Tag Archives: Childhood Trauma Recovery

The Adversity Hypothesis : Posttraumatic Growth

the adversity hypothesis

‘He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.’


The vast majority of studies examining the effects of trauma on the individual have concentrated on the negative effects such as depression, anxiety, phobias, flashbacks, nightmares, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and so on. However, more recently, an increasing number of studies have focused on how the experience of trauma may, in some ways, actually benefit us.

Indeed, the ADVERSITY HYPOTHESIS puts forward the proposal that adversity and suffering are necessary for optimum human development.

Closely linked to the adversity hypothesis is the concept of posttraumatic growth (PTG).

The theory of posttraumatic growth suggests that some individuals who undergo traumatic experiences find that they grow and develop as a person in beneficial ways once the trauma is over. These benefits often include :

  1. Discovering/developing strengths and abilities that weren’t apparent prior to the traumatic experience and becoming a more confident person as a result.
  2. Feeling stronger as a person in the knowledge one can survive great difficulty and suffering.
  3. Developing a greater appreciation of life once the trauma is over.
  4. Strengthening of pre-existing valuable and meaningful friendships/bonds/relationships (the colloquial expression ‘finding out who your real friends are’ is of relevance here).
  5. Gaining of a better perspective on life.
  6. Gaining insight into life’s priorities and what one really wants to do with it to make it fulfilling – often leading to decisive and positive life-change.
  7. Gaining a deeper insight into life in general leading to spiritual growth and development.

Indeed, there may well be other benefits, but the above list represents the main ones so far highlighted by the research carried out to date.

It is also worth noting that research carried out by Pennebaker (1990) suggests that if we are able to ‘make sense of’ our traumatic experiences in a way that is meaningful to us we are particularly likely to benefit from posttraumatic growth.

Also, research by Helgeson (2006) suggests that individuals are most likely to start to benefit from posttraumatic growth if their traumatic experiences ceased two years ago or more.


Whether posttraumatic growth represents an active coping process or is a more passive outcome of the experiencing of trauma (or, indeed,  is a combination of the two) is still a matter of debate amongst psychologists; notwithstanding this, not everyone who experiences trauma also experiences posttraumatic growth.


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

Does Your Personality Feel ‘Fragmented’?

Some people who experienced significant childhood disorder go on to develop dissociative identity disorder (DID) which causes the different aspects of the person’s personality to be poorly integrated and fragmented which leads to them operating relatively independently of one another.

These fragmented aspects of the personality are often simply referred to as ‘parts’ by psychologists who treat those suffering from dissociative identity disorder (DID).

These parts are often in conflict with each other and may not accept or even acknowledge one another but, nevertheless, influence one another to some degree. They are NOT separate personalities (though may feel like they are) but different facets of the person’s personality which have failed to mesh smoothly together into a cohesive, cooperative, whole personality system.

These different parts of the personality vary according to the particular individual suffering from dissociative identity disorder (DID) but usually have the same basic functions. According to the psychologist and expert in DID, Boon, a typical example of the fragmented parts the poorly integrated personality of person suffering from DID may be made up of are as follows :

   – the ‘daily functioning’ part
   – the ‘young’ part
   – the ‘helper’ part
   – the ‘angry’ part
   – the ‘ashamed’ part

Let’s briefly examine each of these five parts in turn :

The Daily Functioning Part:

This is often the main part of the personality that operates in order to allow one to function on a day-to-day basis.

The Young Part:

This part of the personality may be ‘stuck’ at stage of infant, toddler, child or adolescent. It contains traumatic memories and may experience feelings of dependence, intense need of protection, safety, security and comfort, distrust of others and extreme fear of abandonment and rejection.

This part may also be in conflict with other parts, which are repelled by its neediness and vulnerability.

The Helper Part :

This part attempts to sooth and calm the traumatized ‘inner child.’

The Angry Part :

This part developed at the time of the trauma for the purpose of self-defense and self-protection. Again, it is in conflict with other parts which find it unacceptable.

The Part That Imitates The Abuser :

This part behaves in similar ways to how one’s abuser used to behave towards one and often, like the ‘angry part’, expresses rage and hostility

The Ashamed Part :

This part comprises emotions and behaviours that the individual has labelled as ‘shameful’

NB It is theorized that these parts arose as a result of arrested emotional development and are -stuck in trauma-time.’

According to Boon, these relatively independent parts remain fragmented and dissociated as the they are in conflict with one another and some parts find other parts unacceptable.

