Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Emotional Abuse
To be alive is to be able to feel emotion. Emotion can come in many shades though; from the darkness of hatred or self-loathing to the brightness of being in love or enjoying a sunset.
I believe we have the assumption though, that emotion is either good or bad, positive or negative, and I would like to explore this a little more with you, as it is one of the pillars in resolving trauma that needs addressing in order to help change the perspective and thereby, to heal.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Channeling our Energy Healthily
In essence we have four core emotions: Anger, Fear, Sadness and Joy. The other emotions derive from these, at the core. For example: grief, mourning or self-pity are part of a sadness response; hatred, frustration, blame, self-reproach, decisiveness or power of will are part of anger energy; compassion, affection and pleasure belong to joy; and anguish, anxiety, carefulness and alertness come from fear.
Emotion itself is neither good or bad, positive or negative, but can be expressed either destructively or constructively.
When we are overwhelmed by emotion it either turns inward through suppression or overflows outwardly. Think of blame and hatred as the overflowing response of anger, and self-reproach as anger acting inwardly on the sense of self.
To start addressing emotion in trauma-work is to create a healthy frame-work and a new perspective on how we perceive it qualitatively. As emotion is often negatively tainted with the overwhelming experience of trauma, let’s be aware that emotion itself can be either utilized destructively or constructively.
Looking at Emotional and Sexual Abuse and Healing PTSD
This surely is a challenge, because it means moving away from blame, guilt, self-reproach, self-pity, hatred, pursuit of pleasure, anxiety etcetera, and starting to establish a new frame-work for owning emotion that is constructive.
To clarify this I will give an example: Amy suffered an incident of sexual abuse when she was a teenager. Back then she found no support from her family and friends who reacted to her experience with disbelief. From then on she has kept her feelings of anger to herself and beats herself up for having trusted others with her intimate feelings of pain.
This example shows how anger is kept inwardly after a traumatic experience and turns into self-reproach. In the work that follows I encourage Amy to express the anger she feels towards the abuser and ultimately to experience the feeling of anger as a felt sensation in the body. Once the anger is fully owned the grieving over the experience naturally starts which marks the healing and completion process and consigns the experience to the past.
Owning one’s Boundaries within Containment
It is of vital importance to explain firstly: that anger, sadness or fear can be healthy responses, before starting to express and own them. The constructive response of anger, in this example, is to help (re)set her boundaries, her identity and sense of self, by vocalizing it. Equally so, with the grieving process; a constructive ‘sadness response’ which starts when self-pity, fed by anger, is released.
The expression and owning of anger assists in completing the fight and flight activation of the nervous system.
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