Why Complex Trauma is called Complex Trauma
Any overwhelming experience or period in life will create some form of fight, flight, freeze or please response. Depending on what you have gone through, and its duration, you will resort to some of these survival responses, retrospectively, in times of crisis.
The fight or flight response is normally more readily available in order to deal with distressing situations. Childhood trauma and complex traumatic situations are often sustained over extended periods, and so are not only the result of ‘one off’ incidents. This renders just one particular survival response, quite often insufficient.
With CPTSD, childhood trauma and complex trauma you will likely see a variety of combinations of the fight, flight, freeze and please responses, and even these combinations could be different depending on the particular person one is with, and the circumstances in which your survival patterns get triggered.
Another good reason for calling it complex trauma!
Survival Response Combinations with Complex Trauma
To present a hypothetical example:
You are a wanted child by your mother but not by your father. Your mother is insecure and in need of love and attention, to feel her own self worth. In contrast to that, your father is often absent and neglectful, and when he is around, belittles you by being overtly abusive and demanding.
The possible patterns you form regarding your mother are; flight, when her neediness and the skilful manipulation that goes with it, becomes overbearing followed by dissociation and a freeze response when her assaults are relentless and your mutual reactions keep triggering each other.
With your father you might go into fight mode first, whenever he becomes physically, verbally, or even sexually abusive. When fight doesn’t yield results, you might go into agreeing or pleasing, in an attempt to avoid any furthering of prolonged abuse. If that proves futile and the abuse continues, the ‘last resort’ step is to dissociate, by moving into a freeze state.
In cases of recurring and long lasting traumatic periods, the complexity of traumatic adaptation patterns, continues.
CPTSD or Complex Trauma is composed of various layers of Dissociation
Later in life when someone exhibits similar behaviour patterns to one of your parents, such as a boss or partner, you might get triggered, and start acting out similar coping patterns that you adopted as a child.
On top of all that, reason will kick in, and you will challenge yourself as to why you still respond with so much complexity and emotion, right up to this present moment of your life. This further compounds and maintains in a fixed way, your emotional state, by way of guilt, self-reproach and blame.
Trauma, especially childhood trauma, is complex by it’s very nature. It cannot be otherwise as it spans periods within life, rather than separate incidents.
Question: Which adult figure, in your childhood, was most abusive to you; and what combination of fight, flight, freeze or please, did you adopt? Leave your comment below.