Mar 15 2022
LOVE & TRAUMA - How To Cope With Overwhelming Anguish & How It Affects Relationships
IN THIS EPISODE we dive in to the deep dark waters of experiencing trauma.
We break down the many ways trauma can affect not only our own lives, but the lives of those around us, and our most important relationships.
We share methods and resources for working through different kinds of trauma.
& We share some modern techniques & treatments, some of which might surprise you.
#traumahealing #lovetips #relationhips #couplestherapy #couples
Some links & references for ya:
Books (click on the affiliate links below to buy from Amazon and help our channel at no extra cost to you!):
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience - Dr. Brené Brown: https://www.amazon.com/Atlas-Heart-Meaningful-Connection-Experience/dp/0399592555/ref=pd_sbs_28/141-3629085-5543902?pd_rd_w=hrLr9&pf_rd_p=dfec2022-428d-4b18-a6d4-8f791333a139&pf_rd_r=AFR3TRBBHDEGHP97ZTWW&pd_rd_r=a89aec35-6cc8-4e4a-ab1c-94922872b219&pd_rd_wg=cNfTD&pd_rd_i=0399592555&psc=1&_encoding=UTF8&tag=howtolovefore-20&linkCode=ur2&linkId=a2a8d31ad0582e5c531baacc099123d7&camp=1789&creative=9325
Healing Secondary Trauma: Proven Strategies for Caregivers and Professionals to Manage Stress, Anxiety, and Compassion Fatigue - Trudy Gilbert-Eliot, PhD: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1641527560/ref=sspa_dk_detail_2?psc=1&pd_rd_i=1641527560&pd_rd_w=a2JRz&pf_rd_p=0c758152-61cd-452f-97a6-17f070f654b8&pd_rd_wg=rK04Q&pf_rd_r=MMH5MJVGWPFDWVC01B8C&pd_rd_r=a31e2223-d5b7-4356-8a1c-201a35f8349b&s=books&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEzUFAzRkdWSE05TVk4JmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwMTM5NzQwM081QVA5S0Q5QU9BUSZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwNDE0NzMyMVA4RldVQjRHTkdWSCZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2RldGFpbCZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=&_encoding=UTF8&tag=howtolovefore-20&linkCode=ur2&linkId=4fbaa8b3612119b268a6535a59d52666&camp=1789&creative=9325
"The Love After War" screening at CSU:
“I’m just so lucky to walk through this hell with her”. Tommy Vietor
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US). Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2014. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 57.) Chapter 3, Understanding the Impact of Trauma.
Millán K. “Signs and Symptoms of PTSD”. Black Bear Lodge. Black Bear Rehab. N.d.
Nielsen B. “How Unhealed Trauma Affects Highly Sensitive People”. Highly Sensitive Refuge. 10 February 2020. “Past trauma may haunt your future health”. Harvard Women’s Health Watch. Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School. February 2019.
Yoder C. “Unaddressed trauma & how it impacts us”. Peace After Trauma. 2018.
Effective psychotherapy is good for trauma patients, not to fix people, to paraphrase Dr Van Dr Kolk, but to be able to acknowledge the terrible scary things that happened and to find ways the patient can fix themselves.
About Bessel van der Kolk:
Bessel van der Kolk is a psychiatrist noted for his research in the area of post-traumatic stress since the 1970s. His work focuses on the interaction of attachment, neurobiology, and developmental aspects of trauma’s effects on people. His major publication, Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society, talks about how the role of trauma in psychiatric illness has changed over the past 20 years.
Dr. van der Kolk is past President of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University Medical School, and Medical Director of the Trauma Center at JRI in Brookline, Massachusetts. He has taught at universities and hospitals across the United States and around the world, including Europe, Africa, Russia, Australia, Israel, and China.
Check out Bessel van der Kolk's latest book, “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” at https://www.amazon.com/Body-Keeps-Sco...
What is trauma?
First, comes tragedy, right out of the blue, walloping our hearts, minds & bodies, sending our lives reeling with typically no warning. It could be a terrible car accident, or something that hits us square in the emotions, like being subjected to or even just witnessing cruelties. When we are victims of tragedy, trauma ensues. To be more specific, trauma can be defined as a response that results from exposure to an incident or a series of events that are so emotionally disturbing or perceived to be so life-threatening that it has lasting effects on one’s mental, physical, social, emotional, and/or spiritual balance.
