If, as a result of childhood trauma, we have developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or borderline personality disorder (BPD) our post-traumatic environment can have an extremely strong impact upon our chances of recovery. I list some particularly important factors below :
- LACK OF SUPPORT FROM FRIENDS, FAMILY AND THE WIDER COMMUNITY / SOCIETY
If we are not provided with such support, but, instead, are shunned and ignored, it is highly likely that our feelings of worthlessness, vulnerability and isolation will be intensified.
Support needs to be non-judgmental, empathic and validating both of our emotional pain and also of our interpretation of how our adverse experiences have affected us.
Also, those providing the support need to be ’emotionally literate’ (i.e. able and willing to discuss feelings and emotions in a compassionate and understanding manner)
- NOT BEING BELIEVED
Obviously, if people we talk to about our traumatic experiences don’t believe what we are saying or believe we are exaggerating the seriousness of what happened to us (or the seriousness of the effect it has had upon us) our psychological condition is likely to be severely aggravated: our lack of self-esteem, sense of despair, sense of worthlessness, sense of unlovability, feelings of isolation and any feelings of anger, bitterness and resentment we may have are all likely to be severely intensified.
- SECONDARY VICTIMIZATION
We need to avoid those who would cause us secondary victimization. Secondary victimization occurs when those who ought to be helping us instead harm us further. Indeed, the example of not being believed (see above) is one such form of secondary victimization.
Other examples of secondary victimization include :
– having a doctor who minimizes/trivializes the seriousness of what has occurred to us and its effects
– being stigmatized by society for having developed a psychiatric condition
– being shunned and ostracized by friends/family due to our condition
– being made to feel ashamed in connection with what has happened to us and its effects
– having the vulnerable nature we have developed as a result of our mental condition exploited by an intimate partner (the risk of this is especially high as those who have suffered significant abuse in their early lives are frequently (on an unconscious level) driven to seek out intimate partners who are likely to abuse them further (this is sometimes referred to as a repetition compulsion).
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).