Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Thursday's Therapy - TRAUMA Therapy Toolbox - 14 Keys to Understanding Reactions to Child-Loss Grief + Trauma ~ Choosing Social Support Wisely

Thursday's Therapy

TRAUMA Therapy Toolbox

14 Keys to Understanding Reactions

to Child-Loss Grief and Trauma


Choosing Social Support Wisely

  • The ability to tolerate the plight of victims is, in part, a function of how well people have dealt with their own misfortunes.
~van der Kolk

Here's a clue. I have always known certain family members have not faced the hurts from their own childhood. And because of that, I have recognized they often become their own worst enemies. But they can't tolerate my plight because they cannot have love and mercy and comfort on their own poor hurt selves. As one family member says,

"We just take it" when there are hurtful things going on, in my opinion being so cruel to themselves in that way. And they think they do "just take it" in order to "love." In my opinion, that's not love; that's cowardice and not trusting that the other parties involved can "take" the hurt, face up to their hurtful behavior, in order for relationships to begin to heal. And yet certain family members just keep taking the pain and not speaking up, so the others often may not even know they are causing any pain.

  • When they've confronted the reality of their own hurt and suffering and accepted their own pain, this translates into tolerance, even compassion for others.

~van der Kolk

There is no tolerance. There is no compassion. There is anger that I still think I have needs when these certain family members think I should be "done" with my grief by now.

  • When people deny the impact of their own personal trauma, pretend it wasn't so bad, and make excuses for their abusers, they're likely to identify with the aggressors...

~van der Kolk

Oh yes! These family members indeed have become aggressive and cruel. They can't even see their behavior as abusive. Or if at times, they catch themselves being cruel, they decide that's what I deserve anyway. Unbelievable, until I stop to see -- they made excuses for their abusers, -- they've white-washed it away, -- and now they inadvertently "identify with" the aggressors. They have become the aggressors. It is really quite pitiful, so out of necessity,

I simply must avoid them, and pray for them. It truly hurts me that they are callous toward their own hurt hearts and souls, and yet in their doing so, they are becoming hard. And I cannot be around hard.

  • (These folks steeped in such denial) treat others with the same harshness with which they treat the wounded parts of themselves.

~van der Kolk

Yes, I have seen that ~ when they hurt me deeply, I see they have that same harsh attitude toward their own woundedness too. And so, how will it ever heal for them? It won't at this rate.

So they just keep running...into the same old rat races that keep them distracted, but unfortunately never heal them. It is so regrettable, and I hate it for them because I love them. But I cannot fix them.

And I cannot allow myself to be harmed needlessly when I am in the deepest pain of my life. So, much to their chagrin, I must stay away from them for my own self-protection. There are consequences to bad behavior, and as a wise person once said, "Once you have damaged someone, you don't get to pick the consequences that follow your bad behavior."

  • Identification with the aggressor makes it possible (for those in denial) to bypass empathy for themselves and secondarily for others.

~van der Kolk

Yes. And so to them, I do not exist, not as a vulnerable human being anyway who needs tenderness and compassion.. Or if I do, it seems it is only for them to berate, chastise, control, manipulate, and pull power plays on. (Things I once thought people do only when they're in high school. Surely not in their more "mature" years. But these family members do.) It seems they can only relate to me through manipulations, criticisms, and many other power plays.

  • Ironically, both the victims of PTSD, and the larger society that is asked to respond with compassion, forbearance, or financial sacrifices, have a stake in believing that the trauma is not really the cause of the victims' suffering.

  • On the one hand, society becomes resentful about having its illusions of safety and predictability ruffled by people who remind them how fragile security can be.

  • On the other hand, many victims suffer from an impaired capacity to translate their intense emotions and perceptions related to the trauma into communicable language.

  • Society, therefore, is often resistant to recognizing the effects of trauma and inclined to engage in victim-blaming in order to maintain basic assumptions.

  • (It is) the deeply held feeling of many victims (of trauma such as our childloss) that they no longer fit in, that they are aliens belonging to a lost world.

  • Victims (of trauma such as our childloss) constitute an insult to (western) society's belief that human beings are essentially the masters of their fate.

  • Victims (of trauma such as our child-loss) are the members of society whose problems represent the memory of suffering, rage, and pain in a world that longs to forget.

  • Many victims quietly acquiesce in their suffering; they are contained by their sense of shame and helplessness, as well as a need to maintain their self-respect and independence.

  • ...Society's reactions seem to be primarily conservative impulses in the service of maintaining the beliefs that the world is fundamentally just, that people can be in charge of their lives, and that bad things only happen to people who deserve them.

~Quotes from Bessel A. van der Kolk, M.D.

Such a defensive environment is oppressive to us childloss victims and can interfere with our very rigorous healing demands. Therefore, we need to use great discernment in regard to who is safe and who is not so that our social support may be an adjunct to our healing not a detriment to it.

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