In other words, something happens that threatens the very fabric of our lives, and we then get to deal with the very understandable emotional fall-out, potentially for the rest of our lives.
We know this is heavy stuff, but considering that over 2/3 of our population has experienced a traumatic event at one point in their lives, and over 8 million people in the US alone suffer from PTSD, we feel the need to talk about it.
And not just talk about what it is and how it can affect us, but also to share some techniques and strategies for dealing with trauma that have been scientifically researched and proven to be effective.
We have to remind our listeners that we are not therapists, we are not licensed health professionals in any sense. We are just two more people who have survived traumas, had some pretty intense life experiences and are fortunate to be alive and well enough to speak of it. We speak of it from personal experience not from clinical expertise, and we urge you to not take anything we say in this podcast as legal or medical advice, but rather as personal observations.
Sharing is the first step to healing, but if you or a loved one are suffering the effects of trauma, we strongly encourage you to seek out real qualified help, from a professional who will understand your needs and provide you with the tools & guidance to work on healing all of those unseen wounds.
And if this episode gives you a better idea of what it is you’re going through and why, and that there is hope for healing with an array of techniques, then we will consider ourselves fortunate to have been able to help someone. To that end, we have included a wealth of resources in the notes of this episode; from books and videos to celebrated practitioners, we urge you to check out the links and begin to map your path to healing.
Ok, so there are many kinds of trauma that can occur. Ranging from some kind of accident, to natural catastrophes, to being subjected to interpersonal violence. It can be a one-time event (like an accident), a prolonged event (such as war), or a series of events ( like being subjected to long-term abuse).
Trauma that affects a community or a country is called collective trauma, and being close to someone who has been traumatized can cause it’s own trauma, called secondary trauma. It’s all very real and as you have probably seen in your own lives it can have incredibly long lasting consequences, sometimes generational. In fact, so much of our human history can be defined as a litany of inherited generational trauma.
However, since there are so very permutations of trauma, and this is a podcast focused primarily on relationship health, we are going to narrow our focus to what happens when traumatic experiences threaten our romantic relationships, and what we can do to strengthen our connections & heal from the pain we’ve experienced.
In relationships, there are two 2 categories of trauma that will most commonly affect us; life trauma and unhealed relationship trauma.
Life trauma refers to those out-of-the-blue occurrences, whereas unhealed relationship trauma refers to when we have not yet fully processed and moved on from trauma occurring within a relationship, often a previous one.
So what are the ways we can be affected by these different kinds of traumas?
(How does it affect us?)
* physically drained from constant stress responses
* fight/flight/freeze response is an automatic state now
* toxic relationships are stressful for mind & body alike
* constant stress can cause inflammation, heart attack, chronic pain, arthritis, weakened immune system
* dissociation: disconnected from the world or your life
* head-in-the-clouds, non-presence
* feeling your life is a movie you’re watching on a screen (simulation)
* disrupted perception memory processing & emotions
* like the traumatic event is still happening.
* mental exhaustion at a chemical level
* adrenaline & cortisol are supposed to be short-term
* chemical overload: can’t concentrate, can’t remember, can’t sort out feelings
* frustration can be a constant
* trust problems
* doubting people, even ones you know & love
* walls, non-belief, paranoia, doubting people’s motives
* risk junkie, taking chances to evade the bad feels
* sensations (rush) you can finally feel
* self-destructive rushed like sex & drug addiction
* any way to clear your mind of the nagging problems you can’t address
* a constant feeling of shame
* GUILT: feel bad about something you did
* SHAME: feel bad about who or what you are
* much self-blame about things not working out better
* living in regret & “if only” thoughts
* guilt/shame overload can worsen physical/psych effects of trauma
* physical reaction to emotional triggers
* trauma “nostalgia”
* some small stimulus bring an outsized reaction
* amygdala produces neurotransmitter Acetylcholine
* shortness breath, sweating, anxiety, sickness when smell, shaking in a topic of conversation, nervous convulsing
* potential for violence
* risk overeating, overproduction of adrenaline, anxiety etc can be further risk factors that make matters worse
How does it affect those around us?
