I wonder if you’ve heard of Gabor Maté. He’s a Canadian doctor who’s written several books on the interplay between the body and the mind. He’s also worked for many years with trauma and addiction.
Maté distinguishes between traumatic incidents (for example, learning that your husband has a sex addiction) and trauma (the body’s response to this). Thus, traumatic incidents are things that happen to you. Trauma, in contrast, is what happens inside you. These internal responses are likely to include:
- Dissociating from the present, and what is happening right now
- Disconnecting from your feelings (either you feel nothing, or you’re hit by strong emotions that seem overwhelming and unpredictable)
- Disconnecting from your body
- Seeing the world through a dark, negative lens, and believing it is hostile, uncaring, cold and scary
- Feeling defensive when you’re with other people, and feeling that you really must protect yourself
- Having a distorted, negative view of yourself (This is seen in self-talk and beliefs like: “I’m worthless”; “I’m unloveable”; “I don’t deserve good things to happen to me”; “I’m ugly”; “No-one would want me” or “No-one going to love me, and treat me properly”.)
These types of trauma responses can become ingrained. They can come to rule our lives, even when the danger’s passed. Thus, any time that a memory from the past resurfaces, or we encounter a trigger that’s connected to the trauma, we can find that we react in these maladaptive ways.
Thus, though they’re tied in to experiences that happened in the past, it’s like the body won’t forget, and reproduces these responses.
So what can we do to help to free ourselves from this – for the reactions are unconscious and outside our control.
Gabor Maté, would suggest that the way forward here is to learn how to reconnect with ourselves. This is true recovery; the recovery of the self.
It means providing the self with what it needed at the time when it experienced the traumatic, and life-changing, incident.
It is likely to include being supported properly through being provided with the following relational qualities: we need the focused attention of an attuned, compassionate, non-judgmental, understanding and empathic listener. Usually, this will be a counsellor or therapist.
In terms of therapy, the approaches that seem to help people the most are those which reconnect them to their bodies and emotions. Examples include: somatic experiencing, EMDR, emotional freedom tapping, motor-sensory integration techniques, meditation, yoga, and body work
Hence, freedom and recovery are possible for those who’ve known betrayal trauma, and are suffering its effects. It truly is hard work, and it requires time and patience. But progress can be made if you can get the help you need.