“The fundamental issue in resolving traumatic stress is to restore the proper balance between the rational and emotional brains, so that you can feel in charge of how you respond and how you conduct your life. When we’re triggered into states of hyper- or hypoarousal, we are pushed outside our ‘window of tolerance’ – the range of optimal functioning. We become reactive and disorganized, our filters stop working- sounds and lights bother us, unwanted images from the past intrude on our minds, and we panic or fly into rages.. If we’re shut down, we feel numb in body and mind, our thinking becomes sluggish and we have trouble getting out of our chairs.
As long as people are either hyperaroused or shut down, they cannot learn from experience. Even if they manage to stay in control, they become so uptight (Alcoholics Anonymous calls this ‘white-knuckle sobriety’) that they are inflexible, stubborn, and depressed. Recovery from trauma involves the restoration of executive functioning and, with it self-confidence and the capacity for playfulness and creativity.” The Body Keep The Score – Bessel A van der Kolk, M.D.
I appreciate the work that Dr. van der Kolk has done in the are of trauma. He is spot on in his assessment of traumatic reactions. I have seen in the majority of community members and clients who have come through CARE over the years. During that time and even today I have observed survivors having difficulty with sounds and lights bothering them, flying into rages, trouble following through with projects or assignments given them. Often that leads to confusion and frustration as well as depression. Most of the survivors we have seen are generally very creative (painting, sculpting, musically, etc). I have always been impressed by the creativity of our community members. Restoring executive functioning involves helping them find who they really are not what they have been told they are (slut, stupid, unloveable, ugly, etc.)
This is where I must make a confession, I watch Dr. Phil! Yes, it is true, I do. I don’t agree with many things he says or does but I like that he gives almost all his guests treatment through reputable mental health centers at the expense of Dr Phil’s show. The other day I watched one of the best shows on “Human Trafficking” that I have ever seen. If you go to his web site you may be able to see it or order this segment. His guest was a woman who was sold to a predator from birth – her family had her specifically for him. She was beaten, raped, kept in a cage and rented out to the most wealthy men in the United States and Europe. When she went to high powered dinners she was dressed in the best clothing, flown to the event in a private Jet and wined and dined during the event. Afterwords she was paid by being beaten, tortured and raped repeatedly. Her affect was totally flat and it was obvious she was depressed and often suicidal. It was obvious that she was experiencing post traumatic reactions. Sadly it is a great study on trauma and survival.