* it can be generational,
* meaning the effects of trauma can be passed on from parents, grandparents, etc, through dysfunctional interactions & training children to view life through a lens that the world around them is not safe and may never be safe.
* potential substance abuse & other abuses can cause havoc in family, work, friends
* partner can experience secondary trauma
* also known as vicarious trauma
* experience many of the same effects as the person who was injured: fear, exhaustion, helplessness, hopelessness, anger, anxiety, etc.
* it can generate its own ptsd
* untreated ptsd, the effects get worse over time
How can we process & manage it?
There are two schools of thought about trauma;
1) it can be cured (removed)
2) it cannot be cured, only treated & the mind/body rewired to circumvent it.
The key is to find something that allow the sense of deceptiveness & self-loathing to be controlled
* notice the incongruence between the stimulus (situation) & the response (your whack-ass flipout)
* Always remember that healing doesn’t work in a straight line
* be kind to yourself. healing, self-love, self compassion, patience
* try a therapy like EMDR (eye movement desensitization & reprocessing)
* patient recalls traumatic event, therapist makes them follow fingers with eyes
* seems like b.s. but the results speak for themselves
* changes the brain circuitry to interpret your currently reality from different POV
* allows people to let go of long-ago events, no longer in the now
* try things like Yoga
* deepen your mind-body connection, raise awareness
* greater relationship with your internal sensory system
* allows us to minimize the focus on our round and round thought process, while feeling more connected to what our bodies are actually feeling. and if our body feels safe in the moment, that can help train our brains to be less “on guard”.
* According to Dr. Bessel van der Kolk it’s proven more effective for ptsd than any of the studied drugs (prozac, zoloft, many others)
* try things like Theater & Movement
* playing different roles in your body can help your relationship to yourself
* “playback theater” is a movement that uses this premise
* but all theater can be ecstatic and cathartic
* We did the John Gilkey “Idiot Workshop”, where he pushed us to dig deeper for expressions of ourselves we typically aren’t comfortable portraying. I had a breakthrough when I burst out that I didn’t want to be “cute” any more. After letting that sit with me for a few days & weeks, I realized that I had been filling a de facto “cute” role all my life, largely due to how it helped keep me safe. But now that I’m stronger & more confident, I don’t need to keep that as my primary identity. There are so many facets to who I am, and I no longer need to limit myself to what used to keep me safe.
* Aristotle argued that tragedy cleansed the heart through pity and terror, purging us of our petty concerns and worries by making us aware that there can be nobility in suffering. He called this experience 'catharsis'.
* try things like Neural Feedback (no really!)
* electrical/photon impulses into the brain can be like a neurochemical hard-reset
* shaping the brain to have a different configuration, open to new input
* try things like Psychedelic therapy (guided MDMA sessions for trauma)
* legal grey area
* gaining traction
* gotta be legit, psych-guided, not just trippin’ at a friend’s house
* (ok maybe there’s some benefit to the friend’s house trip but come on)
* a meta-view can be achieved, a removal from the traumatic experience
* * (we have friends)
BOTTOM LINE: DIFFERENT PEOPLE REQUIRE DIFFERENT APPROACHES. If you are working through trauma, you may find yourself drawn to one of these methods, or you might benefit from incorporating several of them. And it can change, both as you make progress and also as you move through different phases of your life. the main goal is to recognize what you’re struggling with, accept that needing help is nothing to be ashamed of, and start finding ways to heal your wounds.
Speaking of healing wounds, we had the pleasure of speaking with Mark Cunningham, a military veteran and therapist based in Fort Collins CO. We will be sharing the full interview with you all later in the season, but we wanted to do a public service announcement in this episode because Mark is helping to promote a documentary called “Love After War”, produced & directed by sexologist Dr. Mitchell Tepper. “Love After War” introduces the viewer to veterans and their partners who have had to fight the battle to save their relationships after suffering catastrophic injuries dealt in combat. It’s heart-wrenching, candid, and inspiring, so we hope you get a chance to support the film.
Mark is hosting a special screening at Colorado State University on March 29, 2022. If you’re listening to the podcast right after it came out, that means you have two weeks to make plans! And if you aren’t able to pop over to Fort Collins the day of, you can sign up to get notifications of screenings in your area, or even sign up to host one yourself!
The website is loveafterwar.org, and we’ll leave a link directly in the description. So please check it out and support this film any way you can.