Treating PTSD: Making Healing Progress
Wednesday, July 1st, 2009 • Uncategorized •
Wow! We’re at the halfway mark of the year long BRIDGE THE GAP healing workshop (BTG). Want to join in? It’s never too late. Read this overview to get started.
Today is a very exciting BTG day. Can you feel the ground shifting? For the past 6 months we’ve laid the foundation for the healing work that needs to be done by:
- creating a healing intention
- learning to speak about trauma
- reaching out
- educating ourselves
- educating others
- seeking help
Now that we have our focus, knowledge and support system we’re ready to do the really intense work of healing. That is, the internal work required by us to costruct a post-trauma identity. In being able to release trauma and ourselves as we’ve come to know who we are after trauma, there needs to be something to put in the empty space that will be created when we free ourselves from the grip of the past.
In the next 6 months we’ll work to develop that post-trauma self so that it becomes a strong, solid, new YOU. Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to forget about the past. I know we never do that. But I am suggesting you stop allowing events of the past to inform your present and future. The past belongs behind us. As long as we allow it to remain front and center we will never be free.
There is an interesting correlation between the theories of trauma and philosophies of identity: they are both predicated on the integration of information in terms of self-view. What does this mean? In order to be healthy and completely, wholly functional the self needs to be able to see itself as one, single, unfragmented entity that understands its place personally and socially.
OK, I love reading textbooks and academic papers but rather than give you a course in trauma and identity theory and philosophy I’ll sum it up this way: in order to be free of the past we need to integrate those traumatic memories into a view of our whole selves, and then recognize that self as representative of who we are and how we fit in. If traumatic memories are left alone to float around as separate beings these ‘parasites of the mind’ will suck us dry. If the information we gain from experience is not synthesized into the totality of who we are we will never become symptom-free. We’re not going to let that happen, right?
One of the biggest fears I had about letting go of my trauma was my inability to see who I would be without it. Without the hypervigiliance, hyperarousal, nightmares, insomnia, dissociation, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts – who the hell would I be? My trauma defined me. It gave me an identity where I felt I had none. And you want me to give all that up?? Forget about it! I hear the same fear from many survivors.
But the truth is we must give up our traumatized selves in order to be PTSD-free. The BTG workshop is all about making that transition from PTSD to freedom. For the past 6 months we’ve had to put things in place to prepare ourselves for the real work that needs to be done. Today, we start the heavy, transformative lifting.
It all begins with this month’s healing resolution: I WILL CHANGE MY UNHEALTHY PERCEPTIONS. Come on, admit it, you’ve got some. Well, start saying good-bye because they’ve got to go! Starting today we’re going to change our thoughts, which changes emotion, which changes behavior. A simple equation. Get used to it.
BRIDGE THE GAP EXERCISE:
What does it sound like to be in your head? Start listening to your self-talk. Over the next 24 hours become aware of every negative thought you have. Notice how often those thoughts have to do with your perception of yourself.
(Photo: Sunil V N)