RECOVERY Archives - Page 2 of 19 - Childhood Trauma Recovery

Category Archives: Recovery

These articles contain a wealth of information relating to recovery from childhood trauma, including therapies and self-help.

Effects Of ‘Bottling Up’ Feelings Related To Trauma

effect of bottling up emotions

bottling up feelings

‘Bottling Up’ Emotions

It is often said that it is psychologically unhealthy to ‘bottle up’ (suppress) feelings connected to trauma, loss and grief. But what does the research tell us?

Bowlby’s Position :

Bowlby’s (1980) work on the effects of suppression (he mainly focused on the suppression of grief) of such feelings proposes that grief is a natural feeling and ‘bottling up.’ or suppressing, such feelings causes an important psychological process to become inhibited and that this, in turn, would lead to both psychological and physical ill-health.

effect of bottling up emotions

Challenges To Bowlby’s Position :

However, Wortman and Silver (1989) assert that the empirical evidence supporting Bowlby’s view is weak (but see later research conducted by Chapman et al. in 2013)and that those who strictly adhere to Bowlby’s view may unhelpfully cause individuals who do not experience a period of grief (that they define as ‘intense distress’) to be labelled as ‘abnormal’.

Furthermore, Wortman and Silver (1989) go on to suggest that, partly as a consequence of Bowlby’s view, individuals may be expected to ‘work through’ their feelings of grief/distress, as opposed to ‘bottling them up’, denying or suppressing them. Then, after a relatively short period of time, they may be expected to have ‘resolved’ their feelings of loss, and, therefore, cease their period of grieving.

Such expectations, Wortman and Silver (1989) suggest, can be potentially damaging as they may imply that those who do not go through this (according to Bowlby) ‘natural’ process are, as alluded to above, in some way reacting to their loss ‘abnormally’ or ‘inappropriately’ which is neither a sensitive, nor effective. approach to therapeutic intervention.

Bonanno et al., (1995) also conducted research that contradicted Bowlby’s theory. They concluded from their research that those who exhibited mild to moderate emotional detachment during the grieving process actually recovered better in psychological terms when compared to those who expressed their distress more overtly.

Support For Bowlby’s Position – Empirical Data Relating To Cancer And Cardiovascular Disease :

However, in contrast to Bonanno’s (see above) findings, Chapman et al. (2013) conducted a study which found those who tended to suppress their emotions were 1.7 times more likely to die from cancer at any given time and 1.47 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease at any given time than those who did not.

RESOURCE :

How To Express Your Emotions – click here.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

Childhood Trauma – Ways to Help Us Stop Over Thinking about It.

stop over thinking about childhood trauma

When we suffer a great trauma, one of its effects can be to greatly reduce the sense of control we have over our lives, making us feel extremely vulnerable, and, sometimes, leading us to become preoccupied with central questions to our existence such as lack of justice in the world, the meaning of life, religion, philosophical beliefs and so on. For many, this can be a torment. For others, however, it may lead to benefits. These benefits may include :

– clarifying our beliefs and values

– reprioritizing our lives

– deepening our appreciation of life

However, as I have said, others find themselves tormented by the effects of the trauma on their thinking, remaining stuck in their unpleasant thought processes for months or years, feeling constantly victimized, helpless and unable to rebuild their lives. Many turn to drink, drugs, over-eating etc in an attempt to reduce the mental anguish that this over-thinking inevitably leads to.

Often, in the aftermath of trauma, the person who suffered it finds that his/her thinking becomes very angry. Frequently, this anger is not only directed at the person/s who caused the trauma, but, also,  at others for their perceived insensitivity to how seriously the person’s life has been affected by the trauma. We may become angry that they do not offer enough support, don’t show sufficient empathy, have failed to grasp the enormity of the trauma’s impact, and so on. We can fall out with these people and become isolated, feeling that others have abandoned us.

childhood trauma and over-thinking

Recovery :

Recovering from trauma takes time. We can only re-order our lives gradually, step-by-step. Those we feel are not supporting us may believe we should be able to bounce-back quickly and, when we don’t, run out of patience. But this is unrealistic, and, frequently, based on a lack of knowledge about how severe and long-lasting effects of trauma, especially childhood trauma, can be. Even with therapy, people can take years to even start to come to terms with their experiences and may never get over them completely.

