It feels a long time ago now, the time when my abuse sat silent within me. It’s been over ten years. Back then, I didn’t understand any of the dynamics of abuse. The things that had happened, the things that had been done to me, the things I had been made to do—they sat silently within me as heavy weights on my soul, fetid non-reminders of my badness, this toxic mush that I thought was me.
Suddenly, like a party popper, out came her words. ‘It happens all the time. People will be talking to me and I can’t remember what they’ve been saying. I used to think I was just forgetful. But it’s not that. It’s like they can be talking to me and I know rationally who they are but it’s as if I’ve never met them before in my life
Coming to terms with flashbacks—understanding what they are, learning how to manage them, and eventually figuring out how to reduce them—is a cornerstone of recovery. Carolyn Spring explains what goes in the brain during a flashback and how to learn to manage them.
Recovery from trauma is hard work, but it is possible. However, there are number of things that inhibit that process, and this article looks at ten of them.
I used to struggle to understand what phase III could possibly be about, because my life was so consumed with just surviving, and then so consumed with working through traumatic material to neutralise it, that I imagined that therapy would always be like that, and that once it was no longer happening, there would be no more need for therapy.
My role as a psychosexual therapist is to help a client understand what ‘language’ their body or their behaviours are speaking. Once people understand their triggers and behaviours, they are more likely to allow a change, if that’s what they want.
The ‘trauma traffic light’ represents three physiological states that the body can shift gear between, depending on levels of threat or security in the world: the green zone, the amber zone or the red zone. Carolyn Spring explains this concept she developed based on Stephen Porges’ polyvagal therory.
After sexual abuse, it’s very common to have difficulties in your sexual relationship. But is that just the way that it is and we have to just accept it? Or is there a way towards a fulfilling sex life after trauma?
When I first started therapy in 2006, I didn’t know much about trauma and nothing about ‘the three phase approach’. My counsellor didn’t know much more. So although I’d like to say that we started by carefully doing the Phase 1 work of safety and stabilisation, the reality was a great deal messier than that.
Is recovery possible? That’s the question that everyone is asking, even when they’re not asking it. After a breakdown, perhaps after years in the mental health system, do we have to simply accept that we’re broken and that we’ll always be broken, or is it possible to live a life where we’re back in control again, where we’re living as we want to live, where life has purpose and meaning?
I could cope with it no longer. Every part of me—eyelids, throat, bowels—everything was clenched tight in a ball of furious unbearability. This feeling—such a feeling!—loomed up over me like some prehistoric sea-monster, ready to snap me up and devour me, ready to pilfer my bones and pick apart my brain. This feeling was too much.
Phase 2 of the three-phase approach is the aspect of trauma therapy that is most geared towards facing and resolving the intrusive traumatic memories that plague a trauma survivor’s life and manifest in forms such as flashbacks, physiological dysregulation, avoidance, numbing and re-experiencing.