Category: <span>Trauma</span>

Positive beliefs and affirmations to help you overcome codependency

Positive beliefs to help you overcome codependency
Positive beliefs boost autonomy and self-esteem

Codependency is a common effect of both relational and developmental trauma. Adult children of dysfunctional families who did not grow up feeling felt, heard and seen, struggle to connect with a healthy sense of boundaries and self-esteem also later in life. Therefore, they are highly prone to resort to codependent behaviours to feel safe and accepted in relationships. Here is a list of positive beliefs and affirmations to help you overcome codependency:

I am good enough for myself

I am good enough for others

I am loved

I am loveable

I am whole, even when alone

My worth is unconditional

My feelings matter

My needs and wants matter

My opinions matter

I matter

I can tolerate others’ discomfort

I can separate from others’ feelings, needs and wants, and focus on my own

I can handle my own discomfort

I can tolerate negative emotions

I can recognise and validate my feelings

I am emotionally aware

I am self-aware

I have a great connection with my body

I am emotionally autonomous

I am emotionally mature

I am safe in my own body

My body is my best guide

I am aware of the impact others’ have on me

I am much more than my relationships with others

I favour relationships which foster personal growth

I favour relationships with those who respect my feelings, needs and wants

I know how to honour myself through assertive behaviours

It is okay to say no to others

Self-agency is a gift

I am wise

My wellbeing comes first

I can say no and honour my boundaries

I am competent

I love my own company

My time is precious

I am a survivor

I am strong

I accept my vulnerabilities and limitations

I accept others’ vulnerabilities and limitations

I respect others’ needs for autonomy

 Mistakes are sources of wisdom

I am worth of respect

I am worth being treated with kindness

I can tolerate rejection

I can tolerate inadequacy and insecurity

I am brave

Your values, or the views you hold of yourself as an individual and in relationships tell you about the role you play in them. When rigid and filled with negative bias, they feed dysfunction and create a psychological barrier between you and your authentic needs. In order to lead a more satisfying and authentic life, proactively challenge negative thinking patterns and feel free to use the positive beliefs and affirmations listed above as guides to a more functional approach to relationships.

3 signs you have a distorted perception of your abuser

3 signs you have a distorted perception of your abuser
Holding a distorted view of one’s abuser is common amongst abuse victims

Do you feel highly triggered and insecure in relation to your abuser, even after having cut contact with them? In order to comprehend how your judgement is affected by your trauma, here are 3 signs you have a distorted perception of your abuser:

1- You forget your abuser’s vulnerabilities

Abusive individuals use their charisma and influence, as well as fear, shame and guilt to control and manipulate others. Their “strength” is dependent upon their ability to engage their victims and make them feel insecure. Without that control over the other, however, they lose their “confidence” and, above all, their power. As a result, they feel unsettled and lost. Feeling disconcerted by their own inadequacy, their lack of empathy and pent-up anger come to the surface exposing their vulnerability. When you create a habit of reminding yourself of such moments and of your abuser’s weaknesses, you humanise them while protecting and empowering yourself.

2- You lose yourself in your abuser’s subjective reality

If you your abuser’s biased views keep popping up and corrupting your own whenever you are in the process of making important decisions, self-reflecting or contemplating change, you are still living according to their version of reality and not yours. Catch yourself whenever you notice your abuser’s presence in your head and politely, humorously or even aggressively, dismiss such dysfunctional and unproductive thinking, immediately. Then, reconnect to your body and mind with love, appreciation and respect for yourself.

3- You forget how resilient you are

Abuse that comes in any shape or form, be it verbal, physical (domestic violence), sexual or emotional/psychological, is damaging to anyone who is exposed to it, be it through direct or indirect means (also known as vicarious abuse). As the effects of trauma caused by abuse are numerous, the fact that you are functioning and doing the best you can to heal and lead a balanced and fulfilling life shows how resilient you are. When you act passively while feeling less than your abuser, however, shame and guilt take hold and connection with your higher and stronger self is temporarily lost.

Despite having a distorted view of one’s abuser being a common experience amongst abuse victims, it is helpful to reiterate that it is one of the effects of complex trauma. If you find yourself not fully trusting your judgement about your abuser’s character and what you went through, it is time to declutter your mind and gain some distance from your feelings, so to make room, again, for your truth and healthy sense of inner guidance.