Unfortunately, the medical profession often treats the person suffering from the effects of trauma with medication. Whilst some find this of help, many others would be better treated by psychological means.

As has already been stated, many people who have suffered serious traumatic experiences find, as well as the negative impact it has upon their lives, it also has some positive effects. As well as those already mentioned above, these can also include :

– growing in character

– growing in maturity

– developing skills that they did not have previously

– gaining a new perspective on life

– deepening their relationships with others

– emerging from trauma as a ‘better’ person

STOP OVER THINKING :

Ways to stop over thinking about traumatic experiences :

Over-thinking about the trauma we experienced often does not move us forward or gain us any insight in relation to what happened to us, but, instead, clouds our mind and keeps us ‘stuck’ in a cycle of futile, self-damaging thought processes. However, we can help ourselves break free of being ‘trapped in our thoughts’ in various ways. These include :

– telling ourselves we will not let those who caused our trauma ‘win’ by letting the effect they had dominate and destroy our lives

– realize that we may never find answers to the questions that we are tormenting ourselves with, accept this and ‘cut our losses’

– mentally ‘step-back’ from what happened to us

– constantly seek out soothing and comforting ways to occupy our time

– stop telling ourselves ‘we will never be happy again’ (as this is a prediction, caused by depression, for which there is no evidence)

– stop isolating ourselves (it is vital to undertake activities which act as positive distractions, and this will often involve interacting with others)

– writing down our feelings if we feel overwhelmed by them – this helps to ‘get the feelings out of our system’ and puts boundaries around them

– accept we may have to live with some emotional pain but that this should not stop us taking steps to reclaiming our lives – connected to this, we need to stop telling ourselves we should be ‘over it by now’ and accept that recovery is often a lengthy process

– rather than use up  precious energy feeling angry with the person who caused our trauma, we need to redirect this energy into rebuilding our lives and protecting ourselves from further harm/emotional pain

– if we have an ‘internal critic’ (thinking negative thoughts about ourselves) we need to realize this is likely to be the influence of the person who made as feel bad about ourselves, and are therefore not a realistic reflection of us, and, in all likelihood, are utterly false.

RESOURCE :

Stop Over Thinking | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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

Childhood Trauma : Three Key Stages of Recovery.

childhood trauma and stages of recovery

Herman’s Three Stages Of Recovery :

The psychologist and expert on trauma, Judith Herman, has identified three key stages that it is necessary for those who suffered childhood trauma and subsequently developed posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) [now sometimes referred to as complex PTSD] to pass through on their journey to recovery. I have summarized these three stages below :

STAGE ONE :

This stage involves focusing on the symptoms that many suffer as a result of childhood trauma, including :

– difficulty controlling/regulating emotions

– aggression/anger/hostility (click here to read my article about how to control anger)

– alcohol/drug addiction (click here to read my article on this)

– behavioural addictions (internet porn, anonymous sex, gambling etc) click here to read my article on this

– re-enacting abusive patterns of behaviour

– problematic eating behaviours (click here to read my article on this)

– dissociation (click here to read my article about this phenomenon)

– self harm (click here to read my article on this)

– emotional numbing

– feelings of being unsafe/ in danger

– self-neglect/lack of self care

– depression (click here to read my article on this)

– panic attacks

– feelings of powerlessness

– feelings of shame/guilt

– deep distrust of others

It is necessary to identify the symptoms one may have and then to set treatment goals and to learn about ways one will be able to reach those goals.

It is also highly necessary, in this first stage, for the individual to establish a sense of safety and security.

In this first stage, too, inner strengths which may well have been neglected in the past are developed.

It should also be noted that stage one does NOT focus upon discussing and attempting to process painful memories. However, this rule is not set in stone and such memories may be addressed if doing so facilitates creating a sense of safely and/or greater stability and/or good self-care.

Finally, stage one may also include going on medications, if appropriate (for example, anti-depressants), psychotherapy (usually the most appropriate form of therapy is dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)CLICK HERE TO READ MY ARTICLE ABOUT DBT).  This type of therapy is particularly useful if the person is suffering from extreme difficulties controlling/regulating emotions or is experiencing acute difficulties with interpersonal relationships.

Once a sense of safety, stability, good self-care and the ability to adequately regulate emotions has been achieved, stage two may be moved on to.

Herman's three stages of recovery

STAGE TWO :

Judith Herman called this stage of recovery remembrance and mourning.

