Making the Shift: Feeling worse vs. better, Part 2
Posted May 24 2010 12:00am
Continuing from last week’s post about why the PTSD healing process so often means we move forward and then backward before moving forward again…
Often, the forward/backward shift occurs as we are learning to process emotion. Another reason is that:
The psyche does what it needs in order to survive. Technically, this means your mind structures experience, interpretation and coping mechanisms in such a way that the self and body can live through traumatic events. For many this includes selective amnesia, and also, a lack of conscious clarity. This can also mean that when an experience is too horrific and intense, a part of the mind splits from the experience and shuts down in a protective move to cope.
The result of this is that we can live through an experience and, in the midst of it, not process exactly how bad, or how deep, or how extreme the details are and effect us. During healing when we’ve moved far enough away from the experience to feel less threatened by it and when we mature beyond the experience in years and emotional and rational development, we can look back and see the whole situation, not just selective parts of it.
When we achieve this sort of distance and perspective (because as painful as it is it is an achievement), we see the whole experience, plus the implications of it. For survivors of child abuse this is particularly prevalent as they look back at childhood through the eyes of an adult. For a while, the intensity of your realization about just how bad things were can make you feel more depressed, angry, sleepless, anxious, etc. This is a natural response to the truth which you have not been seeing for a long time.
Making the Shift tip: When you feel this sort of experience:
a - Be kind to yourself. This is not an easy time and beating yourself up for what you see as slipping backward will only make things worse. You are in a state of needing love and affection; be that to yourself. Take yourself for a massage, indulge in a long bath, buy yourself a CD of soothing music, lay out in the grass under the sun or moon and just deeply breathe the air. Be kind. Recognize this phase as necessary in your healing.
b - The child and adult selves in you may be meeting for the first time. This will be painful, but the intensity will not last. Allow the integration, acknowledge it, accept what you now know and recognize. Imagine your adult self can speak to the child self. What does the child want you to know? What does the adult want to say? Explore a dialogue between your selves. Write it out and see what both parts of yourself have to say. Doing this will give you clarity on what is really bothering you, plus work toward resolving it as you give each self the answers and recognition it seeks.
No matter what, stay focused on your ultimate goal. Moving through this process will move you forward, even if it does feel as if it’s moving slowly.