The Identity of PTSD

The Identity of PTSD

Depression is one of the leading mental illnesses of our times, although only 10% of those affected actively seek help. I would say in most cases, depression is directly linked to Trauma and PTSD.

Post-Traumatic Stress has been around for eons; it is not something new; however, there still seems to be a taboo, denial or sense that it is unacceptable around it, both on the individual and the collective level. Admitting that one needs help on an emotional and mental level is a big step to make. Making that first step and setting the intention to heal is the catalyst to the whole process of finding a sense of peace once more in oneself.

So why then is it so difficult to do?

Dissociation in Mental Illness and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

When we go through trauma we disconnect from part of ourselves. We give up a sense of our integrity in order to survive; in order to deal with the overwhelming surge that floods our bodies and minds. To be overwhelmed by an incidental or developmental trauma is to have no control and to be in a state of helpless vulnerability. That is the first step in disconnecting from your integral self. The emotions that follow from there, as attempts to deal with this overwhelming force, are anger, fear, sadness, grief, guilt and shame, blame, self-reproach, and quite often, a mixture of all of these.

Trauma disconnects us from an integrated sense of self. It is a splitting of one’s identity, also called “dissociation”. On a corresponding physical and energetic level, it is referred to as a trauma vortex in Somatic Experiencing therapies and an energy cyst in Somato Emotional Release.

When a state of disconnection and Post-Traumatic Stress persists, the disconnected state becomes an identity unto itself and thereby becomes very difficult to move out of and away from. The fear of reconnecting, by working through the trauma and addressing the overwhelming helplessness, also crucially means the dying of the “trauma- identity”; therefore, we rather tend to prefer staying with the familiarity of the known, even if it is painful and destructive, than face the unknown and potential healing.

Let me put forward an example by which to clarify this:

The Ramifications of Developmental Trauma and Developmental Trauma Disorder

Carry’s parents split up when she was just two years old and she has, since then, lived with her mother. As her parents were not on good terms she hardly saw her dad who, by then, also happened to have moved far away. In her current life as an adult she has had trouble maintaining steady personal relationships. She falls very easily in love and is prone to getting attached. The loving and attachment comes with a fair amount of possessiveness and jealousy out of a fear of losing that person, which is what tends to happen in the end. Carry is convinced that finding the perfect partner will solve her problems and sees most men as being uncommitted.

This is a classic example of a developmental issue. Carry’s initial trauma of abandonment and loss fuels emotions of fear and attachment. In her attempt to fill up the gap formed by the trauma, she projects it outwardly in trying to find the perfect partner. However, the dynamics of the relationship are still based on a past traumatic tragedy which sets her up for a reenactment of her initial trauma on an emotional level. Blaming men for being unreliable keeps her “trauma-identity” alive.

Dive deeper into this topic by reading

The Trauma Essential Series

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  1. Bhaven  January 12, 2016

    A wonderful compact and clear informative article.Thank you!

    • Roland  January 12, 2016

      Thank you Bhaven.

  2. Shar  January 12, 2016

    What if something so terrible happened that (as a victim), you saw the abuse happening to yourself from across the room – like it was something you saw on television – until one day years later, you saw something so horrible that reminded you of your own trauma and those old memories were suddenly in 3-D, up-close and personal every time you closed your eyes, and you continually relive it? What kind of un-dissociation is that? Because I would like to have that back.

    • Roland  January 12, 2016

      Hi Shar. Thanks for sharing. Often both parts are present after a traumatic experience. Some go through this from moment to moment others have a delayed response – like yourself. There is the freeze or dissociation part, which can be that you perceive what happens to you from the outside – like a movie. Then there is the flashbacks, overwhelm part where it is all and continuously real-time, as you mentioned in the end of your comment. Both are part and parcel of the trauma and rotate-reinforce each other. The way out is the way in – which is often to reach out for help, either group or private counseling.


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