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PTSD Professional Perspective: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Posted Jan 15 2010 12:00am

Friday, January 15th, 2010 • •

respect-aaaDo you respect the state you’re in right this very moment? Leslie Nipps, an NLP and Family Constellations Practitioner, and founder of Leslie Nipps Counseling thinks you should…

I once worked with a woman who had been badly abused when she was a little girl. We identified a part of her that seemed to be blocking something she really wanted in her life. So, I asked her to bring out all the parts of her, so that we could have a chat with the one part that seemed to be making life so difficult for her. Once she had all of her parts present, I asked her to let all of her parts know how grateful she was for each one of them, and that she knew every part of her had a positive intended outcome for her.

Her eyes opened wide, and tears came. She had never, ever imagined before this possibility: that every part of her, even the parts that were causing behaviors and experiences that were quite painful, had positive intended outcomes for her, and were working hard to help her as much as possible. Until then, she felt like most of what was inside her was just plain wrong. That would explain why she was suffering so much.

When we have a problem, we are extremely aware of what we don’t like. This is especially true for those of us dealing with trauma. Our symptoms-sleeplessness, flashbacks, anger, sadness-hurt, often more than we can bear. At the same time, we are usually aware that our symptoms match a past experience, not a present one, so on top of the painful symptom we can add a sense of painful disconnect between what is actually around us and our experience of it. Have you ever just yelled out “Stop!”? We want to have the experience of freedom; we don’t want the problems.  

There’s a dilemma at the heart of this situation, though: to resist our problems, we have to disrespect ourselves. We have to tell ourselves how wrong we are to be having our sleeplessness, flashbacks, anger or sadness. These problems cause us suffering (and often cause others to suffer, too, which just makes it all worse). Unfortunately, we cannot get ourselves to where we want by disrespecting ourselves. It is impossible. It puts us in conflict with ourselves-we think that to get what we want, we must place ourselves against ourselves. This attempt at change always fails.

Healing from the effects of trauma requires that we are able to do two things rather simultaneously: Hold in our imagination the state we desire in the future, while at the same time completely respecting the state we now experience in the present. It is through a new-found self-respect that we find the resources to reach for and embrace the things we most want in life. And until clients can respect the fullness of their experience-that is, their problems-it is the practitioner’s job to hold that respect for them, inviting them into the desired state through self-respect, rather than through self-disrespect.

Sleeplessness, flashbacks, anger and sadness all serve vital functions in processing trauma.  We can’t move past those particular ways of meeting those needs as long as we are making ourselves wrong for having the experience. Indeed, all of those symptoms are a sign of what is deeply right in your psyche: a reaching out for healing that is touching your life at its deepest levels. Good counseling affirms that inner wisdom.

However, I don’t want to imply that we just resign ourselves to our current painful experience. That doesn’t work either. But once we can acknowledge that a painful symptom, like sleeplessness, has a positive intention for us, and say “thank you” to our inner wisdom for having that intention, we release a deeply held but often invisible resistance to our own experience. We let go of a kind of fight that isn’t serving us well. We invite a “relaxation response” which is the critical step in creating an inner environment for change; without it, we stay terribly stuck exactly where we are.

I have found that Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Family Constellation work are some of the best modalities for providing trauma clients with the self-respect they so desperately need, and which leads to the shifts that allow for deep-seated transformation. They both assume that trauma clients are doing the very best work for themselves of which they are capable, and each modality works directly with the client’s own rich resources for healing. These ways of healing release trauma clients from the prison of self-disrespect, shows clients what they are doing right, and empowers them to step fully into their own healing.

Leslie is passionate about methods of healing that take clients out of conflict with themselves. Life’s got enough interesting challenges without making ourselves wrong about everything… To hear more of Leslie’s thoughts visit her web site.

The opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author. To contribute to “PTSD Professional Perspective” contact Michele.

(Photo acknowledgement on Flickr.)

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