Childhood Trauma And Its Link To Adult, Psychiatric Disorders :
We have seen in many other articles that I have published on this site that there is a link between childhood trauma and the later development of a whole array of psychiatric disorders in adulthood (for example, see my article on the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study – sometimes referred to as the ACE Study).
All of these conditions may include the symptoms of nightmares and/or hallucinations (borderline personality disorder can sometimes involve brief psychotic episodes, as can depression).
Nightmares, Hallucinations And Trauma-Based Memories :
When nightmares and hallucinations are linked to psychiatric disorders which, in turn, are linked to childhood trauma, it is quite possible that the content of those nightmares and / or hallucinations are founded, at least in part, upon TRAUMA – BASED MEMORIES.
Paradoxical Intention :
Of course, the content of nightmares and hallucinations is frequently highly disturbing and distressing – I have had nightmares of such violence that they have, on more than one occasion, caused me to fall out of bed. Frequently, too, I have thrashed about so vigorously in my sleep that I have knocked lamps, clocks, overflowing ashtrays, radios and half-finished cups of tea off my bedside table (although never all at once, albeit small consolation) – however, one possible way to reduce their intensity, or, even, overcome them may, counter-intuitively, according to psychodynamic theory, be facilitated by a process known as PARADOXICAL INTENTION.
Paradoxical intention is a concept first described by Dr Viktor Frankl, the famous psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor who founded Logotherapy, based on the idea that psychological symptoms can be made worse by tying too hard to fight them, summed up by the pithy maxim, ‘What you resist persists.’
So, applying the idea of paradoxical intention to the treatment of nightmares and hallucinations involves a trained psychotherapist encouraging the client to view his/her nightmares and /or hallucinations from a completely different perspective, i.e. rather than seeing the hallucinations / nightmares as something purely destructive and to be feared, the client is encouraged, instead, to try to see these phenomena as helpful clues (no matter how bizarre and nonsensical they may appear to be on the surface) which can be analyzed and interpreted for salient meanings (whether literal or symbolic), thus helping to expose, and shed light upon, possible trauma-based memories that underpin the individual’s psychiatric condition.
In this way, the client can be both empowered, and, under the care of an appropriately trained psychotherapist, can also be sensitively and compassionately helped to understand, where appropriate, the deep roots of his/her particular psychological difficulties, which may prove to be an effective first step towards ameliorating them.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).