A trauma memory, my worst, surfaces after 50 years!

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Trauma feels dangerous when it explodes.

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The last two posts have detailed how fear and shame add strength and confusion to our symptoms.

To heal, we must face these past traumas that have ruined our life.

For me, it was an entire childhood raised in violence and criticism.

My abuse occurred before my brain developed.

My abuse was intertwined with the development of the mind.

We heal by observing our trauma when it explodes or the intrusive thoughts start rolling.

Integration happens when we stay present, accepting and then surrendering to what terrifies us.

I thought mine was over but an incident burning beneath my childhood resurfaced.

When trauma surfaces, it arrives at the age it occurred.

This happened when I was 19, in college.

The intensity and rage connected to this memory depresses me.

This is unresolved and stronger than my childhood trauma.

My traumatized 19 year old needs comforted and the ability to feel self worth return.

He needs to know it is long over and it is safe now.

The shame connected to this trauma destroyed my ability to trust for 50 years.

I have found the source of the betrayal, always running well hidden below what I thought was the worst culprit, my childhood.

Hard to separate my 19 year old ego from present day 68 year old Marty.

Our trauma fears resemble our greatest terror we can imagine.

Now, my fight or flight mechanism stays calm, saving me untold suffering.

What is left are the intense shameful emotions, thoughts, judgments and the desire for revenge.

That is the 19 year old who is stuck, suffering all this time.

It is a burden I hid so deep, it has stayed buried 50 years.

Our work is never done.

This is not an easy life.

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Second barrier———Shame: from “Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness”

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A second barrier to integrating trauma is shame.

Connected to humiliation, demoralization, and remorse, shame is a complex, debilitating emotion that often arrives with traumatic stress.

A person who was sexually abused may berate themselves for not having fought back—even though they may know it would have made matters worse.

A soldier who freezes under fire during combat is demeaned by others, and comes to feel fundamentally flawed.

Someone who is discriminated against can internalize the form of oppression being directed at them and begin to feel defective and unworthy.

Shame is a powerful, paralyzing force.

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Petrifying sensations and emotions. From Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness

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But here are two factors that are immediately relevant to trauma-sensitive mindfulness.

The first is fear.

Trauma can make us terrified of our internal experience.

Traumatic events persist inside survivors in the form of petrifying sensations and emotions.

Understandably, survivors become afraid to feel these again.

Van der Kolk described it this way: Traumatized people . . . do not feel safe inside—their own bodies have become booby-trapped.

As a result, it is not OK to feel what you feel and know what you know, because your body has become the container of dread and horror.

The enemy who started on the outside is transformed into an inner torment. (Emerson & Hopper, 2011, p. xix)

This is one of the most haunting, visceral costs of trauma: being forced to continually cope with gut-wrenching—often terrifying—sensations that live on inside.

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How do we impact our Window of Tolerance

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From Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness:

“This brings us to the window of tolerance—a zone that lies between the two extremes of hyper-and hypoarousal.

The window of tolerance is tied to cognitive processing.

With hyperarousal, our cognitive processing tends to be disorganized and in disarray. There’s too much stimulation, and it often becomes difficult to pay attention.

  

With hypoarousal, our cognitive processing becomes disabled. It’s hard to think clearly, and people often report feeling spacey, removed, and unable to concentrate.

This is one reason trauma survivors can have difficulty functioning in their daily lives: disorganized and disabled cognitive processing makes everyday tasks difficult, especially those that involve executive skills such as planning, decision making, and organizing daily activities.

I’ve worked with clients who, in the aftermath of a traumatic experience, felt like they’d lost their ability to manage and control their minds and lives.”

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My two cents: How can we impact our window of tolerance?

One full proof way is to engage in vigorous aerobic exercise, pushing yourself.

Go swim, hike, run, etc. The achievement and exhilaration are shared with the mind. For hyperarousal, it calms us down, for hypoarousal, it gets a stationary body moving.

The endorphins are icing on the cake for our effort.

Meditation was my main weapon. Slowing my breath, focused and empty of thought, dissipated the cortisol and adrenaline.

It is a process, a subtle daily progression away from suffering.

I practiced when I was calm, to be ready when all hell broke loose.

You can build confidence and become friends with your nervous system.

