What Does It Mean To Confront Trauma?

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zazu

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What Does It Mean To Confront Trauma?
« on: December 07, 2014, 11:57:36 PM »
It the practical sense, I mean. It may be a dumb question, but the answer is proving elusive.

So many times we're told we must confront trauma in order to heal, which makes sense if we are avoiding it. But with the waves of EF's, intrusive memories and constant triggers, how many of us are truly avoiding? The trauma, the memories and the emotions of the trauma seem to be with us all the time. In my case, at least, there's no hiding from them.

Right now my cold weather/December EF's are giving me a tough time. I know why I have these flashbacks, I do remember the troubling details all too well, and re-experience the emotions of it again and again. Is there something else that goes into confronting  it? This seems a bit like the shame issue for me, in which I felt I was missing something (I was - Sandals unearthed it by mentioning innocence and the tendency to blame the child-self, which I had been unconsciously doing). Is there something else one is meant to find out when confronting trauma? Some underlying meaning that has to be absorbed?

This comes to mind because I've discovered that I can either write about the bare, factual details of what happened, or write about how it felt - but not at the same time. Trying to write about both causes a massive freeze response. I can talk about both at the same time, but putting it in writing is something else. So, I wrote a blog post that skipped the details and just talked about the feelings, or other things that were related to the feelings. It may have not made a lot of sense, but it was fairly cathartic. One of my blog followers was understanding, but commented again that I needed to confront the trauma. A Google search on the subject turned up things like acceptance of the traumatic events. This is confusing, as I've been accepting the impact of these events for 30 years now, only to get whacked again every December without feeling a bit stronger.  ???

My husband (who's heard the details more often than he'd like) read the post. I thought maybe he could see something in it that I couldn't (perhaps coming from the unknown self we talked about in the shame thread) and he said that the underlying feeling he got was a profound sense of  abandonment, backed up by the descriptions of isolated landscapes, ghost towns and abandoned houses that were part of the story. I hadn't actually meant to address abandonment in the post, and never really linked the traumatic events to feeling abandoned, but there it is.
The unknown self seems to be broadcasting "abandonment" loud and clear, so that's one thing.

Is there more to it? What else can be done to confront it successfully?
« Last Edit: December 08, 2014, 01:31:56 AM by zazu »

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marycontrary

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Re: What Does It Mean To Confront Trauma?
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2014, 01:54:09 PM »
Wow, I certainly feel for you and I have been there. The symptoms are literally like the Devil nipping at one's heels. I will explain my take on it.

EFs are unprocessed memory chunks. That is, the verbal and emotional components have not been integrated. So you have these unpredictable and painful bits invade your consciousness. Facing the trauma is integrating these, so that you can think and talk about the trauma without dissociating.

Hope this helps.

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Badmemories

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Re: What Does It Mean To Confront Trauma?
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2014, 05:00:17 PM »
 :wave:

I only have My experiences to go by but for me I knew about it on a intellectual level, but I had not processed it on a feelings level. When I process it on a feelings level then I seem to get a cathartic release. I think It also helps to reframe it... I mean look at how the inner child felt and sooth the inner child. So many times I see it as the inner child felt it also, but by reframing it as an adult I see how the inner child was not guilty of anything. I think that relieves the inner child.

Keep on keeping on! ;) :hug:

Re: What Does It Mean To Confront Trauma?
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2014, 06:11:31 PM »
I wonder if this whole idea about "confronting" trauma isn't just pseudo-pop-psychology. I think it's how lots of people think it's like. You're either in denial about something (which causes problems), or you've "confronted" the issue and then hey presto, the problems are gone.

For non-PTSD traumas, sometimes that method does work, doesn't it? First of all, you shy away from the traumatic memory, and you carry this pain and shame and so on within you. Then you "confront" it, i.e. you dare remember and face the memory head-on, and things get better.

