HEALING  OF Traumatic Experiences

Unhealed psychological wounds and hurts from traumatic experiences or losses overshadow our capacity  for fulfilling relationships and for selflove. This can result  in an inability to give and receive love, in isolation and fear of others, of certain situations and the challenges of everyday  life. 

In this very individual and spiritual healing work we bring consciousness and understanding into traumatic experiences of the past, so that we can again  participate in life freely , with joy and  trust.

TRAUMA: symptoms psychological effects ,  possible healing  and integration 

Traumatic experiences leave wounds in the soul, which  usually heal with more difficulties than physical wounds. People who have suffered traumatic experiences often feel as if their soul has been torn apart into  many parts. They live with entirely contrary  feelings and thoughts: irritable and frozen, flooded with memories and empty of memories, full of shame and  rage.

In many situations can people  experience violence in a way which will affect them traumatically: with abuse, mistreatment, rape or with shocklike experiences like traffic accidents, kidnapping,   or catastrophies. Also the loss of a beloved person can be traumatic, and even the witnessing of violence  with human beings or animals  can cause deep traumatic disturbances.   

Many people manage by themselves  to process traumatic experiences. Why this is so, psychologists cannot say yet. One thing is certain: It is less a matter of how robust the soul of a man is, and more a matter  of what happens to him/her, and how it happens,  and whether the circumstances are especially  shocking  or humiliating.  It is also decisive  how the environment reacts, if  it supports the victim  after the traumatic experience ,  if it  denies the happening, or even  assigns  a joint guilt.  

Of course the age is decisive, too,  and the capacity to understand the traumatic experience, to process  and to talk about it. The earlier a trauma happens, the deeper it will influence the attitude  towards life and the selfworth of a person.


  

The psychological effects of various traumatic experiences are called  in psychotherapy "post traumatic stress syndrom".

There exists a complex picture of these symptoms: flashbacks- sudden reliving of the traumatic situation, nightmares, emotional numbness and missing feelings, depressions, anxieties and sleep disturbances; avoidance of situations and behaviours which could stir up memories of the trauma, low tolerance of stress situations and low  selfworth in daily life, inability to have  fulfilling human relationships, feelings of shame and  guilt.

The key to understanding the posttraumatic disturbances is basically hidden in the traumatic situation itself.    

traumatic experience breaks the entire psychological organisational structure of a person. The soul is overcharged and overwhelmed, and finally breaks down  if it cannot process or digest the trauma.

With many traumatized people happens "Introjection": The victim identifies with the aggressor. Whatever has been done to him/her  is unbearable , and he/she can hardly imagine that a human being can act like this. Therefore the victim takes the act of the aggressor into himself, ascribes it to himself. And the victim also takes on the unconscious guilt of the aggressor, which often he himself does not feel, so that the aggression and the guilt  continue to live in his soul like a foreign body.

Also in the family trauma originates. Children are abused or mistreated. The common form of violence against children is neglect: when children are not nourished well, receive poor medical  care or are not protected against dangers. Traumatic experiences can also originate from deprivation, a deficiency in care and safety, produced by loss, death or separation of  parents or beloved ones. 

If sexual abuse results in psychological disturbance later on depends on the situation. A forced act is particularly  traumatic if the abuse happens over longer periods of time, if more than one person is involved, or if the offender is the father. In his book the german psychoanalyst Matthias Hirsch writes that it is less the individual act which is destructive, but more the fact  that the child  becomes deeply confused in his feelings and his judgements about reality. If the abuse is denied within the family, the child finds himself in a similar situation as the torture victim within the society:  he has experienced something  which nobody wants to realize and perhaps nobody will even  believe. Therefore it has to bury the experience in a place in his soul from where nothing will ever come to the surface, to the conscious, he believes.  

In a situation in which our life or psychological integrity is threatened, or in which we feel that we are threatened, there are only two instinctive reactions: fight or flight.