The individual needs to come to an accommodation with each of these parts and empathize, in a self-compassionate way, with the reason why they developed (ie in response to early life trauma). Only then can these parts become reconciled with one another, amalgamated and healthily integrated into a cohesive personality and start to express themselves in helpful ways (prior to successful integration they can often generate unhelpful and self-destructive behaviours).


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




‘Distress Intolerance’ : Do Your Feelings Sometimes Feel Unbearable?

distress intolerance

The term DISTRESS INTOLERANCE refers to a frame of mind in which we consider the mental pain, anguish or discomfort we are experiencing to be UTTERLY INTOLERABLE AND UNBEARABLE so that we become frantic and desperate to avoid it/escape it.

The emotions we feel unable to tolerate usually belong to three main categories; these are:

  1. Emotions connected to sadness (such as depression, shame and guilt)
  2. Emotions connected to fear (such as dread, anxiety and terror)
  3. Emotions connected to anger (such as hatred, rage and frustration)

Those who have suffered severe childhood trauma, especially if, as a result, they have gone on to develop Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), tend to feel emotions particularly intensely, tend to have impaired ability to control their emotions, and tend not to be adept at self-soothing/ self-comforting/ self-compassion and are therefore much more likely to suffer from DISTRESS INTOLERANCE than the average person.

Unsurprisingly,the more we tell ourselves our feelings are unbearable and intolerable, the more difficult they become to manage. In effect, we start to feel bad about the fact that we feel bad. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as meta-worry (worrying about the fact that we worry) and adds a superfluous layer of suffering to our already less than optimal mood state.

A simple example of such meta-worrying would be:

‘My constant worrying is ruining my life.’  (but doing nothing to address one’s worrying)



Counter-intuitively, research suggests that when we mentally struggle hard to stop feeling our emotional distress, frequently the effect is actually to intensify it (rather like thrashing about in quick sand – we just sink deeper in).


Individuals who find distress very difficult to tolerate tend to have a set of beliefs that contribute to this intolerance; such beliefs may include :

  • it is essential I rid myself of these feelings immediately
  • these feelings are going to send me permanently insane
  • these feelings mean I’m a weak and pathetic person
  • these feelings are completely unacceptable

Such beliefs are sometimes referred to as catastrophizing beliefs and worsen our psychological state; cognitive therapy can help us to reduce catastrophizing thoughts.



Three ways in which we try to escape our mental distress are as follows:

  • avoidance
  • dissociation (self-numbing)
  • self-harm

Lets look at each of these in turn:


For example, avoiding social situations due to social anxiety or avoiding going outside due to agoraphobia.


People may try to achieve this by using alcohol, drugs or overeating


For example, some people cut themselves in an attempt to release emotional distress; this may be because the physical pain detracts from the psychological pain and/or because physical self-harm releases endorphins (the body’s natural pain-killers) into the brain.



There are obvious problems with these methods which I list below :

  • whilst they may afford some short-term relief their long-term effects are damaging
  • relying in negative coping methods such as those detailed above erodes self-esteem and increases feelings of depression
  • continually ‘running away from’ and desperately trying to avoid difficulties means one never provides oneself with the opportunity to learn how to deal with them effectively or how to cope with distress using healthier methods
  • by constantly avoiding distressing emotions (e.g. by using drugs and alcohol) one deprives oneself of the opportunity to put one’s catastrophic beliefs (see above) to the test (e,g. the catastrophic belief that one’s feelings of distress are intolerable) and, hopefully, prove them to be inaccurate.




By learning to interpret distress differently (e.g. by changing our catastrophizing belief system in relation to distressing feelings) and how to develop healthier ways of coping with uncomfortable/difficult emotions we can start to put together a set of skills which will help us to cultivate distress tolerance (SEE RESOURCE BELOW).











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

How To Control Emotions


Emotional Dysregulation

We have seen that significant, protracted childhood trauma, particularly if it leads us to develop borderline personality disorder or complex post traumatic stress disorder, can result in us having extreme difficulty knowing how to control emotions, such as anger and anxiety, as adults : in psychological terms, we are at risk of developing emotional dysregulation.

Sometimes, intense emotions become so painful that, as a defense mechanism, we shut our these feelings down (we may do this deliberately by using alcohol and drugs, or it might happen automatically – in the latter case we are said to be dissociating).


Some people try to keep their emotions ‘buried’ (suppressed). There can be a number of reasons for this, including:

– growing up in a household in which any display of emotions and feelings was considered a sign of weakness or ‘not the done thing’

– being in an occupation in which displays of emotions are not encouraged e.g.police, military

– fear of losing respect

– fear of losing control


However, keeping feelings and emotions buried takes up large amounts of mental energy and means they tend to be kept simmering beneath the surface, building up pressure and ready to explode.