During this stage, painful memories are reviewed and discussed with the aim of reducing their emotional intensity and revising their perceived implications for the person’s future life and sense of self-identity. There are many techniques that may be used to process and make less painful memories of trauma. At the time of writing, perhaps, the most popular one is known as eye movement desensitization and restructuring – CLICK HERE TO READ MY ARTICLE ABOUT THIS.

Also, during this stage, the therapist encourages the person to grieve for the losses s/he has suffered due to a traumatic childhood (for example, many who have suffered severe childhood trauma feel, in a very real sense, that their childhood was stolen from them.

This stage is also a time to start coming to terms with the active harm the trauma has done (eg perhaps the pain of the emotional trauma has led to alcoholism, drug addiction, self-harm etc).

STAGE THREE :

Once stage two has been successfully completed, the person can start trying to get on with a ‘normal life’, involving re-forming relationships with other/reconnecting with people and resuming meaningful activities.

CONCLUSION :

This is not the only model of recovery from trauma in existence, but is certainly one of the better known ones. I will look at other models of recovery in later articles.

Recovery is thought to be very difficult if a person stays socially isolated and does not re-connect with others. CLICK HERE TO READ MY ARTICLE ON OVERCOMING RELATIONSHIP DIFFICULTIES.

eBook:

Above eBooks, by David Hosier MSc, available on Amazon for immediate download – CLICK HERE TO VIEW FURTHER DETAILS.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE.

Childhood Trauma: Treating the Root Cause of Related Symptoms.

overcoming shame

childhood trauma and root cause of symptoms

I had been perplexed for a very long time, given the emotional symptoms I was experiencing, which, it had always been obvious to me, were in large part related to my childhood experiences, why I had never been offered therapy, by the NHS, which could specifically address this issue. In fact, the professionals I had seen, incuding GPs and psychiatrists, rarely, if ever, asked me about my childhood, nor did they seek, in any way that I could ascertain, to link my symptoms to it. I can only assume that therapy addressing emotional problems which are linked to childhood experiences are deemed to be too expensive; perhaps it relates to where you happen to live, as different regions have different budgeting priorities. I know, though, that such therapies are available.

MEDICAL MODEL :

It is a common problem. In the UK, mental illness is almost invariably addressed using the MEDICAL MODEL (ie drugs are used to alter brain biochemistry). Some studies have shown, however, that anti-depressants work no better than PLACEBOS. We must ask, then, if, in many cases, treating mental illness with drugs is simply inappropriate? Would it not be better, in a lot of cases, to address the root cause of the symptoms -childhood trauma and/or other relevant life experiences?

PSYCHODYNAMIC AND PSYCHOANALYTIC PSYCHOTHERAPY:

These tharapies both seek to address root causes of adult psychological difficulties. Many of my posts have already discussed the fact that childhood trauma, very often, lessens (often, through physiological effects on the brain) the individual’s ablility to cope with stress in adult life. Here is a recap of symptoms childhood trauma can lead to:

– alcohol/drug misuse
– dissociative disorders (see my post on this in the ‘EFFECTS OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA’ category).
– self-harm (eg cutting self with sharp instrument, burning self with cigarette ends – see my post on this in above category)
– suicide attempts, suicide
– eating disorders
– acute depression
– extreme anxiety
– post-traumatic stress disorder (see my post on this in above category)
– obsessive-compulsive disorder

childhood trauma and treating the root cause of symptoms

Clearly, such difficulties can cause the individual severe distress, so it is important to investigate ALL the possible treatment options.

Psychodynamic and psychoanalytic psychotherapy aims, as I have already said,to address the root cause of distressing psychological symptoms: they are based upon the idea that we all SUPPRESS (ie bury deep down in the mind) feelings that, if they were allowed full access to consciousness, would OVERWHELM us with ANXIETY and EMOTIONAL PAIN. However, this requires psychological effort, and, in order to keep them suppressed, we must employ DEFENSE MECHANISMS (these may be employed both on conscious and unconscious levels). Examples of such defense mechanisms are PROJECTION and REACTION FORMATION:

– PROJECTION: this refers to how we EXTERNALIZE things we dislike about OURSELVES. For example, someone who is (needlessly) ashamed of being homosexual may go around calling everybody else ‘gay’ (using the word in a perjorative sense, of course)

– REACTION FORMATION: here, the individual feels the need to constantly proclaim s/he is not what, deep down, perhaps unconsciously, s/he feels s/he actually is. For example, someone who suppresses their aggressive instincts may feel the need to constantly proclaim how peace loving they are and how incapable of inflicting physical harm on others. In Shakespeare’s play, HAMLET, Iago seems to be aware of this psychological concept of reaction formation when he states, heavy with insinuation: ‘Methinks she protests too much’. Indeed, many of Freud’s ideas were anticipated in Shakespeare’s works.