But the abused child can neither escape nor fight, as all victims of  a traumatic situation.An escape is pretending  to be dead, not feeling anything, in order not to be overwhelmed by painful feelings; to leave the situation with one´s consciousness, while the body experiences it, in order not to experience  it consciously.

In psychotherapy this is called " disassociation", if the traumatic experience is split up, or "derealisation" if someone escapes into a different, phantasized world. These are defence mechanisms in the traumatic situation, which can become symptoms of a psychological disturbance later on, when one does not feel it, feels  anaesthesized, feels cold or numb.

The cologne dream expert Gottfried Fischer says: The symptoms which are developed as result of trauma, indicate what has happened to the victim,as well as how the person has tried to cope  with the situation. Scientists presume  that the cognitive consciousness is being switched off during the traumatic experience. Just as one cannot speak  in a shock, it is possible that the shocking experience is not stored in verbal memory, but as body sensations, images or agonizing  emotions. Therefore in therapy one can only approach  the reality of the victim, because it is difficult to discriminate between  images, fantasies  and memories. But this approach needs to be done in every trauma therapy. The therapist has to be fearless about uncovering a trauma, and has  to help the patient to liberate himself of guilt feelings and the results of the experienced terror.    

The healing of trauma  needs a new kind of therapy: client and therapist need to be able to move together. All rigid theories and regulations can do only harm;  honest compassion , new ways of therapy and meditation are needed  for a healing of traumatic experiences.

Expressive, artistic and bodyoriented methods need to be used as well as therapeutic communication and therapeutic techniques.

Treatment of trauma results is according to the kind of trauma. We discriminate between trauma as result of onetime sudden experiences like accidents, catastrophies, or the sudden death of  a beloved person; and trauma in connection with  long term  encroachments like torture, abuse or mistreatment.

Trauma of the first type are to be treated with therapy  which focuses on the traumatic situation itself, and the conscious development of qualities  needed to cope with similar situations.Good results are accomplished with therapies which clients re-experience  the traumatic situation again and again , and in this way the experienced becomes less and less painful and  threatening.This is called  a "method of confrontation".

Psychotherapy uses sometimes the same mechanism which the person himself used as protection in the situation itself, e.g. "disassociation". Hypnotherapy  takes up  methods from classical hypnosis and works with altered states of consciousness .It uses the technique of active dissociation, in which the person repeatedly steps into  the experience as in a movie, and steps out again when it gets overwhelming. He may also be encouraged  to breathe  into the terror and tension, in order to dissolve  the old numbness. In a traumatic situation  a person becomes  frozen in a movement or action, because he is overwhelmed by the happening. Bodyoriented methods  help to release frozen tensions in breathing or trembling. They serve the purpose to complete incomplete actions or movements and to become physically able to act and respond in a healthy way. 

With trauma like torture or abuse  a  psychotherapeutic bodywork often serves the purpose  to re-open and revive  the traumatized  zones. 

The idea of activating blocked self healing resources  is also behind a method of the psychologist Francine Shapiro. In this therapy the patient follows  the fast fingermovements of the therapist with his eyes , while re-experiencing the traumatic situation. According to psychological  studies this method releases burdening painful  emotions and negative thoughts. This is explained in this way: in the actual  traumatic situation the brain cannot process the experience. In the therapeutic division of awareness  a neural connection is created  which makes it possible  to come to an integration  of the traumatic experience.   

The integration of the event is really the goal of every trauma therapy: that emotions from the traumatic situation can no longer overpower the person; that the trauma can become a memory, something that has happened  but which does no longer terrorize the person; that the victim becomes  someone who has experienced and survived  something in his past. 

Before  treating the trauma itself we need most of all  to help the victim to find their way  in this world and their body . Psychotherapy  talks about reactivating their resources, those qualities that the person had available before his traumatic experience. Previous friends, previous activity and life force. For the person who lives in a longterm  suffering because of his trauma,  personal history has stopped in a shock. He who manages to revive previous forces and to reconnect with previous relations and  to form new relations,   can heal his wounds. He regains his life story in which the trauma can become a memory from the past.    


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