Common negative beliefs of C-PTSD sufferers

Common negative beliefs of C-PTSD sufferers
Complex PTSD sufferers struggle to think and feel positively

C-PTSD sufferers display a view of themselves, the world and others through the distorted lens of complex trauma. Complex trauma victims struggle to maintain an objective and neutral perspective due to the negative adverse experiences that shaped their neurobiology and ability to live in the present without an exaggerated need to protect themselves against further hurt. If you believe that to be your case, it is helpful to identify the beliefs that perpetuate a sense of unsafety, hopelessness, powerlessness, disconnection and isolation, such as the ones mentioned below:

I am damaged goods.

I have no control over my emotions.

I am alone in this world.

I cannot trust anyone.

When things seem to be working out for me, I should expect something bad to follow.

If anyone finds out who I truly am, they will leave me.

I am unable to feel okay with whom I am.

I am not safe.

Nobody understands me.

I am cursed.

Intimate relationships are sources of pain, therefore, they should be avoided.

My mental health problem is beyond healing.

I am unable to make relationships work.

I am crazy.

I will never be able to do well in life like other people.

I have no control over my own body.

A few people might like me, but they do not know the real me because if they did, they would not.

I am less than others.

Things are harder for me than for other people.

I must make sure to always avoid people, things and situations that trigger me.

I will never feel free from my abuser(s).

I am powerless against my abuser(s).

I will only overcome my trauma if I manage to distance it from my mind completely.

I will only overcome my trauma if I manage not to feel any emotions related to it completely.

All my dysfunctional behaviours are effects of my trauma.

I cannot manage the effects of my trauma.

I will only feel okay once my abuser(a) is(are) dead.

When things get tough, it is best to move away from the problem.

Others see me differently because of what I went through.

Things will never work out for me.

As rigid beliefs like the ones listed above fail to make justice to our complexity, as well as our ability to manage vulnerabilities and live a fulfilling life, I would highly recommend you to take time challenging the ones that resonate, somehow, with your own thinking. If you need help to understand why they are dysfunctional and how to refer to them as such, click here to access my list of cognitive errors.

5 self-soothing techniques for healthy grief processing

5 self-soothing techniques for healthy grief processing
Grief tends to follow a sense of loss

Grief tends to follow a sense of loss. Death of a loved one, sudden increase in awareness of childhood trauma, being fired or made redundant, experiencing relationship breakups of any nature or changes in health and/or living conditions, for instance, are all examples of losses that may trigger the need to grieve. Even though it is a biological and functional process, grief is still highly misunderstood and even neglected. If you believe in the power of grieving as a reliable source of emotional connection, wholeness and wisdom but often feel overwhelmed by it, here are 5 self-soothing techniques for healthy grief processing to help you through it:

1- Self-cuddling: Peter Levine, the creator of Somatic Experiencing and writer of Waking the Tiger, has taught us how to use our bodies to soothe ourselves. Give yourself a big butterfly cuddle by placing the palm of your right hand on your left armpit, and the palm of your left hand on your right arm. Relax your shoulders and truly hold yourself while you feel the warmth of your body through the palms of your hands (to watch Peter Levine’s demo video, please click here). This technique is recommended to those who find themselves affected by feelings of sadness, loneliness, rejection and/or abandonment and, therefore, struggle to feel safe and loveable.

2- Gentle touch: place the hand you write with on your chest, and the other one on your belly. Breathe deeply (5 seconds for the inbreath and 5 seconds for the outbreath) and truly hold your own body and emotions with love and unconditional self-acceptance. This technique also works well for those who are experiencing great feelings of fear/anxiety, sadness, loneliness, rejection and abandonment.

3- Cigar breathing: make a strong pout and breathe deeply in and out through it (at least 5 seconds for inbreath and outbreath). This exercise allows you to connect with the vagus nerve so to calm down the nervous system and regulate anger and fear/anxiety/panic.

4- Tranquil place: imagine a beautiful and calm place that you associate with relaxation and other pleasant feelings. Transport yourself to your tranquil place mentally. Visualise enjoying your surroundings and savouring everything that makes this place truly especial to you. Moreover, observe how your body gradually relaxes and makes you feel more serene as the connections with the image deepens.

5- Grounding: sit on a chair with a straight back, relaxed shoulders and both feet in parallel touching the floor. Start focusing your attention on your breathing. You do not have to force anything. Then, gradually, start changing the focus to the soles of your feet. Notice the bodily sensations that bring them to your awareness, as well as the sensations between your (bare) feet and the floor. This exercise helps you feel centred and back in the present, where you belong.

