Can you Recover from and be fully Healed of PTSD?
Most clients I see will bring up this question at some point and it is frequently asked on social media pages. It would be easy to give a conclusive “yes” or “no” answer and back it up with valid reasoning and personal experience, but doing so would prevent us from looking at what’s driving that question.
Will I Ever be Free From my Complex Trauma or PTSD?
When suffering the effects of Post-traumatic Stress, this question is most likely to come from a sense of despair. Being in a hyperaroused and/or static state is an unpleasant predicament to be in, and can easily lend itself to the belief that it will never change.
It is important to learn and to see that thoughts of despair and disbelief are part of the emotional state one is in. This understanding can help bring about correct perspective and remove the emphasis on giving too much importance to these thoughts and thus prevent sinking further into a state of depression.
How Complex Trauma is Linked to Early Life Experiences
Trauma and PTSD, in most cases, is not caused by a solitary incident. It is highly linked to developmental trauma issues that have formed characteristic structures; this causes individuals to be more likely to enter situations that can be retraumatizing.
For example, someone who has never been able to fully develop a sense of independence as a child due to an over-authoritative and chiding father figure, will possibly attract a future partner or circumstances where similar dynamics are at play. That partner or institution can be abusive, physically or psychologically, without any expression of resistance or outrage from the individual being abused, due to the embedded conditioning from childhood. To speak out would bring about the anger of the father and, as is the case with children, there is dependence for support, emotionally and physically, from the parents (attachment bonds). Independent thinking and acting are thereby suppressed through fear, and the subsequent stunned silence becomes the status quo.
That same fear can prevent making clear boundaries by speaking up in adult life, while at the same time, all over again, attracting similar abusive situations and people. This is called re-enactment and is the setting for PTSD to develop. PTSD and developmental trauma issues are thus, in most cases, solidly linked.
The Different Depths of Emotional Suffering
You can work with blame, guilt, anger, fear, or overwhelming sadness related to specific events such as rape or a battle incident in a war zone that has triggered your full blown PTSD. Having done solid work with a trusted therapist where you find things have been going uphill you suddenly may find yourself, a year or more later, suffering all over again from similar symptoms. It could even make you wonder whether all the hard work that you have done was worth it.
At this point you must realize that you are very likely coming upon something which is prior to that which you have so far worked on. The emotional residue which surfaces is associated with residual conflict at a deeper level that needs to be resolved – very possibly developmental issues.
Becoming aware of this puts you back in charge rather than returning to despair. It is up to you then how deeply down the rabbit hole you want to go.