PTSD Professional Perspective: Facing the Future, Part 1
Posted Dec 27 2009 12:00am
Today, a different kind of professional guest post: exerpts from a terrific trauma and addictions e-book by Paul Radkowski, who holds a degree in Psychology and a Masters degree specializing in Marriage & Family Therapy. In addition to his extensive work in trauma, addiction and recovery, Paul has consulted with numerous agencies, hospitals and treatment settings working with groups, families and individuals as a Family and Marriage Therapist, Crisis Counselor and Trauma Specialist.
Paul is the recipient of the 2008 “Outstanding Addictions Professional Award” from the International Association of Addiction & Offender Counselors for the creation of the world’s first online all addictions life recovery program.
You’ll see right away why I like his self-empowered perspective!
According to one of the largest and most detailed government surveys of mental health, the National Comorbidity Replication Survey (2005), less than half of those in need of services regarding mental health actually seek help. And those who do seek treatment typically do so after 10 or more years of denial or delays in getting any help at all, during which time they are most likely to develop even more problems.
So what I say to these folks is: “Imagine your life 10 years from now, you’ve done nothing to change your circumstances, in fact things have gotten worse! Your health has deteriorated, your relationships have become more toxic and you feel even more beat up than you feel right now. Allow this image and feeling to just sink in for awhile.”
I then say to these folks: “Imagine that you did do something right now that began to turn your life around for the better, improved your health, relationships, finances and self esteem.”
As you are finding out, the past does impact the present. Yet, whatever happened in your past you have survived the worst. Something about you, inside of you… a strength and perhaps sheer will to survive got you this far. If you have had a heart attack and are still here, you have survived. If you have had trauma in your past and you are here now, you have survived it!
What is in your highest interest to create long-term health and healing for you? You cannot heal a physical burn or “emotional burn” by being brutal with yourself. It all starts with being gentle, by being aware of how your trauma experience affects you in the present. Each time you might feel “triggered” just breathe and say to yourself: “Whew! It looks like I’m feeling a strong survival response as my body feels tensed up. It looks like I’m being triggered by something from my past. I understand this now and have choices and healthier ways of coping in the present. I’m going to be gentle with myself and just breathe, write down what’s going on with me and what I need to do right now. It looks like I still have some healing to do and that’s ok. Disappointment is just a trigger, not a catastrophe”.
You have survived the worst and there is hope. Many people have become stronger and more resilient after recovering from trauma. That which may weaken us today can make us stronger in the future. An analogy: how your body responds to a cold-bacteria:
When you have a cold, your immune system activates T-cells and B-cells to fight off the foreign invader. Your body also has the awareness of memory T-cells and B-cells that will recognize the bacteria it fought off before and neutralize it before it can do any damage again. This is why you can never get the same cold-bacteria twice.
There are many people who have lived life richer and fuller than they ever had before and used their pain from the past to connect more to themselves and others, to move toward greater personal healing and growth. You can too!
Remember your feelings aren’t facts, they’re information not instruction. You may be feeling angry, hurt, overwhelmed, afraid or have an impulse to act out in some destructive way etc. These feelings are information and an invitation for you to be “gently curious” with yourself (i.e. what’s going on with you right now? How can you honour that need/feeling in a way that is in your highest and healthiest interest?). It means to be gentle with yourself, you still have some healing to do. Feelings are not instruction or an “acting out ticket” to engage in destructive behaviors or addiction. Your recovery begins with the power of choice.
Tune in next week for Part Two of Paul’s perspective.