Wednesday 22 November 2017

Possible Signs of Unresolved Trauma #trauma

What is trauma? When most people think of trauma, they think of things like natural disasters, witnessing or experiencing violence, or the experiences of soldiers in combat, and they would certainly be right. However, trauma can also occur from less obvious experiences, such as bullying, growing up in a dysfunctional home, negative experiences at school, or other experiences that we deem “part of the human experience”.  One of the leading experts in the field of trauma, Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk, defines trauma as being any event in which the central nervous system is overwhelmed, and we are unable to integrate or process what is happening. Unresolved trauma changes both the way we remember and react to events in our lives. When trauma occurs during our childhood, it can greatly affect our development in ways that as adults we are often not even aware of.

Just because someone who suffered trauma blocks out (consciously or unconsciously) what has happened, it doesn’t mean that he or she won’t feel the effects from it.
Peter A. Levine, Ph.D., who has treated and researched trauma for over 45 years, says,
"The effects of unresolved trauma can be devastating. It can affect our habits and outlook on life, leading to addictions and poor decision-making. It can take a toll on our family life and interpersonal relationships. It can trigger real physical pain, symptoms, and disease. And it can lead to a range of self destructive behaviors."

People may enter therapy aware of some of the following symptoms, but they may not realise these complications are suggestive of unresolved trauma issues:

1.  Addictive behaviors – excessively turning to drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, gambling as a way to push difficult emotions and upsetting trauma content further away.

2. An inability to tolerate conflicts with others – having a fear of conflict, running from conflict, avoiding conflict, maintaining skewed perceptions of conflict.

3. An inability to tolerate intense feelings, preferring to avoid feeling by any number of ways.

4. An innate belief that they are bad, worthless, without value or importance.

5. Black and white thinking, all or nothing thinking, even if this approach ends up harming themselves.

6. Chronic and repeated suicidal thoughts and feelings.

7. Disorganized attachment patterns – having a variety of short but intense relationships, refusing to have any relationships, dysfunctional relationships, frequent love/hate relationships.

8. Dissociation, spacing out, losing time, missing time, feeling like you are two completely different people (or more than two).

9.  Eating disorders – anorexia, bulimia, obesity, etc.

10. Excessive sense of self-blame – taking on inappropriate responsibility as if everything is their fault, making excessive apologies.

11. Inappropriate attachments to mother figures or father figures, even with dysfunctional or unhealthy people.

12.   Intense anxiety and repeated panic attacks.

13. Intrusive thoughts, upsetting visual images, flashbacks, body memories / unexplained body pain, or distressing nightmares.

14.   Ongoing, chronic depression.

15.   Repeatedly acting from a victim role in current day relationships.

16.   Repeatedly taking on the rescuer role, even when inappropriate to do so.

17.   Self-harm, self-mutilation, self-injury, self-destruction.

18. Suicidal actions and behaviors, failed attempts to suicide.

19. Taking the perpetrator role / angry aggressor in relationships.

20. Unexplained but intense fears of people, places, things.

Friday 17 November 2017

Grief: Understanding The Process #grief #loss #pain

This is a topic very close to my heart. I started losing loved ones when I was nine years old (My Mother). I wasn't offered any help or counselling. 10 years later I lost my father too. Again, no support.

Since then I have lost my grandparents (one wasn't actually a loss), and in recent years my only full sibling

Two months ago I lost my spouse. We were "estranged" for want of a better word but that didn't stop us being the very best of friends.

Grief is cruel. I hope this article might help others.


Grief will make a new person out of you, if it doesn't kill you in the making.  ~ Stephanie Ericsson

Few of us are prepared to face the excruciating pain associated with the death of a loved one. We think we cannot bear it, that to feel such sorrow is abnormal, as if we're going mad. Yet loss is a natural part of life's cycle of growth, decay and rebirth. We know that when someone dearly loved is lost, certain feelings and reactions will be experienced by most people. Still, there is no rule book that works for everyone, because how we experience grief ~ and for how long ~ is uniquely personal and distinct.Finding your way through grief successfully requires some knowledge and understanding of the grief process, and a willingness to do the work of mourning.

Grief is a normal yet highly personal response to loss. Neither an illness nor a pathological condition, it is a natural process that, depending on how it is managed and understood, can lead to healing and personal growth.

Not all losses are related to death, and not all grief reactions stem from the death of a loved one. Grief can be felt in anticipation of a loss, as you mourn all the secondary losses experienced in the course of an illness. Life transitions ~ even joyful ones ~ entail loss and can engender grief. Significant, life-changing events can shatter our assumption that we are safe in this world. Still other losses are ambiguous ones, in that the actual loss may not be evident or clear (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, addiction, incarceration, soldiers missing in action). Losses can be tangible (readily apparent and obvious), or intangible and more symbolic in nature. 