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A. Viewers response: “Perserverence so they do not win”

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A response from Tuckle:

“Thank you for your perspective and this wonderful post. I had never thought about perseverance so they do not win. I will have to write about that one in my journal.”

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My two cents: “Perseverance so they do not win”

My challenge from birth was to survive my father.

In childhood it was alive and real, in adulthood it became Complex PTSD, a mental disorder that threatened not only to take my peace of mind, but my life.

At my lowest, fight or flight firing all throughout the day, suffering making a day seem like a week, the critical moment had arrived.

I can not describe serious PTSD or how awful an upside down nervous system impacts the body and mind.

Life was completely full of suffering, intense anxiety, hyoervigilance, terror, worry.

Life did not have little light moments or happy events. No joy in Mudville!

I have never experienced a more devastating period, death seemed easier, life took real courage.

Somewhere deep inside, a part of me refused to give up, to let my father win.

That day I promised to endure whatever came next, to live in spite of my father’s cruelty.

I think we all have that moment, when we either take responsibility or become a victim for life or death.

This battle is an internal struggle.

On the surface, all the trauma symptoms occupy our consciousness, however below the surface an internal battle wages for control.

When my “Ego” was in control, I felt hurt, injustice, anger and a little sorry for myself. These injustices and anger thoughts made PTSD grow stronger.

When I could stay present, focused, below traumas influence, life had opportunity.

These glimpses gave me hope.

We do not pick the challenges that arrive, self inflicted or without a clue.

It is always our reaction that determines life.

Do not let your abuser win.

Fight for your happiness.

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Father’s Day not a happy day for some

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I twinge at all the hoopla, all the examples of great father son relationships in the sporting world. Touted as key to many professional athletes success, what about the rest of us.

Maybe that is why fear of failure drives so many to perform above their skill level.

Wonder if your father was your violent abuser?

I wonder what foster kids feel as the media tells you the value, the significance of this most important attachment.

Actually, I have gratitude for having a father, narcissistic and abusive but in his way he loved me.

Took me a long time to have gratitude for having a father, flawed as he was.

As the oldest male child, we become the narcissists project.

Much later in life, some of the skills learned Surviving childhood, willpower, ability to endure pain, and the strength to take action (perform) helped me heal.

My journey to heal turned into a spiritual journey, one where my struggles with PTSD were shared to help others improve.

Unless you believe in reincarnation, where we pick our parents to learn lessons of life, how do we get over childhood abuse.

For me, helping others on this path, being a mentor, has brought great joy. Maybe you would say a purpose later in life.

No matter our challenges, accepting the circumstances, then taking action to live life fully is our reprieve.

Hard not to think about your father on Father’s Day.

Turn the negative into positive action.

Contemplating suicide when I hit bottom, I rationalized my father would win.

No way would I ever let that happen.

Even if I had to suffer each day, life would run its full course.

My childhood had built a kid with great will power and strength.

Maybe feeling unworthy but willing to fight for his existence.

Happiness looks and feels different for each one of us.

Happy Father’s Day!

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Value and loss or lost in thought.

Thank you Dar for this pic

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Scarcity seems to give value to things. Gold, gems and jewels are rare, valued with exorbitant price tags.

Emotionally, approval, status, power and control are highly prized possessions.

Not really possessions, however coveted on equal terms.

After basic needs, shelter, safety, sustenance and a little attachment, what is most valuable to you?

Kids, family, a mate, or BFF would be many first choices.

After those, what brings us closer to being happy, content or equanimous?

The space between my ears is the most important, most valuable possession for me.

Whatever I let percolate in this space decides my attitude, my personality, my life.

My mind has been filled with intrusive thoughts from PTSD, which brought enormous suffering.

Confusion, worry, doubt and fear link up with thought to make a misery soup for dinner.

During this pandemic, thoughts of being bored, unthinkable to imagine a meditator to be depressed, entered my head.

My next decision decides whether suffering or freedom rules. We do not decide which thoughts arrive but we do choose to engage or stay present.

My mind focused, empty of thought, observing life without judgment, experiences joy, freedom.

That is a calm, content, deep feeling of wonderment some days, mundane joy on other days.

My bad memories, childhood abuse and all the loss disappears when I let my mind empty out all its thoughts.

