Post-Traumatic Growth. How to heal Developmental Trauma issues related to Childhood Abuse and Neglect.
The healing process of a client is auto-directive. It is not the therapist who leads the therapeutic process, but the inherent intelligence of the client.
It is the therapist, however, who helps to re-establish boundaries where they have been breached, and to assist in containing feelings in general, and the strongly related emotions of anger, fear and sadness.
Post-Traumatic Stress dramatically breaches boundaries of healthy containment and processing of emotion. It derails feeling, emotion and sensation to such an extent that it becomes destructive rather than constructive.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms and Dissociation
When the overflow of emotion becomes consistently destructive it will provoke the usual coping mechanisms to deal with the overwhelming mental storm. Coping mechanisms can be excessive sports, work or activities; the need for continuous positive affirmation by self or others; overuse of alcohol or other substances and obsessive or excessive emotional behaviour.
The overwhelming emotion and the habituated coping system become co-dependent, making them rotate cyclically and are, in addition, bounded by feelings of shame, blame, guilt, self-pity and self-reproach.
Ongoing Post-Traumatic Stress is destructive and the suffering continues to be repetitive. However, herein also lies the potential of breaking the cycle, growing, and resolving trauma. A re-enacted traumatic pattern can either re-enforce itself, or be turned into a constructive force for finalizing strength.
An Insiders look into Childhood Abuse and Neglect
To put this as an example:
Peter suffered neglect and rejection throughout childhood. As an adult he has trouble moving forward in life and relationship. He hates his family and blames them for his anger and incompetence, and loathes himself. His anger is kept alive by blaming and his sadness collapses in on his sense of self as self-pity, thereby keeping it ongoing.
Even though he suffers from his current situation, he is unable to put any distance between himself and his family or make a change for the better in his working situation. His internal state is clearly reenacted in his outward life.
In this example, which deals with developmental trauma issues, you can see the cyclical locking in responses and reenactment. He does not want to feel angry nor to feel sorry for himself, but at the same time he can’t let go of the blaming of his family, and the anger that goes with it, which would allow him to move on in life. It is a pattern that binds him, repeats itself, and helps him to temporarily manage and cope.
Starting the Process of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Recovery
In our sessions we addressed first, the disconnection of feeling anything, towards connecting where he starts to feel emotion, body-sensation and feeling overwhelmed. Whenever the story takes over i.e. ‘I am not good enough’, ‘I am a loser’, ‘I am never going to move out of this’, I intervene and move his attention to feeling his body-sensations. Thereby we are breaking the reinforcement of destructive patterns and moving into a constructive pathway of owning, containing, processing and building resilience. Educating oneself in how patterns and emotions are kept in place through guilt, blame, shame, self-pity and self-reproach, helps one further, to give less importance to thoughts of that nature.
Once he has managed to increase his level of containment and reduces his resistance to staying with anger, as blaming, and sadness, as self-pity, another pattern starts to emerge. There is a need; a demand to be with anger, with sadness and to project either outward onto his family or inward onto himself. To be without these coping emotions and thoughts would be to feel utterly alone, a result of his seemingly permanent feelings of having been rejected. And that’s where the essential, core pain is located, upon which other patterns are constantly, in a reinforcing way, building.
The continuous sense of rejection and neglect has prevented him from feeling nurtured; and of developing his sense of self and integrity, making him dependent on the affirmation of his family, his work colleagues and others. Even though he is not happy with the situation, he’s in bondage to it.
Dealing with Childhood Trauma – one Step at a Time
It is through the therapist-client relationship that awareness and attention can be brought to the pain of rejection and loneliness, and to nurture that obscure, lost part of oneself. It is bringing awareness to that pain, that lack of bonding and connection from early childhood that the process of healing begins; the process of lessening emotional dependence on others and loving oneself.
When these core insights are integrated, outward circumstance will be allowed to start adjusting accordingly; being able to set clear boundaries; maintaining more distance from the family; being more self-reliant and less dependent; change towards work that is more fulfilling; be more selective in choosing a new partner based on new values; so forth and so on.
Development issues are common among all of us to lesser and larger degrees. In the current understanding of trauma they are referred to as ‘insecure attachment bonds’. They have far reaching consequences on how we interact with ourselves and others. Healing these deeply held patterns can help you in opening up to how you want to live and to express your full potential.