Grief is extremely powerful. It can catch you totally unprepared, knock you off balance and shake you to the core. It can be painful beyond words — physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually — and it can change your life completely. Grief serves to remind you how fragile life is and how vulnerable you are to loss. It can make your present life seem meaningless, and take away your hope for the future.

Understanding the process and knowing what to expect can help you cope. Your pattern of progressing through your grief will be uneven, unpredictable and unique, with no specific time frame. But the more you learn about grief, the better you can cope with it. In the beginning it will seem as if your grief is running you, but in the end, you can learn to run your grief. When you understand what is happening to you and have some idea of what to expect, you will feel more in control of your grief and will be in a better position to take care of yourself, to find your own way through this loss and to begin rebuilding your life.

The worst kind of grief is the grief you’re experiencing now. Don’t compare your grief with anyone else’s, and know that, at this moment, your loss is the worst thing that could happen to anyone. Acknowledge that your loss is worthy of grief, and accept that you must endure the very real feelings of sorrow.

Grief work is very hard and takes enormous energy. Much as you may want to do so, there is no way to avoid this grief of yours. You cannot wait it out; you won’t get over it quickly, and nobody can do it for you. It’s called grief work because finding your way through grief is hard work, and if you put it off, like a messy chore it will sit there waiting to be done. And the longer it waits, the harder it becomes.

Effective mourning is not done alone. Unfortunately, friends and family members may be finished with your grief long before you are finished with your need to talk about it, and unexpressed feelings can become distorted. It is important that you find an understanding, nonjudgmental listener with whom you can openly acknowledge your feelings and experiences, express and work through your pain, and come to terms with your loss. If friends and family aren’t as available as you need them to be, or if your need exceeds their capacity to help, consider attending a support group or seeking help from a bereavement counselor.

How grief is expressed varies among individuals. Everyone grieves differently, according to their age, gender, personality, culture, value system, past experience with loss, and available support. Grieving differs among members of the same family, as each person’s relationship with and attachment to the deceased family member varies. How you will react to this death depends on how you’ve responded to other crises in your life; on what was lost when this death happened (not only the life of the person who died, but certain aspects of your own life as well: your way of life; who you were in your relationship with that person and who you planned to be; your hopes and dreams for the future); on who died (spouse, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, relative, friend or other; how you lived together and what that person meant to you); on the person’s role in your family; on when the death occurred (at what point in the life cycle: yours as well as that of the person who died); and on how (the circumstances surrounding the death, and how the death occurred).

Certain manifestations of grief are typical, common and normal. Although grief is as individual as you are, some feelings and reactions are universal. Their intensity will vary, and they’ll happen in no particular order. You may experience all, some or none of them; they may happen only once or many times, sometimes several years after your loved one’s death. Respect your own feelings and reactions. Take time to look, listen, experience and understand them. They are nature’s way of getting your attention.

Grief is a lifelong process. While the agonizing pain of loss diminishes in intensity over time, it’s never gone completely. It is absolutely normal to feel the aftershock of loss for the rest of your life. Grieving is not a reaction to a single event, like an illness that can be cured and from which you will recover. It’s more like a deep wound that eventually heals and closes, but whose terrible scar remains and still can hurt at times. Sometimes the loss itself is ongoing, since its source is irreversible and continues to be present throughout your life, with no forseeable end. (Examples include intellectual and developmental disabilities; chronic, degenerative conditions; lifelong mental health issues; infertility and involuntary childlessness; loss of vocation, calling or faith; and irreversible loss of functionality.)

Death may have ended your loved one’s life, but it did not end your relationship. The bond you have will continue and endure throughout your lifetime, depending on how you take your memories and your past with you into the future. Many grievers report maintaining an active connection with their deceased loved ones by talking to them, dreaming about them, sensing their presence or feeling watched over and protected by them. It is normal and healthy to foster these continuing bonds, as you decide how your loved one will be remembered, memorialized and included in your family and community life.

Time does not heal grief. Time is neutral. It is not the passage of time alone that heals. It is what you do with time that matters. Now that this death has happened to you, you must decide what you can do with your grief. Grieving is an active process, not a passive one, and recovery is a choice. Coping with grief involves many courses of action, and as you find your way through this journey, you will learn how to use this grieving time to help you heal yourself.

There is no right or wrong way to do the work of grieving. There is only your way, and you must discover it for yourself. There is no magic formula, no short cut, and no easy way out. Grief is like a long, winding tunnel whose entrance is closed behind you, and the only way out is through.


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