Category: <span>Trauma</span>

How to access the healing power of grief

Grief is a biological and emotional/psychological healing process. We go through it to process our losses, regardless of their nature. Those who open themselves to grief, experience emotional and even physical pain. As no grieving process is alike, some might experience it more intensely than others. While some connect more easily with anger and guilt, others might struggle to feel anything other than deep sadness. While there is no right way of grieving, its healing power is universal.

How to access the healing power of grief
To access the healing power of grief, you need to nurture a mindful attitude

Unfortunately for those who agree on the benefits of grieving, awareness alone does not make connecting with this process any easier. Thinking it is a good idea to go grieve does not lead you there. Listening to sad songs might not trigger it either. That is because grief is sneaky, it hits you when you least expect – when you are clothes shopping or eating your dinner, for instance. It is also slippery; it escapes your grip when all you want is to control it.

To access the healing power of grief, you need to nurture a mindful attitude to the changes you experience in your body. Bodily sensations carry precious information not only about our physiology, but also about our feelings. Sadness and anger – grief’s main emotions – have their way of expressing themselves. Think about how you feel when you experience both. Make a mental inventory of the negative bodily sensations you connect with feeling sad, such as heaviness in your upper body, pressure in your chest and feeling like you have a lump in your throat and tears behind your eyes. Do the same with anger.

Once that knowledge is at the front of your awareness, it will be hard not to connect with grief when it strikes. As you notice its presence, turn your attention to it. Drop what you are doing and sit with it, literally. If for any reason that is not possible – you are at work or busy with something important – make a mental note to connect with it later. Do not leave it for another day but make time for feeling what comes up – whether it is anger, sadness or guilt – as soon as you can.

Taking time to grieve when you notice its presence is the best strategy to heal. An honest and proactive attitude also helps you through your healing journey. Approaching your grieving process with openness and without shame supports mental health and sets a wonderful example of maturity and strength to those who are influenced by you.

Why do I feel angry all the time? Understanding anger addiction

Why do I feel angry all the time anger addiction
Anger helps us regulate feelings of vulnerability

Feeling unconditionally loved by our primary caregivers is essential to foster a healthy sense of self-esteem. Unconditional love is experienced when a child feels felt, heard and seen, in ways that meet their most basic developmental needs. Parents who are attuned to their children’s emotions with empathy and without judgement help them nurture a sense of self that is whole, even when experiencing intense negative emotions such as shame, fear and anger. Neglect (including emotional) and abuse sustained throughout childhood, however, lead to developmental trauma and feelings of low self-esteem. As such feelings are easily triggered and not processed functionally with the help of an emotionally conscious and mature other, the developing child is more susceptible to create a dysfunctional relationship with their own emotional, inner world.

Children who are made to feel inadequate for having negative feelings (or any feelings at all) by their abusive and/or (emotionally) neglectful parents and feel powerless and rejected when triggered have little or no access to functional tools for emotional processing. In such cases, they are highly likely to resort to maladaptive coping strategies to deal with their shame, fear of abandonment and other feelings of unlovability to regain some sense of wellbeing. It is logical to want to feel good. It is also human to avoid suffering and try to control it. Problems arise when a given strategy becomes “the only one”, and, especially, when it does more harm than good in the long term. A rare instance of binge eating in front of the television might be okay when it is not one’s exclusive means of tolerating the pain of one’s losses. When that becomes a daily routine to deal with chronic stress, unprocessed grief and feelings of powerlessness and emotional isolation, you got yourself an addiction.

Anger – predominantly experienced as a secondary emotion – helps us regulate feelings of vulnerability. Under its influence we feel respectful, dignified, entitled and righteous. It does so by making us feel energetic, powerful and ready to fight and defend ourselves from whoever or whatever – including feelings – that make us feel small and hurt. In this heightened state of arousal, we experience a high that may become addictive. As the overweight who focus solely on dieting but avoid exploring the deeper, underlying mechanisms that feed their food addiction and, for that reason, struggle to keep a healthy weight – anger addicts remain angry by neglecting the primary emotions that trigger it. Therefore, the reason why you feel angry “all the time” may be centred on fear, reluctance, or difficulty to access the deeper, more painful emotions you have carried from years of (emotional) neglect and/or abuse.

If you identify with the above, I recommend trauma counselling to deal with the effects of complex trauma, such as pent-up anger and anger addiction.

6 Signs of CPTSD

6 Signs of CPTSD
CPTSD makes it difficult to regulate emotions

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder or CPTSD may develop as an effect of complex trauma. Complex trauma results from repeated exposure to adverse events over a prolonged period of time. Adult children of toxic parents and those who were raised in highly dysfunctional environments are, therefore, prone to have experienced childhood abuse and neglect (including emotional) which, in turn, increase their probability of identifying with the following 6 signs of CPTSD:

1- High reactivity and difficulties regulating emotions: unresolved childhood trauma is connected to unprocessed grief, built up anger and deep feelings of loneliness and abandonment depression that require conscious self-soothing efforts. Due to hypervigilance and high arousal levels, however, feelings of anxiety arise quickly and easily, making it harder to understand and manage one’s inner life. Emotions are often felt intensively and without a sense of matching or even belonging to specific context contexts.

2- Changes in consciousness: dissociation, difficulty remembering traumatic events, including the emotions related to it.

3- Negative self-perception: strong negative beliefs about oneself that are felt in the body even when they do not correspond to objective thinking (“I know I am competent/good enough/loveable, but I do not feel that way”). Strong inner critic, tendency to see the world in black and white, impostor syndrome and catastrophising are commonplace.

4- Relationship difficulties: difficulty trusting others and seeing relationships as sources of wellbeing. Natural tendency to gravitate toward abusive/toxic people and codependent and emotionally dependent relationships since they feel familiar and create a false sense of safety.

5- Distorted perception of the abuser: considering the abuser as powerful and able to cause continuous pain, control or even destroy one’s life, even when he or she is much older, physically and mentally weaker and emotionally immature. Tendency to obsess about feeling heard and having emotions and experience validated by the abuser and having recurrent thoughts/fantasies about talking to him or her, explaining things as well as planning revenge, etc.

6- Loss of systems of meanings: feelings of hopelessness and loss of purpose in relation to the world, life, people and spirituality.

Other symptoms may include chest pain, frequent headaches, migraine, armouring, bruxism, gastrointestinal problems, low libido, difficulty enjoying sex, weaker immune system, sleep disorders, flashbacks, avoidant behaviours, suicidal thoughts, higher susceptibility to addictive behaviours and depression.

If you have identified with the above, CPTSD management is possible via a very conscious and proactive attitude that includes a combination of trauma therapy, such as Attachment-Focused EMDR, and dedicated self-care.

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.