And, very often, the emotion of anger is the one that is nearest to the surface, and therefore the one that is most frequently experienced and expressed.

HOWEVER, anger very often conceals, and has its primary roots in, the fundamental emotions of FEAR and HURT.

So, in fact, very often, when we express anger, what we are really expressing is this fear and hurt; to put it concisely:



Acknowledging Our True, Authentic Feelings And Having The Courage To Express Them:

It is therefore necessary to become aware of the real feelings behind our anger, feelings that are likely to be intensely painful and that we have preferred not to acknowledge (or even not allowed ourselves to become consciously aware of) and to start the process of expressing them, understanding their origins, working through them and resolving them (ideally with a highly trained, professional therapist).

By getting in touch with our feelings beneath our anger, and working through them therapeutically, we can reduce or overcome outbursts of rage, self-destructive behavior and bodily complaints such as fatigue.

If we do not get in touch with feelings such as hurt and fear (completely normal emotions that everyone experiences to one degree or another), but instead keep them ‘locked out’ and ‘buried’ , we pay the very high price of not being able to get in touch with, experience or express positive emotions, such as happiness and joy, too. Our aim is to feel comfortable with all our emotions and to channel them constructively.

How To Control Emotions :

In order to control our emotions we can apply certain skills, such as:

– learning to identify what we are feeling and linguistically label our emotions e.g. ‘anger’, ‘fear’ etc – when we verbally name our emotions and describe them in spoken (or, indeed, written) language we are more likely to be able to control them and are less likely to act them out.

– acknowledge and accept emotions nonjudgmentally (as taught through mindfulness).

– change our thinking. Our feelings are connected to our thinking processes – consider trying cognitive therapy which can help retrain our thinking style and which, in turn, can lead to much improved emotional experiences.

Links to resources relating to how to control emotions shown below:

Control Anger Pack (Download or CD). Click here.

How To Control Emotions(Download or CD). Click here.


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)




Childhood Trauma : Recovering and Flourishing

hypnosis for headaches

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

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

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

– greater appreciation of relationships with others

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

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

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

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





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

Let’s look at each of these in turn :



– positive emotions


engagement and interest

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


meaning and purpose

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





– optimism



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


– vitality


– self-determination

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


– positive relationships



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



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

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


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

Four Characteristics Which Keep Us Unhappy After Childhood Trauma


The experience of childhood trauma makes us less likely to have a happy and contented adulthood than those who were fortunate enough to have had a relatively stable childhood (all else being equal). However, in this article I look at four characteristics that can serve to perpetuate our feelings of discontent that have been identified by the discipline known as ‘positive psychology’, and, in fact, apply to all people, not just those of us who have experienced severe childhood trauma.

The four characteristics that can perpetuate our feelings of discontentment that positive psychology has identified are as follows :





Let’s look at each of these in turn :

1) NEGATIVE BIAS – Individuals who have suffered severe childhood trauma are especially likely to have a very negative outlook on life.

Positive psychologists have found that we are more affected by negative events and experiences in life than by positive ones. For example, we are more likely to recall a criticism of us than praise of us, and more likely to remember a failure than a success.

In other words, negative experiences reduce our sense of contentment more than positive events increase it.

The psychologist Baumeister summed up the situation pithily with the comment :’bad is stronger than good.’

However, we can reduce our tendency to think negatively with therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) – click here to read my article on CBT.

2) SOCIAL COMPARISON – Many people are extremely worried about their social status which is linked to having low self-esteem. Low self-esteem frequently results from having experienced significant childhood trauma (click here to read my article on self-esteem).

Even if what a person has, in ABSOLUTE TERMS, is very satisfactory, if the majority of his/her contemporaries have noticeably more, his/her level of contentment is likely to be reduced. A classic example of this can be illustrated as follows :

Would you rather :

a) Earn £50,000 per year, whilst all your contemporaries earn £25,000 per year

or :

b) Earn £100,000 per year, whilst all your contemporaries earn £200,000 per year.

Research shows that the majority of people, due to to the ‘social comparison effect’, actually opt for the first choice (a).

However, buying lots of expensive material things does not tend to improve people’s level of contentment over the long-term, according to the research. It merely gives the individual a short-term ‘buzz’, but this very quickly fades due to a phenomenon known as the ‘hedonistic treadmill’.