Through grieving our losses with our whole self – body and mind – we not only process and overcome them healthily, but also develop emotional wellbeing and maturity, unconditional self-esteem and post-traumatic growth.

10 basic concepts in trauma therapy

10 basic concepts in trauma therapy
A traumatic event is an adverse experience so overwhelming that overcomes one’s ability to cope

If you believe to be suffering from trauma, you could benefit from understanding how it affects your mind, emotions and behaviour. Below you will find a list of 10 basic concepts in trauma therapy so to expand your knowledge and facilitate further learning:

  • Traumatic event: a traumatic event is an adverse experience so overwhelming that overcomes one’s ability to cope. This could be a very frightening or shocking event, such as being in a car accident. Growing up suffering verbal abuse from someone one knows, loves and trusts can also lead to trauma.
  • Types of trauma: trauma goes beyond physical injury, but it concerns any negative experience that affects an individual as a whole person, body and mind. Therefore, trauma can also be of an emotional/psychological and relational nature. Trauma is referred to as “simple”, when it is of a single occurrence, such as in the example of the car accident mentioned above. Complex trauma, conversely, consist of a series of traumatic events that happen over a long period. Childhood or developmental trauma is a classic example of complex trauma.
  • Trigger: it is something or someone that reminds you of a traumatic event. A trigger can be a smell, sound, behaviour or even an emotion that connects you to past trauma. Adults that as children suffered emotional abuse by a parent, for instance, may be triggered by a situation in which he or she witnesses the same type of abuse. Under the influence of triggers, one may have flashbacks and re-experience the negative emotions and bodily sensations related to a particular traumatic event.
  • Flashback: as mentioned previously, a flashback is the activation of a traumatic memory, with or without the intention of the victim/survivor. When one has a flashback, he or she feels as if re-living the adverse experience that led to the trauma. Contrary to popular knowledge, not every flashback has a visual component that follows it. In some instances, flashbacks do not activate images, but exclusively the negative emotions and/or bodily sensations experienced when the trauma took place.
  • Fight or flight response: when the brain identifies a threat to our wellbeing, be it real or imaginary, it prepares our body for action, in other words, fight an enemy, flight the scene or freeze on the spot. When on fight or flight mode, our physiology changes so to adapt to our self-preservation and protection needs: our heart beats faster, breathing becomes shorter and muscles tenser so to get us ready to fight or make an escape. These physiological changes reflect our nervous system state of high alert and survival.
  • Chronic traumatic stress: stress that is experienced in a healthy or manageable manner does not tend to last very long. The great majority of stresses we come to deal with in life are short-lived, such as rushing in the morning to be at work on time. Chronic traumatic stress, however, is not temporary, but it can last for months or even years. A vulnerable victim of domestic abuse or a war prisoner, for instance, may experience stress that does not abate and, as a result, it becomes chronic over time.
  • Hypervigilance: it is a state of constant arousal. When one is hypervigilant, even without awareness, his or her body is on survival mode, or fight or flight. In that state, people are biased to the negative, tend to catastrophize and see threats or dangers where there is none, since their brains are constantly on high alert. For that reason, hypervigilant people are much more likely to worry excessively and have an anxiety disorder.
  • The neurobiology of trauma: simply put, it explains how trauma affects the brain. When studying the neurobiology of trauma, one understands how exposure to continuous stress during development, for instance, can lead to a sharp increase in the activity of the limbic system or the area responsible for the fight or flight response, to a point where the victim becomes hypervigilant and unable to switch that response off.
  • PTSD and C-PTSD: exposure to a single or several traumatic events can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, respectively. PTSD symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, sleeping disturbances, hypervigilance and irritability. C-PTSD sufferers also exhibit these symptoms, as well as chronic shame and guilt, built-up anger, suicidal thoughts, relationship and emotional regulation problems, amongst others.
  • Re-traumatisation: re-traumatisation may occur when a trauma victim is exposed to certain people, situations and behaviours that somehow bring out a state of vulnerability similar to when the original trauma took place. A classic example of re-traumatisation is when a woman that has suffered rape is blamed for what happened by the authorities involved in her case, such as a judge or a police officer.

Unresolved trauma can be quite debilitating and compromise quality of life. If you would like help to deal with the effects of trauma, I highly recommend Attachment-Focused EMDR. Please click here to learn about the approach or contact me to request an appointment.