Life has opportunity if I let these distractions go.

Worry and doubt are judgments, negative future erroneous predictions.

Living in the moment eliminates many, many, many issues.

Remember our attention, that is where we aim it, is the most power we possess.

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Quickest way to improve from PTSD!

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My healing lacked direction, wasted precious time everyday. Confusion, fear and intense anxiety placed me in survival mode again and again.

Now I would approach healing entirely different. The sequence of what to address first, would be changed.

I looked for help inside and outside the box. Intuitive, holistic healers were used along with many therapies.

The one constant that I relied on was aerobic exercise. Pushing myself to near exhaustion brought exhilaration to my body and mind. This practice would stay.

Next, all effort would be invested in calming the nervous system. Stop the fight or flight mechanism from firing erroneously.

Our triggers firing give PTSD the mirage of power, potency, the ability to cause harm. That huge jolt in the solar plexus (cortisol) can freeze us, numb our bodies in terrifying fear.

This is survival mode, we need to fix this, our broken nervous system first. Yes, our adrenal stress response is out of whack, spotting danger everywhere, even in mundane situations.

Meditation/Mindfulness can be simplified, the big connotation and complexity dropped.

If I were helping someone improve from PTSD today, all effort would be directed at mastering focus on ten breaths.

Ten slow, focused breaths, where thought has faded, can calm that trigger exploding.

Ten breaths can Escort us out of survival mode, relieve the biggest fear PTSD brings us.

Avoidance, hyoervigilance, flash backs, anxiety and fear lose massive power. Symptoms weaken, PTSD loosens it’s grip when we calm down.

If our triggers fail to ignite the fight or flight mechanism, not much left to fear.

In my opinion this is the fastest way to heal and quickest way of having some peace of mind.

Ten slow, focused breaths can change your life.

Simple, specific, concrete and bulletproof.

I have done this, have helped others sit still and focus when triggered.

It is scary and having a mentor to encourage and reassure your safety are very helpful.

Can you master ten breaths?

You can practice anytime, anywhere.

What stands in your way?

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Attention is the ⛽️ fuel!

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With all the humility I can muster, I am an expert on PTSD. This was never my intent, a byproduct acquired fighting for my life, a cure, a way out.

To lend more credibility to this claim, my experience is not limited to books or knowledge, I climbed out of that dark whole in real life.

First, we have to face our trauma, stay present when our triggers erupt. Avoidance and denial cloak our trauma as a Darth Vader like character.

It takes an inner strength to stay present, focused, when trauma explodes, when imminent danger appears. Know this fear is a mirage, a bluff , however the cortisol and adrenaline are real.

Second, we starve trauma. No attention, no thought. A Simple, specific, concrete goal, that is important.

Action is needed. Practice with passion, intensity, brings results so much faster. Blend in the courage this takes and improving is on the fast track.

If you do the work, expect to improve.

We have numerous tools to assist us. Substitute our affirmation (repeat out loud), a physical action, tapping each finger to your thumb while saying release, release, release, release.

I also bring intense awareness to what I see, hear, smell, feel and sense around me.

For me, intense focus on my breath has become habit. Easy to let thoughts fade when I focus on my breath, slowing the pace, elongating my exhales.

Thoughts rarely survive ten breaths.

This tool is available anytime, anywhere.

We have to make starving trauma (thoughts) a well practiced habit.

Simplify your plan for healing, improving.

Make starving your PTSD the goal.

Practice when things are calm.

When all hell breaks lose, you will be ready.

How many ways will you develop to starve PTSD?

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We have come to call these shattering experiences trauma.

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“Sometimes we encounter experiences that so violate our sense of safety, order, predictability, and right, that we feel utterly overwhelmed—unable to integrate, and simply unable to go on as before.

Unable to bear reality.

We have come to call these shattering experiences trauma.

None of us is immune to them.”

—Stephen Cope

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My two cents: Trauma does need our approval to take over daily life.

PTSD does not improve over time, it grows stronger as it ages.

The more we think about it, the stronger our symptoms become.

Our goal is to starve trauma.

I learned to deal with chronic pain by giving it no attention.

PTSD needs the same attention to survive.

Attention is the fuel.

Starve it.

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