Its a sad fact but the truth is the having been traumatised means we are more likely to be re-traumatised. Trauma leaves tears in the fabric of our ego. It makes us more emotional, more reactive, more raw and sensitive to daily life. Things that don’t bother other people will be triggers for us and daily life becomes a mine field where normal acts of living become bombs laden with associations which may or may not be conscious for us.
If we have suffered physical as well as emotional and mental trauma our systems also are more than likely to go into emotional shutdown or self protective mode. This is something that you can watch an animal do the minute that it is injured. Often it will retreat to lick the wound, it will seek to self protect. It may roll over, or play dead to confuse the attacker. So it is with us psychically.
My experience is of being demonised and blamed by others for not choosing to engage with the world following trauma and therefore being judged as inadequate or limited in some way. My experience (until I got into good therapy) was of meeting lack of empathy, validation and incomplete understanding even by some so called psychotherapeutic professionals, especially following rage reactions which were either attempts at self protection or valid responses to critical invalidation.
Indeed I did not find a way to make progress, heal, grow nor learn to validate myself until I was validated for my anger instead of being demonised, sidelined or minimised for expressing it.
In his book on Complex PTSD Peter Walker makes the important point of how often one of the major traumas we go through as children raised in emotionally dysfunctional homes is of having our legitimate self protective, self care system of anger cut off or de-potentiated.
In childhood in a dysfunctional home we get shamed for expressing anger. Maybe the parent couldn’t handle their own anger, were shamed as children themselves, taught to repress or displace anger and so are inadequate to help us as children as we grow through the necessary stages of developing solid ego boundaries which involves expression of and mediation of anger.
When our anger and self protective instinct is invalidated or compromised we are more than likely to become dysfunctional and/or co-dependent. Our fear of our own and others anger turns us into violators or people pleasers. Anger can become associated with a fear of abandonment which leads us to cut off our genuine soul needs to serve and win the love of others.
Anger can also become a hair trigger protective defence which guards us from feeling and understanding the searing pain and feelings of fear associated with our underlying abandonment depression which is the original pain we felt in childhood when we were not allowed to express and experience the truth of our own legitimate reactions, needs and feelings, were shamed, push away, humiliated, rejected or ignored.
Making sense of our own angry reactions, where and when we may be using anger as a defence against experiencing soft feelings of vulnerability and need and learning to express these in a healthier way is a vital healing stage of coming to grips with the impact of complex PTSD on our lives.
The original pain of our early abandonment trauma is what lies at the heart of complex PTSD which can manifest in many forms of so called diagnoses and personality disorders. Coming to understand this early trauma is like finding the core of the iceberg which remains hidden deep inside complex hair trigger reactions of Complex PTSD which are an acting out of the original trauma or pain, re-traumatising us further, keeping us stuck in a negative feedback loop which recycles and recycles endlessly until arrested by awareness.
In his chapter on Managing The Abandonment Depression in his book on Complex PTSD Pete Walker gives us tools to map our reactions and flashbacks, to understand too how the inner and outer critic is mobilised during such times and functions in such a way to remove us from knowing and locating the truth of the painful emotional reality which in underlying our reactions and flashbacks keeps us trapped in the past.
Such understanding can highlight times when current reactions of others mirror earlier reactions of wounding others that damaged us as children in order that we can unpack the experience, understand the extremity of our reaction and take back our power and responsibility for self care.
Letting go of knee jerk reactions involves in some form feeling the original pain of the abandonment we felt as young ones, an abandonment that was too huge for us then, but is not too huge for us now, if and when we can understand it for what it is. In feeling and understanding the validity and depth of our emotional pain and becoming a witness for healing instead of endless reacting unconsciously a pain we will not allow ourselves to feel, we can short circuit the negative feedback loop that leads to our unconscious trauma retraumatising us over and over again.
There is a saying somewhere which states
The cure for the pain is in the pain
by feeling our pain and understanding the truth of why we react as we do we can learn ways to hold and self soothe. Rather then reacting to and from this pain we can know the emotional truth of what happened to us and its impact. We can learn to identify those who are damaging for us to be around and those who re-traumatise us further. We can take the risk to trust safe others who will not re-traumatise us but instead show empathy, compassion and understanding. And we will learn how to give these things to our Inner Child so that he or she ends the repetition compulsion of being traumatised over and over again.