If I understand this right, though, PTSD-type traumatic events get memorized as a junk-heap of disjointed memory fragments. And the work is to integrate this into a whole - to take those fragments and smoosh them together into a narrative. So you start out at a huge disadvantage already. There isn't "a memory" you can confront. There are bits and pieces, but not one memory. (IF I'm getting this right. It might be only true for PTSD and less true for CPTSD.)

From what you say, Zazu, it's a bit like that for you - like having a movie that's split up into the pictures track and and the soundtrack: you've got the facts, and you've got the emotions, but you can't yet have both at the same time. Like a see-saw. And you'd be absolutely thrilled to have both, but the journey is kind of slow and complicated, given that traumatic memories have to be tackled with much the same care as live wires. Me, if I just go "oh YES, I'm confronting ALL THE TRAUMA right NOW!! See me handle ALL THE TRAUMA!!", usually what I get is a BZZZZ noise and a burnt smell and then I stand there looking like this  :blink: and my hair stands up on end.

All in all, I think we've got a good reason for proceeding slowly, with as much care as we think is warranted.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2014, 06:16:13 PM by schrödinger's cat »

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marycontrary

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Re: What Does It Mean To Confront Trauma?
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2014, 11:28:00 PM »
I will speak from my standpoint. One of the keys for integrating these fragments is sitting with them long enough to form a cohesive narrative. The thing is, these fragments are like sharp glass, and just like pulling a bandaid off of hairy, sun burnt skin, it is agonizing as *, so it is more stress for a stressed out person. And the fragments  will keep coming up over and over, until they get integrated.

Re: What Does It Mean To Confront Trauma?
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2014, 08:59:06 AM »
That's a good metaphor - gingerly picking up sharp-edged pieces of glass and then slowly putting a broken jar back together.

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Butterfly

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Re: What Does It Mean To Confront Trauma?
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2014, 11:21:31 AM »
Great thougths here and word pictures insightful.

Zazu, the subject - confront trauma - to me means to realize it exists and to work through the tangled mess of feelings and issues it causes. It's what separates me cPTSD from uPDm who is too stuck to realize she has a problem otherwise her PD would be cPTSD.

The content of your post - integrating memories and processing things - for me that's just taking time to work through and as others have said its a process. It's not something that's happening at once but little bits at a time. Whether I'll ever talk about the all feelings and memories at the same time is not important for me. Recognizing I even *have* feelings and processing them into something I can deal with and file away so it's no longer interfering with my daily life is my focus. Maybe that's not what I'm supposed to be doing with my feelings but that's what's working for me.

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zazu

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Re: What Does It Mean To Confront Trauma?
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2014, 11:33:44 PM »
Thanks for the replies and advice, everyone. Thanks for being so understanding. :hug:
It's been a rough couple of days - the anniversary of the first traumatic December event was yesterday, and there are a series of bad memories leading up to the final December trauma on Christmas day. (I haven't been able to enjoy Christmas for more than 30 years - only sort of cope with a fake smile...but not very well.)

So, a cohesive narrative? That makes sense. I've always imagined that there was a narrative quality to the events and feelings, but thinking about it more deeply, I realize that when I try to think about or re-experience one feeling, another jumps in and tries to muscle the first one out of place. Or when trying to think of the effect a specific memory had, my mind throws a lot of other memories at me instead. So despite believing there is a cohesive narrative there, it's very possible there is not. 

Ugh. Probably it was a foolish thing to do, but I deliberately triggered myself with music last night (well, I was already in a bad way so...I thought I would try to re-feel and process one set of  memories since I was going to be triggered anyway). Well, it was awful, as any of you can imagine, but it did produce one realization. Thinking about the underlying meaning of the event - say, if this were a novel, there would be some meaning to it, not just "stuff that happened" - well, imagining there was an underlying meaning,  it suddenly came to me with a shock that there was a moment when I knew my family were utter hypocrites. I just hadn't fully processed it or understood it (I was only 10, after all), but instead just buried it for years. The reality hit me with a thud. Probably I had smoke coming from my ears as my brain cells shorted out, so I hear you, Schrodinger's Cat!

