I think heroes are people who do good or necessary things at great personal cost. Heroism must be judged by the courage and grit required to do what needs doing. That’s why trauma – that great terrorizer – produces heroes. No one has to override fear the way a trauma survivor does: Belleruth Naparstek
The World Health Organisation identifies two related disorders following traumatic events, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). CPTSD is usually associated with childhood trauma.
Belleruth Naparstek, a Psychotherapist, realised her clients were experiencing trauma when asked them to go back over the original event. Working with returning veterans from the Viatnam war, Naparstek developed a way of working with traumatised clients, that didn’t involve asking them to remember the past. She wrote a book that the above quote comes from called Invisible Heroes. In it she explains that although PTSD can be caused by continuous frightening situations, a single horrific event or one seemingly small incident, perhaps a near car crash, the symptoms that wreck people’s lives can be the same in each instance.
I have a friend who has been a councellor for many decades, when she was in her 80’s she said to me, “Lucy, I’ve heard so many stories of people’s pain over the decades, and the one thing I can tell you is this, it doesn’t matter what the story is, the suffering has always been the same.”.
Well I can’t know if that’s true, because I only know my own story, but this post is written for everyone suffering the effects of PTSD or CPTSD, no matter how big or small your story is, no matter how you or others feel about you, or judge you as a winner or a loser, a success or a failure, an unreliable addict or a person you can depend upon. In the words of Belleruth: Sometimes the heroism looks like nothing at all.
About 2 months after I was treated for PTSD with Solution Focused Hypnotherapy (SFH) and specifically a technique called Rewind, I started to realise each day was bringing me a new set of thoughts and reflections about my life, from a deep calm place inside myself. My shell shocked psyche took that long to register, there is consistency, and there is peace. It was as if the rational, logical part of my brain, was making an inventory of the collateral damage that the whirlpool of PTSD symptoms, coming from the fear/fight and flight part of my brain, had caused over the decades.
The fear/fight and flight part of the brain is where you keep ending up if you suffer from PTSD, when it’s triggered, with the biochemistry returning to how it was at the time of the event or fearful period of your life. When this happens the left pre-frontal cortex, the positive rational part of your brain, cuts out. You don’t rationally think to yourself, “Aha, the rational part of my brain has cut out, because I am having a PTSD attack“, no. Instead you become confused, irrational, find life difficult to manage and a whole host of symptoms can rise up. Those symptoms disappear when you are operating again from the left pre-frontal cortex, and you’re left thinking, “what is the matter with me?”.
For me it was like walking down a road on a lovely sunny day on my way to do something I was feeling good about, when suddenly a storm starts blowing up, which pretty quickly turns into a whirlwind and then sometimes, a hurricane, and you just do your best to keep on walking pretending it’s still a sunny day. As you do this you fall into the many holes that have suddenly appeared in the road. Well after I was treated with SFH and the Rewind technique, I found myself walking down a different road, and it hasn’t got holes in it.
One of the things it’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced PTSD or CPTSD, is the utter desperation a person can feel when an attack has been triggered, when seemingly tiny things take on a huge significance. This is due to the shift into the fear/fight/flight part of the brain, which can lead to hyper-vigilent behaviour, obsessing, mood swings, depression that seems to land out of no-where, anxiety, panic attacks, and other primitive brain responses.
The primitive part of the brain is where the fear/fight/flight responses come from, and it always operates from the remits of anger, anxiety, depression, negativity, obsession, hyper-vigilence, or a mixture of these. Our primitive brain wants to ensure our survival, so it is always on the look out for what can go wrong.
Life becomes confusing for the person who is suffering, as well as for those around them. The smallest and seemingly insignificant things can trigger someone with PTSD.
It’s the same with phobias. Many of us have met someone with a phobia of spiders, or flying and can understand how they may feel fear of these things. The thing is with a phobia you don’t just feel fear, you are instantly transported into the fear/fight/flight part of your brain and loose all ability to rationally reflect. This happened one day when I was in the car of a friend who had a phobia of spiders, she suddenly slammed on the brakes, jumped out of the car and ran to the pavement, leaving me in the car on a main and busy road. She couldn’t help herself.
Phobias aren’t rational because they come from the primitive mind, and so people can have phobias in relation to all sorts of things, for instance buttons or matchsticks! This can be difficult to understand for anyone operating most of the time from their rational mind, its to do with the way the primitive mind works. For instance an event may have taken place that caused that person to fear for their survival, the primitive brain registers this along with the environment where it took place, perhaps including the coat someone was wearing that had a particular type of button.
Years pass by and they’ve forgotton all about that coat, or perhaps they didn’t consciously notice it at the time with their conscious mind, but their primitive mind will have taken it in, and associated it with the frightening event. One day the person is out having a lovely time, and they see the same button, they don’t consciously recognise it but their primitive brain notices, and remembers it well. In order to protect them it will swing into action by creating all the chemicals of fear and flight. Suddenly what was a lovely day has turned into a disaster for them emotionally, psychologically and physically, as their primitive mind takes over.
As a Solution Focused Hypnotherapists I support my clients to reduce their general stress levels, helping them to function from the conscious positive, rational part of their brain – their left pre-frontal cortex. When the stress levels have been lowered it is possible to carry out the technique mentioned earlier – Rewind, in order to heal PTSD and Phobias, this technique takes 3 sessions. I had 4 sessions of SFH followed by the Rewind technique and my life has completely change. I haven’t fallen into any holes since, I’ve been walking down a different road.
The research is still being gathered in relation to this technique, you can find some here.
Belleruth Naparstek, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal, 2005.
Evidence of distinct profiles of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) based on the new ICD-11 Trauma Questionnaire (ICD-TQ), Mark Shevlin, Claire Fyvie, Philip Hyland, Erifili Efthymiadou, Danielle Wilson, Neil Roberts, Jonathan I. Bisson, Chris R. Brewin, Marylene Cloitre, Journal of Affective Disorders, January 1, 2017 Volume 207, Pages 181–187.
Christian Dunham, Clear, Calm and Confident: How To Change Your Life Inn 30 Days.