How To Heal During Ongoing Trauma (by Michele Rosenthal of changeyouchoose.com)

Since Michele Rosenthal, author of below following article explicitely permits to share her articles and even includes the sharing buttons for the main social media networks, I thought it would also be o.k. to post it here on my blog while giving full credit to her as author and bringing her excellent website and blog changeyouchoose about healing PTSD and trauma to your attention. So without much further ado, here’s a recent article I have subscribed to receiving, which I’m sharing with all of my readers here hoping you’ll find it useful in your own journey towards recovery:

“Healing is all about being able to shift out out of survival mode, complete the trauma response, consolidate memories and move into a life focused on things other than threat and danger, safety and control. If you’re in a situation in which trauma maintains a high level of threat either ongoing or sporadically it’s going to be very tough to heal posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In that case, it can be beneficial to switch to a different strategy: Bulking up your coping skills.

How Continued Trauma Interrupts Healing

By necessity recovery forces you to face, wrangle and deal with disturbing thoughts, emotions, reactions and memories. Doing so is incredibly tough even when conditions are optimal and your environment feels completely safe and secure. When trauma continues to occur it causes several problems that interfere with healing:

Your sympathetic nervous system stays activated – in this state your physical response to trauma maintains a high level of arousal. Blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones increase while non-survival processes decrease.

Your parasympathetic nervous system doesn’t activate enough – this system is responsible for reversing the effects of the sympathetic nervous system. Without a reduction in blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones and a full reactivation of non-survival processes your body never receives the message that the trauma has ended.

Your brain has trouble making healing changes – for example, the function of your amygdala and hippocampus (both extremely affected by trauma and linked to how you process trauma resolution) can be altered. The amygdala becomes sensitive to threat and overfires while the hippocampus’ memory consolidation process becomes interrupted, leaving traumatic memories hanging in an unresolved loop. Further, if your higher brain (executive) function doesn’t inhibit lower brain (instinctive) processes then your trauma response will continue to direct your experience and behavior.

Replacing Healing Objectives with a New Coping Strategy

Success in recovery feels extremely important, which is why any outcomes short of success can seem so fatal. Believing you’ve “failed” at any step in healing can lead to stalling, becoming stuck or flat out giving up. That would be so wrong if continued trauma is interfering with your recovery process! The problem has zero to do with your healing skills and everything to do with the fact that you’re not in a safe enough space to heal.

Take the pressure off by reminding yourself that anyone would have trouble healing completely when still living in dangerous circumstances. Recovery will progress more smoothly if you first focus on strengthening your coping protocol. Deepening your coping skills from stress reduction (meditation, breathwork, mindfulness, yoga, etc.) to self-defense (kick-boxing, self-defense training, karate, tae kwon do, etc.) will help you work toward the action at the bottom of every successful recovery: making the shift from powerless to powerful. 

If you work toward that shift in internal power even while coping with ongoing trauma then you will simultaneously be working toward an enormous element of healing. In this way you begin reducing the amount of trauma you experience, finding a way to extricate yourself from the traumatic environment and also setting the stage for deeper recovery work when circumstances permit.”

Original post by Michele Rosenthal at http://changeyouchoose.com/trauma-blog/

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6 thoughts on “How To Heal During Ongoing Trauma (by Michele Rosenthal of changeyouchoose.com)

  1. I like this practical approach. It seems respectful toward human needs. I can only add that cultivating deep friendships with people who are committed to peace and to mutual understanding offers a chance to participate within that rare sense of “family” —a potential source of sanctuary in an often seemingly cold and calculating world. ❤ Thanks for sharing this piece!

    • Also, your old (related) post on music i/r/t “healing” inspired me to dig out some old George Harrison CDs. I was listening to “Wah-Wah” the other night and got to laughing so hard I almost couldn’t keep dancing. 🙂

      • A regular old Saturday night chat fest here, apparently, on my part…. 😉 Thoughts and more thoughts….your blog does provide a contagious spark, for me, in terms of contemplation… anyway, I can’t recall if I got this link (below) from your blog (oh well), but in any case, it seems appropriate to your post’s topic and discussion today in regards to ongoing sources of trauma.

        When the culture itself becomes an increasingly major source of ongoing trauma, that’s bad enough, but when the culture is–also–largely in denial about that fact…then…becoming increasingly able to not participate as much in the denial is–itself–empowering.

        Otherwise the denial continues to add a sadistic type of mocking insult—to injury–and it continues to oppress in hidden ways. It’s a provocative POV, to be sure….Won’t appeal to everyone’s taste, but makes a lot of sense to me.

        http://www.laurakkerr.com/2014/03/20/capitalism-traumatic-stress/

      • I concur on your reasoning. Might check out the link in time. I keep finding that intuition and just listening to myself pretty much and almost always delivers all the info and guidance I need. Whether specific steps derived from those insights are doable – that’s a whole different story. In this vein, above linked article did a) confirm that we must keep going b) that healing cuts corners or makes detours here and there and doesn’t follow one specific path or pace. Sometimes, it helps to simply find: Yes, it’s all part of the process. 🙂

    • I like its very pragmatic and thus empowering approach, too, Ruby! It’s all about not letting up and keep keeping up, I think. I like your suggestion about creating a second or real family. I was closer to that while I was married – I think. Maybe not. Anyway. 🙂

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