There are a few other things that may be underlying meanings that I drew from the original traumas: that a woman is never safe, that a child is never safe, that adults cannot be trusted, that adults will not help you, that no one will come to your rescue, and that you are totally on your own. Ooh, what a fatalistic bunch of ideas, eh! :blink: And while I suspect these ideas come from that time, I have not quite linked them emotionally to the events and emotions that inspired them.

Perhaps that's what needs to be done to "confront" it?

When going through the "feeling" memories of that time, I recalled being so disturbed by the story of Bluebeard, his young wife and the forbidden key bleeding in her pocket. The image haunted me so badly (I had a book of fairy tales I was reading back then, when the incidents happened) that it's really mixed up in the other disturbed emotions of the time.
It's only the last couple of days that I made the link between the story of Bluebeard and the initial events that triggered the trauma. Anyone else might have seen it (like the "abandonment" issue my H detected in my blog post) but somehow, that too slipped right past me. Like my unconscious knew, but my conscious mind didn't understand, no matter how upsetting it was.

Perhaps all this stuff really does need to be linked together like a puzzle, or a novel, with all its underlying meaning in place.  Maybe it's too late this year, but I keep hoping to get to an emotional state where I can enjoy the autumn/winter holidays again.

Thanks for all your help, y'all. Thank you so much.  :hug: :hug:


Re: What Does It Mean To Confront Trauma?
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2014, 07:15:58 PM »
Now I'm kind of worried if I said the right thing. I mean the thing with the narrative. It's really and truly only something I read about ten years ago in a book about PTSD. So it might or might not apply to CPTSD. It makes sense to me, granted, but still... Please, please be cautious, yes? What you're going through sounds so difficult already, I wouldn't want something I said to make matters worse for you.

Even so, I'm glad you got an epiphany out of your EF. I like your way of seeing things - "since I'm going to be miserable anyway, I can at least be miserable in a way that's useful". THAT is gumption.  :applause:   :hug:

What you say about your memory souns very familiar. It's like my memory is fragmented into layers and aspects and facets and fragments. I have a kind of narrative for some things, but its emotional aspect is as yet rather thinned out and grey-ish. I think most emotions are as yet detached from it.

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zazu

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Re: What Does It Mean To Confront Trauma?
« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2014, 01:20:08 AM »
Now I'm kind of worried if I said the right thing. I mean the thing with the narrative. It's really and truly only something I read about ten years ago in a book about PTSD. So it might or might not apply to CPTSD. It makes sense to me, granted, but still... Please, please be cautious, yes? What you're going through sounds so difficult already, I wouldn't want something I said to make matters worse for you.

Even so, I'm glad you got an epiphany out of your EF. I like your way of seeing things - "since I'm going to be miserable anyway, I can at least be miserable in a way that's useful". THAT is gumption.  :applause:   :hug:

What you say about your memory souns very familiar. It's like my memory is fragmented into layers and aspects and facets and fragments. I have a kind of narrative for some things, but its emotional aspect is as yet rather thinned out and grey-ish. I think most emotions are as yet detached from it.

Oh, not to worry, SC. Obviously there are going to be many perspectives on these things - if there was one, definitive cure for PTSD/C-PTSD we would all be fine by now, eh? And I take full responsibility for any fool-headed idea I undertake, though I would not necessarily recommend that to anyone else.

And yes, that practical aspect...make your suffering worthwhile!  ;D

I do thinks it's helped, actually. Today was much better. Hopefully the trend will continue. Hopefully you will feel better in time, too.  :hug:

Re: What Does It Mean To Confront Trauma?
« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2014, 07:10:49 AM »
I do thinks it's helped, actually. Today was much better.

Wheeeeee!!  :party:

Hopefully the trend will continue. Hopefully you will feel better in time, too.  :hug:

Thanks, zazu.  :hug: