stompy the Elephant, for instance, might not be such a great idea). But, seriously, it could be something as simple as a shell from the sea-side – it can really be anything, just so long as it evokes a feeling of safety and comfort. When feeling distressed, the object can be held and looked at with the intense focus referred to above in the description of the grounding technique. Also, as Proust helpfully pointed out, aromas can be very evocative – something relaxing such as lavender could be used.

As well as using grounding objects, we can also use what are known as ‘GROUNDING IMAGES’. This involves thinking of a place in which we feel safe, secure and comforted. It is a good idea to make the image as intense and detailed as possible (although people’s ability to visualize varies considerably – I’m hopeless at visualizing). If you are able to visualize it in such a way as to allow you to mentally interact with it (eg imagine walking around in the location you are imagining) so much the better. To get to the safe imaginary place in your mind, it is also useful to have what is known as a ‘LINKING IMAGE’; again, as this is an imaginary way of linking (getting) to the ‘location’ it can be anything; for example, when feeling distressed, you could imagine yourself ‘floating away’ to your ‘safe place’. Once mentally ‘located’ in the safe place, it is again helpful to imagine then ‘place’ as intensely as possible, using our old friend the GROUNDING TECHNIQUE, so that it almost feels you are really there, where NOTHING CAN HARM YOU.

It is also possible to employ the assistance of what are referred to as “GROUNDING PHRASES’. These can be very simple, such as “I am strong enough to deal with this, I always get through it’, or, even more simply, ‘I’m OK’. We can try to bring these phrases to mind and repeat them to ourselves when we are feeling distressed.

There is even a technique known as ‘GROUNDING POSITIONS’. This, very simply, refers to altering our body’s position to produce a psychological benefit; for some, this might be standing up straight with shoulders back to produce a feeling of greater confidence; for others it might be curling up in bed in embryo position to produce a feeling of greater safety and security. Such techniques, whilst, possibly, sounding vaguely silly, can be surprisingly effective.

I will continue looking at how we can help ourselves cope with difficult memories in part TWO, starting with ‘c’ above: a THOROUGH REVIEW OF FLASHBACKS.

Please leave a comment if you would like to – I will, of course, reply as soon as I can. New posts are added to this blog at least twice per week. Please follow this blog if you would like instant notification of every new post.

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

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