Sunday, June 6, 2010
As oil gushes from the depths of the ocean spilling onto the beaches of the gulf, wreaking havoc with the environment, I'm reminded how repressed memories of trauma can spill out unexpectedly from the depths of our psyches, wreaking havoc with our internal environment.
Without the benefit of early treatment, the currents of our daily lives are as easily affected, leaking out in unexpected ways, overwhelming us, leaving us as paralyzed as the dazed, oil-soaked pelicans we see being swept ashore.
Since trauma of any kind is, by its very definition, "a psychological injury," it's never wise to assume that it has healing powers of its own. In fact, our minds DO have memory cells, and though we may wish to bury terrible and traumatic events, their effect upon our psyche and our soma leaks out with or without our permission. Repressed, untreated trauma and its attendant emotions affect self-esteem and impedes the development of a mature sense of self. It governs our expectations of others as well as those for ourselves.
I am not speaking here of the most horrific traumas such as violent sexual abuse or acts of political terrorism directed against groups of innocent people. In such instances, there is much warranted controversy in the psychiatric community regarding how best to treat post traumatic shock of that nature.
For anyone interested in understanding the wounds suffered by such survivors and for the finest available treatment, I refer you to one of the most respected books addressing P.T.S.D. - Dr. Judith Herman’s “TRAUMA and RECOVERY: The Aftermath of Violence. For others who may be seeking actual treatment, I urge you to do so with psychiatrists or psychotherapists specifically trained in the area of PTSD and only after having a consultation to see whether or not you feel safe in their presence and trust their method of communicating with you.
For the purpose of this blog, however, my goal is not to have anyone re-live a trauma for the sake of being re-victimized. I’m speaking primarily of the great majority of “survivors” such as myself whose early life trauma needed tending to if patterns of dysfunction were to be interrupted.
As the child of a mother who suffered from chronic bouts of major depression, most days throughout my childhood and adolescence were traumatic and were filled with the anxiety of living life on high alert.
Other reasons - in addition to mine - why and how childhood traumatization occur and continue to affect people in adulthood are many. They include the illness and/or death of a sibling, the divorce of parents which tears a family apart, and children who are made to feel as though they are pawns used by adults to settle adult scores. If those who suffer from such traumas turn to addiction to self-medicate their pain, they are further robbed of internal resources and dignity. When lucky enough to achieve abstinence, they must still learn how to re-enter the world without their drug of choice, with new found sanity, and the ability to make wise choices while resisting old familiar, habitual and destructive behaviors.
I have yet to meet anyone who has been given a free pass after being traumatized, whatever the trauma may have been. For those like myself who are high functioning “survivors,” I believe it’s impossible to move past whatever traumatized us without an early commitment to therapy – and not just in moments of crisis. What needs to be understood is that emotional energy is blocked during times of trauma. Learning how to release the energy which prevented us from developing healthy patterns of behavior while trauma enveloped us is what is needed in order to move forward. Only then is healing possible.
Additional techniques such as Yoga, T’ai Chi, Hypnosis, Bio-Feedback, and 12-Step programs are other healing tools which help to develop, a healthy, sustaining persona.
In the end, though, we are a species with the ability to speak and to communicate through the use of language. Yet, if how we communicate and how we make decisions is clouded by the leaden weight of trauma, the impact of our injury if gone unattended can leave us stuck at the very age we were when the trauma occurred, utilizing survival mechanisms that no longer help us as adults.
The first step towards healing is accepting that what was experienced was not normal. The second is recognizing the devastating affects of decisions made while using childhood defenses to serve adult patterns of behavior, even while failing us time and again. The goal, therefore, is to swallow the pill needed to be swallowed if we are to find the courage to move through and beyond the pain to resiliency and recovery.
Interrupting family dysfunction and treating emotional wounds with the same lack of guilt or embarrassment used to receive treatment for physical wounds is the door that needs to be opened.
Life will not be perfect once that door is opened, but it surely will be significantly better, mindfully wiser and definitely worthier of being lived.
For a myriad of available resources, simply go to your browser and travel the road to resources addressing TRAUMA. They will help you to come out of hiding from whatever may have traumatized you or someone you know. Knowledge gained and truths revealed will free you and make you healthier, more constructive members of society as well as better role models for those who are struggling to find solutions to life’s ever changing challenges.
Here's to proper treatment, health beyond trauma, and an end to the pollution of our seas and our souls.
Posted by Linda Appleman Shapiro at 2:11 AM
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