PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.
But on Kwajalein, the guards sought to deprive them of something that had sustained them even as all else had been lost: dignity. This self-respect and sense of self-worth, the innermost armament of the soul, lies at the heart of humanness; to be deprived of it is to be dehumanized, to be cleaved from, and cast below, mankind.
Traumatic events destroy the sustaining bonds between individual and community. Those who have survived learn that their sense of self, of worth, of humanity, depends upon a feeling of connection with others. The solidarity of a group provides the strongest protection against terror and despair, and the strongest antidote to traumatic experience. Trauma isolates; the group re-creates a sense of belonging. Trauma shames and stigmatizes; the group bears witness and affirms. Trauma degrades the victim; the group exalts her. Trauma dehumanizes the victim; the group restores her humanity.Repeatedly in the testimony of survivors there comes a moment when a sense of connection is restored by another person’s unaffected display of generosity. Something in herself that the victim believes to be irretrievably destroyed---faith, decency, courage---is reawakened by an example of common altruism. Mirrored in the actions of others, the survivor recognizes and reclaims a lost part of herself. At that moment, the survivor begins to rejoin the human commonality...
Maybe it was our shared trauma, or maybe it was a combination of things, but I felt warmth emenate from my heart and spread throughout my chest.
Many people look at their past and bemoan their mistakes. Those errors in judgment, behavior, hurting others, and the wrong decisions may be what consumes them now. It does not have to be that way, for recovering from a traumatic situation is all a matter of how we think about what happened. It is not so much about what happened to us as what we make of the circumstance.
Whether we are speaking of a flower or an oak tree, of an earthworm or a beautiful bird, of an ape or a person, we will do well, I believe, to recognize that life is an active process, not a passive one. Whether the stimulus arises from within or without, whether the environment is favorable or unfavorable, the behaviors of an organism can be counted on to be in the direction of maintaining, enhancing, and reproducing itself. This is the very nature of the process we call life. This tendency is operative at all times. Indeed, only the presence or absence of this total directional process enables us to tell whether a given organism is alive or dead. The actualizing tendency can, of course, be thwarted or warped, but it cannot be destroyed without destroying the organism. I remember that in my boyhood, the bin in which we stored our winter's supply of potatoes was in the basement, several feet below a small window. The conditions were unfavorable, but the potatoes would begin to sprout—pale white sprouts, so unlike the healthy green shoots they sent up when planted in the soil in the spring. But these sad, spindly sprouts would grow 2 or 3 feet in length as they reached toward the distant light of the window. The sprouts were, in their bizarre, futile growth, a sort of desperate expression of the directional tendency I have been describing. They would never become plants, never mature, never fulfill their real potential. But under the most adverse circumstances, they were striving to become. Life would not give up, even if it could not flourish. In dealing with clients whose lives have been terribly warped, in working with men and women on the back wards of state hospitals, I often think of those potato sprouts. So unfavorable have been the conditions in which these people have developed that their lives often seem abnormal, twisted, scarcely human. Yet, the directional tendency in them can be trusted. The clue to understanding their behavior is that they are striving, in the only ways that they perceive as available to them, to move toward growth, toward becoming. To healthy persons, the results may seem bizarre and futile, but they are life's desperate attempt to become itself. This potent constructive tendency is an underlying basis of the person-centered approach.
Admitting the need for help may also compound the survivor's sense of defeat. The therapists Inger Agger and Soren Jensen, who work with political refugees, describe the case of K, a torture survivor with severe post-traumatic symptoms who adamantly insisted that he had no psychological problems: K...did not understand why he was to talk with a therapist. His problems were medical: the reason why he did not sleep at night was due to the pain in his legs and feet. He was asked by the therapist...about his political background, and K told him that he was a Marxist and that he had read about Freud and he did not believe in any of that stuff: how could his pain go away by talking to a therapist?
Traumatic events, by definition, overwhelm our ability to cope. When the mind becomes flooded with emotion, a circuit breaker is thrown that allows us to survive the experience fairly intact, that is, without becoming psychotic or frying out one of the brain centers. The cost of this blown circuit is emotion frozen within the body. In other words, we often unconsciously stop feeling our trauma partway into it, like a movie that is still going after the sound has been turned off. We cannot heal until we move fully through that trauma, including all the feelings of the event.
