The psychoanalyst, Rothschild, in her excellent book ‘Keys To Safe Trauma Recovery‘, suggests that recovery from trauma entails just a handful of majo elements and I list these below. Underneath some of the elements that appear on the list I have added my own short elaborations and elucidations in terms of how each element may relate specifically to recovery from childhood trauma.
1) Recognizing that one has experienced trauma and survived it.
In the case of childhood trauma it is essential that the victim’s feelings in relation to it are validated by at least one significant other ; the psychotherapist and childhood trauma expert Alice Miller termed such a person an ‘enlightened witness’. An enlightened witness is so vital because It is not unusual for other members of the traumatized individual’s family to invalidate the his/her feelings (e.g. belittling them or dismissing them) for reasons connected to their own guilt and complicity.
2) Coming to terms with flashbacks and understanding their relationship to traumatic memories (to read my article ‘Horowitz’s Information Processing Theory, Flashbacks And Nightmares‘, click here).
Many individuals suffer from IRRATIONAL feelings of self-blame and guilt in relation to their traumatic childhood experiences ; for example, a child whose parents divorce may erroneously blame him/herself for the parents’ marital breakdown. It is essential to free oneself from such inaccurate and self-destructive beliefs.
To read my article on ‘Compassion Focused Therapy For The Effects Of Childhood Trauma‘, click here.
4) The need to overcome feelings of shame
Closely related to self-blame and guilt, irrational feelings of shame are also extremely common amongst survivors of childhood trauma and the victim may require significant therapeutic intervention to facilitate the amelioration of such feelings.To read my article entitled ‘Shame And Its Agonizing Effects‘, click here.
5) Recovery from trauma best achieved by breaking the recovery process down into small, manageable steps.
6) Mobilizing the body out of its ‘frozen’ state
Trauma affects the body’s biological functioning and can have the effect of ‘freezing’ it into a state of physiological HYPERAROUSAL and FEAR. Exercising for about 30 minutes a day can help ‘unfreeeze’ the body, not least because it helps to return adrenaline levels to normal (those ‘frozen’ in a hyperaroused and fearful state have an excess of adrenaline coursing through their systems, contributing significantly to feelings of physical tension and associated emotional distress.
7) Deriving meaning and purpose from one’s traumatic experiences in a way that leads to self-improvement.
This essentially refers the concept of posttraumatic growth. A whole category of this site is devoted to posttraumatic growth articles (see MAIN MENU at the top of the page).
Therapies that can be effective for individuals who have suffered childhood trauma include ‘talking therapies’ such as counselling and psychotherapy. Also, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) can be very effective.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).