3) THE HEDONISTIC TREADMILL – Individuals tend to become excited and happy when they make a large purchase but they soon adapt and habituate to whatever it is they have acquired and the initial pleasure it gave rise to disappears and the person soon ends up feeling as s/he when s/he did not have the possession.

The ‘high’of the acquisition is, then, fleeting and ephemeral – the pre-existing state of contentment/discontentment is soon returned to, known as the individual’s ‘set-point’ of contentment/discontentment.

Unfortunately, this can lead to a perpetual cycle of addiction – the postive emotions brought on by the purchase disappear fast, leading the individual feeling a need to make another purchase in order to reproduce the ‘high’. Then that ‘high’ fades too, and so on…and so on…

Interestingly, we also adapt to negative events fairly quickly. For example, even if a person has an accident leaving him/her severely disabled, whilst s/he will initially feel less content, research suggests that after the negative short/medium turn reaction, his/her level of contentment will return to its ‘set-point’ (i.e. what it was before the accident occurred).

On the other side of the coin, research also shows that people who win vast fortunes on the lottery tend to return to their ‘set-point’ of contentment (i.e. to what it was prior to their win).

4) LACK OF SELF-CONTROL – Frequently, those who have suffered significant childhood trauma find that they have greatly impaired impulse control as adults.

Sadly, however, constantly giving in to the impulse to obtain immediate gratification tends to make a person’s life much worst; indeed, research clearly indicates that developing strong self-control is strongly associated with a greater sense of well-being. (Click here to read my article on impulse control).

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)



Trauma Leading to Dysfunctional Eating Behaviour – Hypnosis for Weight Loss.


People who have suffered childhood trauma, and, as a result, have gone on to develop mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and borderline personality disorder (BPD) have, statistically, worse PHYSICAL health , on average, than those who are mentally well. One reason for this, although there are many) is that both the sufferer and their doctors can be so focused upon treating their emotional difficulties that their physical health tends to take second place and is consequently rather neglected.

One problem that the psychiatric conditions mentioned above can lead to is DYSFUNCTIONAL EATING BEHAVIOUR (or, put rather more simply, over-eating ; for example, what is commonly referred to as ‘COMFORT EATING’). As this often leads to obesity, significant physical health problems may develop (eg heart disease).

Indeed, in the USA it is estimated that up to 325,000 deaths per year are linked to obesity (Allison et al, 1999).

On top of the serious physical problems it may cause. obesity can aggravate mental health conditions by setting up a vicious circle. For example : the depressed person eats more and more to soothe his/her inner turmoil and becomes obese as a result – because of the prejudice which exists within society, being obese lowers his/her self-esteem and confidence ; this in turn leads to greater feelings of depression which leads to even greater unhealthy eating-behaviour, and so the self-damaging cycle continues…


Not infrequently, the problem becomes one of being unable to resist the temptation to binge eat. Indeed, it is under consideration that BINGE EATING DISORDER might be officially entered into DSM (the Diagnostic and Statitical Manual used by psychiatrists) as a psychiatric disorder, not least due to the fact that 40% of those who binge eat become obese (Johnson et al, 1996).


The primary requirement for those who wish to control their eating behavior and lose weight involves MODIFYING BEHAVIOURS. Hypnotherapy can be of use here by:

– motivating the individual to make beneficial dietry changes

– motivating the individual to monitor their eating (a technique which helps weight reduction) by keeping a diary of what they eat, for example

– motivating the individual to take some moderate exercise

– increasing the individual’s self-control

– helping to control eating desire stimuli (eg by motivating the individual to eat in the same place every day)

– helping to address distorted thinking which leads to excessive eating (eg irrational and faulty belief systems)

– helping to address the emotional dysregulation  (uncontrooled emotions) which can lead to over-eating/binge eating

– reducing the person’s levels of stress and anxiety which may have been causing the over-eating/binge eating

– improving the individual’s self-esteem (low self-esteem often underlies the causes of over-eating/binge eating


Stradling et al (1998) carried out research which suggested HYPNOSIS FOCUSING ON STRESS REDUCTION has a significantly beneficial effect upon weight loss. Furthermore, research that was conducted by Davis and Dawson (1980) found that the use of AUDIO RECORDINGS for SELF-HYPNOSIS were effective in helping people to CONTINUE to lose weight (this is very important, because, often, people lose weight at first but then quickly put it back on again).

Overall, most research has suggested that a hypnosis component in a weight loss program helps with weight loss.

childhood_ trauma _workbook

Above eBook now available for immediate download on Amazon. $9.79. CLICK HERE.

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