the art of being

PTSD

By DEBORAH CHANDLER, PhD
Posted 1/27/21

PTSD is the acronym for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

Understanding this condition is important for understanding what we go through when we are confronted with overwhelming …

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the art of being

PTSD

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PTSD is the acronym for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

Understanding this condition is important for understanding what we go through when we are confronted with overwhelming circumstances.

Trauma shatters our confidence in a predictably safe world.  The on-going effects of the trauma absorb us in the past.  We are caught in an on-going battle to stop a recurrence.  The goal in overcoming trauma is to reduce the intensity of our responses and to have the trauma become a story, a memory among others.

Our emotional responses to trauma include feeling overwhelmed and also feeling disconnected. 

Our cognitive processes are also impacted when trauma occurs.  We may feel a sense of betrayal, guilt about actions taken or not taken and survivors' guilt.  The ability to mentally organize ourselves and our environment may be erratic.

Our physical responses to trauma may include irritability, sleep disturbance, and the reliance upon substances for self-medication.

Our relationships may suffer as we withdraw, experience decreased trust, chronic rage, and guilt.  Trauma puts static between us and our connections.

Overall, I think of trauma as residing in the cells of our being, influencing everything we encounter without and within.

From my own experience, I identify with this range of trauma responses.

My traumas were of mundane origins.  I believe both my parents were survivors of family trauma and inflicted their fears and inhibitions upon their children.  In the universal dance of families, I think this is the norm.  Most of our problems, dysfunctions in life derive from these mundane family traumas.

As a nation, we have just passed through a traumatizing period during which our stability was shaken by political uncertainty and fears for the steadiness of our government.  I have never been so aware of how our government provides a holding-environment in which we function.  I had taken the benevolence of the governmental embrace for granted.  I join others in a sigh of relief that the functioning of our government is being restored to the more usual dramas of competing interests.

On a practical level, I’ve noticed that after nearly missing a car accident, I feel my body vibrating.  I’ve just experienced something that destroyed my sense of safety of driving in a safe, predictable world.  Now, for the next few weeks, I’m hyper-alert.  I flinch as each car comes close.  This is PTSD in action.  It takes a while for calmness and confidence to be restored, for my entire system to relax.

Trauma can be resolved.  Of course, first comes recognition.  I’m aware that my relationships become tentative when I’m triggered by feelings of betrayal or guilt. My responses are withdrawn, seeking refuge within. These are old reaction patterns that were established by conditional acceptance.  If I were a good little girl, I was a good little girl.  Under circumstances where I judge my actions questionable, I again feel that shame of being the bad girl.

To resolve these traumatic impacts, it helps to engage in an active process.  This may include an interactive dynamic in which the trauma is verbalized with another.  The goal of such sharing reduces the intensity of the trauma and returns us to a belief in a predictably safe world.  For me, I need to re-engage and find out that the judgment is not so harsh or even, not at all.  I learn, again, that I am not the bad girl conjured up by my parent's fears.  I am indeed a loveable child of the universe.

So we all live in a world where we feel the impact of trauma from our past, from our environment, and from our current experiences.  Brief psychotherapy can mitigate the intensity and restore balance.  When my heart is hard and my fears are rampant, I know I have some trauma work to do. 

Dr. Deborah Chandler is a licensed psychologist in private practice in South Fallsburg, New York. She enjoys discovering the connections between psychology and spirituality.  Deborah welcomes dialogue with readers of the Art of Being:  dchandlerphd@gmail.com

 

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