There are other defense mechanisms which would take up too much space to go into here, but they all involve CUTTING OURSELVES OFF FROM OUR TRUE FEELINGS or trying to banish them in other ways, due to real, or perceived, societal and cultural demands.

It is thought that the MORE PAINFUL AND DIFFICULT KEEPING THE FEELINGS SUPPRESSED IS, THE MORE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFORT THE MECHANISM OF SUPRESSION TAKES UP, and, therefore, THE MORE INTENSE THE REPERCUSSIONS, OR COSTS, IN TERMS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL SYMPTOMS, ARE (see list above for examples of these symptoms).

Psychotherapy aims to get us in touch with the feelings we are suppressing and work through them; some types of psychotherapy aim to bring what is buried in the unconscious into conscious awareness to enable such a process.

TYPES OF THERAPIES AVAILABLE:

1) SHORT-TERM PSYCHODYNAMIC PSYCHOTHERAPY: this usually consists of about 20 sessions spread over 20 weeks.

2) PSYCHOANALYTIC PSYCHOTHERAPY: this can consist of 2 or 3 sessions per week. There is no time limit – as many sessions are provided as required.

3) PSYCHOANALYSIS: this can comprise up to 5 sessions per week. Again, there is no time limit and as many sessions are provided as required.

By working through suppressed feelings (such as anger or fear) with the therapist, the rationale is that the past gradually loses its grip on the present, and, thus, its power to cause continued suffering.

DOES IT WORK?

Certainly, if considering such therapy, great care is needed when selecting a suitable therapist (eg checking their training, success rate, recommendations etc) as it is possible the treatment can do more harm than good if not properly implemented.

The psychologist, Hans Eysenck, argued that patients who underwent psychoanalysis recovered from their psychological difficulties no better than untreated controls. HOWEVER, there is, in fact, plenty of research which SUPPORTS its effectiveness; for example: Roth et al (1996) and, also, Holmes et al (1995).

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

Childhood Trauma: Coming to Terms with what We have Lost.

Many who suffered childhood trauma grow up feeling that there childhood has been ‘stolen’ from them.

They may have grown up feeling worthless and uniquely unloveable, lacking, too, in feelings of safety and security. They may also grow up with a lack of confidence and find it extremely difficult to trust anyone or to believe that they will not be betrayed again. They may have experienced no joy or carefreeness in childhood such as other children take for granted.

As an adult, realizing what one has lost will often give rise to powerful feelings of sadness and grief. This is quite normal. Indeed, grief is an intrinsic component of the recovery process.

We may find ourselves grieving for the kind of parents we would have wished for, but, in reality, never had.

If the relationship with our parents or those who who were supposed to be caring for us and looking after us in childhood was deeply fractured, we might, nevertheless, hold out hope that these deeply problematic relationships will improve now that we’re adults; but we may, in due course, discover this is most unlikely to happen. In such cases, we may find ourselves grieving all over again – this time for the loss of our hope. Ideally, we will eventually come to accept this depressing state of affairs and realize, also, that we may never fully understand why we were treated as we were.

Some people are already familiar with the stages of grief, but, for those who are not, I will very briefly summarize them below:

1) a sense of feeling numb (as we saw in a previous post, this is also sometimes referred to as a DISSOCIATIVE state).

2a) a strong, sometimes overwhelming, yearning for what has been lost, which can develop into:

2b) a preoccupation or obsession with what has been lost

3) anger can follow which itself may lead to:

4) feelings of guilt, particularly if we have expressed our anger in a way which is unhelpful to us (lowering ourselves yet further in our own view) or to others.

Eventually, one emerges from the grieving process the other side and the feelings of emotional pain and suffering are ameliorated. However, a less intense general sense of loss may remain, but often we can cope with this and move forward in our lives.

