Putting Trauma and Abuse…back in the past
Have you experienced a physically or emotionally traumatic event that, try as you might, feels impossible to put behind you?
Perhaps you experienced (or think you might have experienced) abuse or trauma in childhood that’s been affecting your life in different ways ever since?
When we experience trauma or abuse it can be really hard to make sense of the physical, emotional and psychological effects. Maybe you’re dealing with visual flashbacks of the event or (more confusingly) emotional flashbacks, where you re-experience past emotions in your present life that feel way out of proportion with what’s happening around you.
This can affect all areas of our life and feel completely overwhelming. You might find you’re avoiding doing certain things – like going out or forming (or keeping relationships) because you don’t know if you can control your reactions and you just don’t feel safe.
Safety is huge when we’ve experienced trauma or abuse because the very nature of these events can shake your sense of feeling safe in the world ( physically and emotionally) and trust can become incredibly hard. Fortunately, we know a lot about trauma and post-trauma responses now and there are tried and tested ways to help you put trauma and abuse back where they belong – in the past. Read on to see how counselling can help you do this.
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I wasn’t sure how talking about my problems would help resolve them. I was suffering from post traumatic stress but since my counselling I feel a lot more relaxed. I also feel more in control because I understand the problems I was facing. Your explanations helped me understand my feelings, after the ordeal I went through.
Female client, Cardiff
The difference between trauma in adulthood and childhood
If you’ve experienced a traumatic event as an adult it can interrupt your sense of safety and overwhelm your emotions. Work may be needed to help you make sense of what happened and find ‘solid ground’ and security once more. If you’ve experienced trauma as a child (which can result from emotional, physical or sexual abuse) the effects are more complicated. This is because the trauma occurred while you were developing into adulthood so vital stages can feel like they’ve been missed.
The work is similar for both types of trauma and I work from a position of safety. Babette Rothschild (a leading psychotherapist in the trauma field) likens it to a bottle of soda (or pop!) that has been shaken. If you take the lid off in one go it’s likely to explode. But by opening the lid in stages the pressure is released.
Trauma treatment used to focus on the re-telling of trauma to get you a place where you could talk about it without feeling overwhelmed. This doesn’t work for everyone and risks you being re-traumatised in the process. Yes, the aim of the work is to release the emotional and physical response but there are different ways of going about it. Read on to find out how I work with trauma.
How We’ll Work
In our session’s we’ll work in these five ways;
1) Understanding the trauma response:-
We’ll explore the biology of trauma – what actually happens in your brain and body during and after a traumatic event. This includes understanding the parts of the brain involved in trauma (the amygdala and the hippocampus) and your nervous system responses. Don’t worry – I won’t over complicate it and survivors or trauma find this information incredibly helpful.
2) Working on your physical and emotional safety:-
We’ll look at and use various techniques to help you start to feel grounded and safe in your body again – including breathing exercises and mindfulness. We’ll go at your pace with safety in mind, tuning in with what’s right for you.
3) Identifying the effects of trauma in your body:-
When you start to feel more grounded we’ll begin to look at what you’re actually experiencing in your body – not the emotions or the thoughts you have about them but the sensations themselves. Learning to bring your attention to what’s happening can give you more control and allow the symptoms of trauma to pass. This can take time and practice.
4) Making sense of what happened:-
At this point you may be finding a clearer understanding of what happened and how it affected you. The practice of the techniques may be giving you greater control over your symptoms as well as a sense of safety. And your improved awareness of thoughts, feelings and emotions can mean you can start thinking about (and talking about) the event without it feeling so overwhelming.
5) (After abuse) Finding new ways forward:-
With a greater sense of safety and clarity, we can start to look at old patterns of thoughts, emotions and ways of acting and relating which served you in the past but don’t help now with your healing and recovery. We can work on any of these that are important to you, to help you make new choices and find new ways of moving forward.
If you feel this could work for you, please get in touch.
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