What is your definition of “trauma processing”?

Elsewhere

Learning
I’m wondering what other folks consider to be “trauma processing”. I’ve asked a couple therapists and still don’t feel like I really understand. It sort of feels like a squishy term, and yet, it’s supposed to be the path to healing.

I find that I’ve been running over the same ground mentally, involuntarily revisiting and reexperiencing past episodes of trauma, over and over again... I’d rather be doing just about anything else, since thinking about past horrors is so painful, but I can’t seem to be able to turn off these thoughts at will. So, when I get stuck on something distressing that won’t leave my brain, I find that the only thing “useful” that I can do is try to take a step back and contextualize it, seek to understand why it has such a powerful effect on me, try to objectively look for cognitive distortions that are counterproductive to my wellbeing, and hopefully defuse the emotional pull these memories have on me... But this doesn’t seem to be working very well. In other words, the same thoughts will keep returning, even after I do what I’ve described, and they continue to have power over me. It feels like I’m just going to keep cycling back through these same thoughts, never being able to escape. Sometimes they’re triggered by obvious things that are presently occurring, other times, they seem to emerge from out of nowhere (probably from triggers that I haven’t yet recognized). This has been going on for a few years—ever since I emerged from what seems to have been a decades-long fog (of general dissociation, I guess) and started to become conscious of the gravity of my past traumas (childhood abuse as the primary source, followed by various retraumatizations throughout life) and how they affected who I have become as a person in terms of my distorted perceptions, misplaced feelings, and maladaptive behaviors. It’s like a Pandora’s box has been opened and I can’t get it back closed, nor can I seem to move beyond it.

Is this “processing”? Even if it’s involuntary? Will it ever end? Do any of you experience this same kind of thing? Am I doing something wrong? I’m so sick of this. I’d do anything to turn off these thoughts and find some mental peace. I’m so frustrated and discouraged
 

Survivor3

MyPTSD Pro
Hi @Elsewhere, yes I can completely relate too what your saying. I get it nearly everyday. What your describing sounds more like 'intrusive thoughts'. Unfortunately I don't really have any advice for you other than do something to break the thought pattern and distract yourself. Like listen to music, tv, hobby, you tube mental health videos etc...
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Totally get it too.

What I *think* , is a middle of those two things you have described. A joining of the cognitive understanding and of feeling the feelings. *I think*. (At least that's what I have decided it is). I go from one (feelings being overwhelming = can't possibly process) to the other (cognitively working it through with no emotion = not really processing).
Getting a balance of both at the same time? I've been able to do that a bit in therapy. And it might be then that processing happens?

But , honestly, I have no clue.
Others on here have much more wisdom.
 

Warrior Chicken

MyPTSD Pro
Thanks for the thread....totally relate.
Others may have the same layer I’m currently in, it’s one that shifts but goes along with how @Movingforward10 described: feelings overwhelming = can’t process ——> work thru with no emotion = no processing——> completely shutdown = unaware/dissociated

I think all layers are necessary for us to process. Some allow for distance from the memories so you can move back to processing when the time is right.

Not really a complete definition at this point from me, just where I’m at. And what you described is very familiar to me, for what it’s worth.
 

enough

MyPTSD Pro
I think it is a kind of ability to get to an objective view of the trauma, the memory of it, the reaction, all of it. For me, the final piece seems to be being able to say thanks to my brain for keeping me aware of what happened, but also telling my brain that it has done it's job and can relax now, I no longer need to be aware of what happened to me when I was 11 unless I see it happening to another 11 year old. Only then do I need to remember it all. Good job, message received, no one is ever going to do that to me again, it won't happen to anyone else if I can help it.

I agree, it's a pretty squishy idea this processing. I will agree with my T it matters how much of it has been exposed, it matters if we can "see" it all before we can be sure it isn't going to just keep on at us until we do see it all.
 

Elsewhere

Learning
it matters how much of it has been exposed, it matters if we can "see" it all before we can be sure it isn't going to just keep on at us until we do see it all.
By this, do you mean we have to consciously be aware that an event was traumatic before we can start to process and defuse the memory?
 

Elsewhere

Learning
Trauma processing for me is to understand my life ... how things happened, in what order. To feel everything that needs to be felt until there is little reaction to the events. To understand and forgive myself. To understand why I act the way I act.. to understand my triggers ... to be the observer.
I think you’re right about the need to feel everything that needs to be felt. It makes sense for me from the standpoint that I was literally not allowed to express my inconvenient emotions growing up. If it made my father uncomfortable (e.g., me being angry or depressed), then it wasn’t allowed. I remember getting yelled at once for not acting “happy”. On another occasion, my father asked me, as an adolescent, whether I had ever been suicidal (he only asked because I’d just revealed that I’d thought a friend of mine was suicidal—my father had inquired after eavesdropping on a phone call I’d just had with her). When I very reluctantly responded “yes”, guess what.... he yelled at me. He didn’t care that I was suffering, but boy was it inconvenient for him that I wasn’t happy about life (and perhaps he actually was self-aware enough to sense that it was because of him?) At any rate, I had to learn from a young age not to express emotions and I think that led to not even really feeling them. Almost like I’d trained myself, in the interest of survival. I guess the concept of “structural dissociation” explains this phenomenon, and maybe that can explain why this whole thing is turning out to be so problematic for me, but I digress.

Anyway, it makes sense that the emotions need to come out somehow, and that processing would naturally involve this, but I’m wondering why is it taking years? Why are the emotions still so strong after so much “processing”? Does it mean I’m not doing it correctly? Sometimes I worry that things are just getting more deeply embedded in my brain rather than discharging. That terrifies me.

Can anyone testify to processing to the point of being ok with any of your traumatic memories? Or is everyone still in the middle of processing, and it really does take forever? Sorry if that’s a dumb question, I don’t really know how to ask
 

Survivor3

MyPTSD Pro
I think you’re right about the need to feel everything that needs to be felt. It makes sense for me from the standpoint that I was literally not allowed to express my inconvenient emotions growing up. If it made my father uncomfortable (e.g., me being angry or depressed), then it wasn’t allowed. I remember getting yelled at once for not acting “happy”. On another occasion, my father asked me, as an adolescent, whether I had ever been suicidal (he only asked because I’d just revealed that I’d thought a friend of mine was suicidal—my father had inquired after eavesdropping on a phone call I’d just had with her). When I very reluctantly responded “yes”, guess what.... he yelled at me. He didn’t care that I was suffering, but boy was it inconvenient for him that I wasn’t happy about life (and perhaps he actually was self-aware enough to sense that it was because of him?) At any rate, I had to learn from a young age not to express emotions and I think that led to not even really feeling them. Almost like I’d trained myself, in the interest of survival. I guess the concept of “structural dissociation” explains this phenomenon, and maybe that can explain why this whole thing is turning out to be so problematic for me, but I digress.

Anyway, it makes sense that the emotions need to come out somehow, and that processing would naturally involve this, but I’m wondering why is it taking years? Why are the emotions still so strong after so much “processing”? Does it mean I’m not doing it correctly? Sometimes I worry that things are just getting more deeply embedded in my brain rather than discharging. That terrifies me.

Can anyone testify to processing to the point of being ok with any of your traumatic memories? Or is everyone still in the middle of processing, and it really does take forever? Sorry if that’s a dumb question, I don’t really know how to ask
I'm not sure if trauma memories or flashbacks, intrusive thoughts ever go away completely. It's more about learning the skills to manage them. This can be learnt in therapy or on here, self help videos for example. It's about minimising the effects of trauma. What to say to yourself or what to do when those symptoms arise to snap you out of it.
 
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