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Trauma, Loss & Transition~

 

TRAUMA

A deeply distressing or disturbing experience creating a hyper arousal within our central nervous system, overwhelming our ability to emotionally integrate the experience. Perception is reality. HOW our five senses perceive, or encode any given disturbing experience will determine how traumatic, or not, it will be for us.

It may be a one-time incident like an accident, natural disaster, crime, surgery, violence or death, and/or, chronic or repetitive experiences such as child abuse, neglect, combat, urban violence, concentration camps, battering relationships, and enduring deprivation, this would be called complex trauma.

 

Shock & denial are typical immediate reactions, while longer term symptoms include:

  • unpredictable emotions

  • flashbacks

  • unhealthy relationships

  • mistrustful of others

  • guilt & shame

  • anger

  • self- destructive behavior

  • physical symptoms, like headache or nausea, or even chronic illness.

 

These are very typical and disturbing reactions, but many suffer in silence, trying to manage  symptoms on thier own, finding it difficult to return to “normal” functioning.   It is useful to think of all trauma “symptoms” as adaptations. Symptoms represent our best attempt to cope the best way we can with overwhelming feelings, during the traumatic event & whenever triggered. When we see “symptoms” in a trauma survivor, it is always significant to ask ourselves: what purpose does this behavior serve?

It takes a tremendous amount of energy to keep functioning while carrying the memory of trauma, and it’s triggers. Much like holding a beach ball under water, eventually our arms get tired.  We often think our pain and exhaustion isn’t significant enough to warrant support or help, or, “Why bother?  It’s not going to change anything.”

 

I have supported suffering clients tread a delicate balance between a strong desire to withdraw, (recouping every bit of strength just to keep it together) and at the same time, wishing others would ask how they are doing, because they often feel confused & disconnected from others, often without a plan and little hope for their future.  They don’t even know what they need minute-to-minute.  A LaMaaze instructor said it best, “You will know when your partner is in pain, she will “go within herself.”

Developmental trauma, also considered interpersonal trauma, occurs during our childhood when we consistently experience any degree of neglect, unpredictability, aggression, rejection or exploitation from those we trust. This trauma is experienced more intensely from a child’s perspective since children are dependent on us for their safety & survival, & have fewer coping skills. Excluding overt abuse & neglect, many parents don’t connect their childhood experiences with their own parental habits.

 

TRANSITION

The process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.

When my son was young, my husband and I quickly learned he had difficulty with transitions . We implemented a “5 or 10 minute warning,” before transitioning to another activity or event, which helped him prepare and process whatever reactions he may have had about ending his present experience and moving into another. Unfortunately, we don’t always get an advanced warning, which makes transition more difficult. It can feel like Linus without his blanket, or flying in between trapezes. Whether it is a typical/normal life transition (going away to college) or atypical/unexpected (victim of crime, loss of loved one), there can be intense reactions depending on our present circumstances and resources. If these feelings remain at a high level, it can cause great difficulty in regulating our own emotions, interfering with our daily functioning. If symptoms go unaddressed, our behaviors & experiences can reflect that of a trauma survivor.

 

LOSS

Unfortunately, mainstream culture lacks healthy concepts related to loss, it’s inevitability and how growth can be cultivated during times of temporary or permanent loss. Loss can be experienced from many different causes. Loss of a loved one, job, home, friendship, faith, control, power, hope, dreams, goals or loss of self. Much like trauma, how we encode, (or perceive our loss), & our current circumstances and resources will determine the extent of it’s impact on our functioning.

MY APPROACH

  • Honor your pain and need to feel safe.

  • Offer tools to reduce your immediate distress and discomfort.

  • Reconnect to, and bolster your greatest strengths.

  • Nurture our relationship.  Since trauma, loss or transitions can lead us to feel disconnected from others, developing and maintaining a connection with one another will be an important part of our work together.

  • Understand HOW our interactions support you in feeling safe and heard.

  • Identify extent of impact upon you and your relationships

  • Identify areas of your support system that need strengthening.

  • Assess your short & long-term needs.

  • Improve communication of your needs, to self & others.

  • Identify crucial self-care activities and their obstacles.

  • Unearth your value system and the behaviors that bring it to life.

  • Help you reduce your guilt & feel worthy enough to cautiously invite joy back into your life:)

 

Techniques used:

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) , deep abdominal breathing, imagery, CBT, family systems, journaling, 12 steps, art & humor!

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CALL FOR AN INITIAL FREE 30 MINUTE PHONE CONSULTATION AT 805-750-0356.