PUTTING THINGS IN PLACE OF LOSSES

Many things may have been lost in our traumatic childhoods. For example:

-fun and enjoyment
-security
-peace of mind
-safety
-positive relationships and friendships

However, as adults, we are in the position to COMPENSATE ourselves for such losses. Examples may include:

– bulding a social life and support network (perhaps joining appropriate support groups)
– putting aside time to do things that we enjoy
– putting aside time for tranquillity and relaxation

Also, if we lacked good parenting as children, we may have felt worthless, frightened, insecure and unloveable. But, to remedy this, at least in part, we can start to ‘parent ourselves’ in the manner that we wish we had actually been parented. This is sometimes also referred to as ‘SELF-NURTURING’. This can include showing ourselves the same level of compassion we might show to a friend: forgiving ourselves, perhaps, for our own failures of behaviour in adult life that were largely brought on by our difficult childhood experiences, stopping blaming and punishing ourselves, building our own sense of self-worth (independent of, and, unreliant upon, the approval of others) or simply giving ourselves permission to be happy and to enjoy life (which protracted and intense guilt makes impossible).

The ultimate goal is to resolve the problems caused by our traumatic childhoods and no longer to let the pain associated with the past remain the predominant feature of who we are or the defining feature of the lives that, despite everything, we still have in front of us.

David Hosier BSc; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Self-Acceptance More Helpful To Mental Health Than Self-Esteem.

self-acceptance

developing self-acceptance

We have already seen that, most frequently because how they were made to feel about themselves by parents / primary care-givers whilst growing up, one of the most painful, demoralizing and soul-destroying symptoms those with borderline personality disorder (BPD) must strive to endure is irrational feelings of self-hatred, self-loathing and self-disgust. (If you would like to read my article entitled : ‘ Childhood Trauma: How The Child’s View Of Their Own ‘Badness’ Is Perpetuated’ , please click here.)

Indeed, many individuals with BPD suffer from frequent, intrusive thoughts such as : ‘I am a terrible person’ ; ‘I am of absolutely no value to anybody whatsoever’ and so on…

In other words, their self-esteem is extremely low and sometimes it is hard to change such deeply entrenched, negative self-views through therapy, at least at the beginning of any such therapy. (If you would like to read my article entitled : ‘Childhood Trauma : A Destroyer of Self-Esteem’ , please click here.)

self-acceptance

However, one effective way of breaking into, and disrupting, this profoundly ingrained and seemingly perpetual cycle of self-derogatory thinking may be to develop first an attitude of SELF-ACCEPTANCE.

In relation to this possibility, Huber (2001) suggests that, in order to develop an attitude of self-acceptance, we can start off simply by trying to attain ‘a single moment of self-acceptance.’ For example, instead of thinking a thought such as :

I am a terrible person‘, we can try to replace it with the self-accepting thought :

‘Given how I was made to feel about myself as a child, it is completely understandable why I view myself as a terrible person.

Gradually, we can try to increase the frequency with which we modify our self-lacerating thinking style so that, when negative thoughts arise, we compassionately accept why we are having them as a matter of newly acquired habit.

The advantages of developing a self-accepting style of thinking, as outlined above, has been backed up by research. For example, Neff (2009) found that self-compassion is more positively correlated with psychological health than self-esteem is.

Neff also points out that, whilst self-esteem, at least in part, depends upon how we perceive others’ evaluation of us and how well we perceive ourselves to be succeeding in life’s myriad aspects at any given time, self-compassion (by definition) is self-generated and comes entirely from within ; it is always available to us no matter what the external circumstances. Because of this, it is more reliable and dependable than self-esteem and can comfortably co-exist along with feelings of inadequacy or, even, gross inadequacy.

However, we need not equate self-acceptance with ‘standing still in life’ and with not trying to improve ourselves – indeed, self-acceptance can be a great aid to self-improvement as it allows us to take a compassionate attitude towards ourselves when we face inevitable set-backs on our journey of personal development (as opposed to despising ourselves and giving up).

 

RESOURCES :

SELF-ACCEPTANCE : SELF-HYPNOSIS DOWNLOAD.

Click here for more information.
 

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

 

Radical Acceptance : A Method To Help Us Cope With Trauma

radical acceptance

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

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:

self acceptance hypnosis  Develop Self Acceptance Downloadable Hypnosis Audio.

 

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