I hold the hands of people I never touch.I provide comfort to people I never embrace.I watch people walk into brick walls, the same ones over and over again, and I coax them to turn around and try to walk in a different direction.People rarely see me gladly. As a rule, I catch the residue of their despair. I see people who are broken, and people who only think they are broken. I see people who have had their faces rubbed in their failures. I see weak people wanting anesthesia and strong people who wonder what they have done to make such an enemy of fate. I am often the final pit stop people take before they crawl across the finish line that is marked: I give up.Some people beg me to help.Some people dare me to help.Sometimes the beggars and the dare-ers look the same. Absolutely the same. I'm supposed to know how to tell them apart.Some people who visit me need scar tissue to cover their wounds.Some people who visit me need their wounds opened further, explored for signs of infection and contamination. I make those calls, too.Some days I'm invigorated by it all. Some days I'm numbed.Always, I'm humbled by the role of helper.And, occasionally, I'm ambushed.~ Stephen White Critical Conditions
...repeated trauma in childhood forms and deforms the personality. The child trapped in an abusive environment is faced with formidable tasks of adaptation. She must find a way to preserve a sense of trust in people who are untrustworthy, safety in a situation that is unsafe, control in a situation that is terrifyingly unpredictable, power in a situation of helplessness. Unable to care for or protect herself, she must compensate for the failures of adult care and protection with the only means at her disposal, an immature system of psychological defenses.
You’re not the same. You’re not supposed to be the same. You’re supposed to be different. This isn’t something you will ever forget.
The traumatic moment becomes encoded in an abnormal form of memory, which breaks spontaneously into consciouness, both as flashbacks during waking states and as traumatic nightmares during sleep. Small, seemingly insignificant reminders can also evoke these memories, which often return with all the vividness and emotional force of the original event. Thus, even normally safe environments may come to feel dangerous, for the survivor can never be assured that she will not encounter some reminder of the trauma.
I warned myself against the danger of compassion in this case. How easy it would be to imagine the traumas of childhood that might have deformed her into the moral monster she had become, and then to convince myself that those traumas could be balanced - and their effects reversed - by sufficient acts of kindness.
When you go through a traumatic event, there's a lot of shame that comes with that. A lot of loss of self-esteem. That can become debilitating.
A life of hardship and personal suffering is unavoidable. A person must endure many humiliations of the mind and body, and expect persons whom they trusted to someday betray them. People inevitably witness the death of their loved ones. We also witness acts of depravity committed by criminals that lurk in every society and rouge acts of scandal committed by government officials in charge of the public welfare. A person must nonetheless resist personal discouragement, sadness, dejection, and despondency. I must reach an accord with pain, suffering, and anguish, or forevermore be tortured by reality while constantly seeking to escape from the inescapable agony of being.
She's terrified that all these sensations and images are coming out of her — but I think she's even more terrified to find out why. Carla's description was typical of survivors of chronic childhood abuse. Almost always, they deny or minimize the abusive memories. They have to: it's too painful to believe that their parents would do such a thing.
The damage and invisible scars of emotional abuse are very difficult to heal, because memories are imprinted on our minds and hearts and it takes time to be restored. Imprints of past traumas do not mean a person cannot change their future beliefs and behaviors. as people, we do not easily forget. However, as we heal, grieve, and let go, we become clear-minded and focused to live restore and emotionally healthy.
...some patients resist the diagnosis of a post-traumatic disorder. They may feel stigmatized by any psychiatric diagnosis or wish to deny their condition out of a sense of pride. Some people feel that acknowledging psychological harm grants a moral victory to the perpetrator, in a way that acknowledging physical harm does not.
I had built such a wall between my experiences and how I felt about those experiences that I was incapable of reliving both simultaneously. I could talk about my traumas, even walk through them, but I couldn’t feel them. When I tried to bring it all together, when I tried to remember how I had felt, I disappeared in my own head. My to-do list took on grave importance. The book I read the night before filled my thoughts. Yesterday’s article suddenly called out to be rewritten. I couldn’t get inside myself.
To take such a complex creature, on who was meant for God and is destroyed by sin, and attempt to understand how the development of that creature can be affected by hideous trauma is to attempt the impossible.
…is methodical abuse, often using indoctrination, aimed at breaking the will of another human being. In a 1989 report, the Ritual Abuse Task Force of the L.A. County Commission for Women defined ritual abuse as: “Ritual Abuse usually involves repeated abuse over an extended period of time. The physical abuse is severe, sometimes including torture and killing. The sexual abuse is usually painful,humiliating, intended as a means of gaining dominance over the victim.The psychological abuse is devastating and involves the use of ritual indoctrination. It includes mind control techniques which convey to the victim a profound terror of the cult members …most victims are in a state of terror, mind control and dissociation” (Pg. 35-36)
Coming to terms with incest is not easy. Learning to be a survivor, not a victim, gives new meaning to life
I’ve seen daggers pierce the chest,Children dying in the road,Crawling things hooked and baited,Rapists bound and then castrated,Villains singed in public square.Yet none these sights did make me cringeLike when my Love cut all her hair.
The power we discover inside ourselves as we survive a life-threatening experience can be utilized equally well outside of crisis, too. I am, in every moment, capable of mustering the strength to survive again—or of tapping that strength in other good, productive, healthy ways.
Betrayal is a more subtle, twisted feeling than terror. It burns and eats, but terror stabs right through.
The victims of PTSD often feel morally tainted by their experiences, unable to recover confidence in their own goodness, trapped in a sort of spiritual solitary confinement, looking back at the rest of the world from beyond the barrier of what happened. They find themselves unable to communicate their condition to those who remained at home, resenting civilians for their blind innocence.The Moral Injury, New York Times. Feb 17, 2015
It was only high school after all, definitely one of the most bizarre periods in a person’s life. How anyone can come through that time well adjusted on any level is an absolute miracle.
Blame is a Defense Against PowerlessnessBetrayal trauma changes you. You have endured a life-altering shock, and are likely living with PTSD symptoms— hypervigilance, flashbacks and bewilderment—with broken trust, with the inability to cope with many situations, and with the complete shut down of parts of your mind, including your ability to focus and regulate your emotions.Nevertheless, if you are unable to recognize the higher purpose in your pain, to forgive and forget and move on, you clearly have chosen to be addicted to your pain and must enjoy playing the victim.And the worst is, we are only too ready to agree with this assessment! Trauma victims commonly blame themselves. Blaming oneself for the shame of being a victim is recognized by trauma specialists as a defense against the extreme powerlessness we feel in the wake of a traumatic event. Self-blame continues the illusion of control shock destroys, but prevents us from the necessary working through of the traumatic feelings and memories to heal and recover.
Many deeply hidden memories have come flooding back. The important message here though is that it is possible to heal and survive. Everyone has survived their own kind of emotional or mental trauma. We all have our inner fears and misreplaced feelings of guilt.
There is something about being loved and protected by a parent (or guardian) knowing that I can be loved for who I am, not what I can do, or might one day become. Unfortunately it’s not usually like this in every single situation. From time to time, my parents made mistakes during my childhood. Possibly I was the mistake, or unwanted. But I don’t know. I had every material thing that I could have ever wanted, but there was still something missing, as if I felt distanced from my parents, or misunderstood, in the ways that they treated me. At times, I had felt completely loved and accepted by my parents, but for one reason or another, they were unable to care for me, provide for me, in some ways that would have been very important. Sometimes I feel like I am trying to make up for the experiences in life that were absent when I was a child.
It's often said that a traumatic experience early in life marks a person forever, pulls her out of line, saying, Stay there. Don't move.
...a freeze response (dissociation, collapse, numbing, paralysis, deadness) during the incident that threatened your life or limb. Sometimes it's difficult for people to understand that this is really survival response...
Fear and anxiety affect decision making in the direction of more caution and risk aversion... Traumatized individuals pay more attention to cues of threat than other experiences, and they interpret ambiguous stimuli and situations as threatening (Eyesenck, 1992), leading to more fear-driven decisions. In people with a dissociative disorder, certain parts are compelled to focus on the perception of danger. Living in trauma-time, these dissociative parts immediately perceive the present as being just like the past and emergency emotions such as fear, rage, or terror are immediately evoked, which compel impulsive decisions to engage in defensive behaviors (freeze, flight, fight, or collapse). When parts of you are triggered, more rational and grounded parts may be overwhelmed and unable to make effective decisions.