What is your definition of “trauma processing”?

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Really interesting @Friday .
How do you work out the difference between pretend ok and ok?
Asking as I'm incredibly skillfull at pretending (decades of practice).

And can say the word rape with no feeling whatsoever. But how to work out if that is still pretending or actually processed?

(Sorry to hyjack thread...delete if not appropriate).
 

shimmerz

MyPTSD Pro
To me trauma processing seems like the ability to acknowledge something as having a negative impact on the here and now, getting to how that has affected my ability to properly respond to life here and now, properly assign shut down feelings that are rooted in those past events and making the conscious decision to feel those feelings again and then making a decision to move forward in a way that has a broken connection to the old traumatic behaviours that were driving me.

No idea if that makes sense to anyone else but me.
 

EveHarrington

MyPTSD Pro
My processing un stuck my mind so to speak. I am no longer frozen in the trauma moments. It was a process of reprogramming my mind in a before/during/after process. I still have emotional flashbacks, but I’m much better overall.
 

Sues

Confident
Wow, that’s very encouraging. Thanks for sharing, @Sues

If I may ask, how many sessions (or how long) did you end up working on that one memory?

Also, are you able to tell (yet) whether you are no longer susceptible to getting spontaneously triggered by things related to that event, or are you talking more about not feeling negative emotions anymore when you consciously recall the event (...or both)?
EMDR takes some time to set up. You should never jump right into it, and if a therapist wants to do that, you should walk out that door and never go back. You have to lay the ground work first...
Creating a safe space and practicing going there and using breathing to calm yourself.
Creating a container of your choosing to place all the bad stuff in before you leave your session
You need to talk about the memory a bit and establish the "bad feeling" associated with it, then what "good memory" do want to be associated with it instead
I would also add that you need to be able to trust your therapist and feel very comfortable with him/her

Then the EMDR can start. We started with my "safe place". We did the EMDR with slow hand movements for the positive safe place. Once I could do that and picture it and get calm after thinking about a mild annoyance, we moved to the EMDR for the traumatic memory. Then the EMDR used fast hand movements.

I'd guess it took 5 or 6 sessions for that first traumatic memory. I no longer feel anxious or upset at all when I think about the memory. It's not a happy memory, but I can say that I feel safe whenever I think about it now. This memory didn't really have any triggers attached to it, so I can't say that the EMDR would help with that specifically, but I've heard that it does.

We started on a second, easier memory because my work (I work in a hospital with tons of covid patients) is super stressful right now. I was so exhausted from work that I had trouble following my therapists hand, so we tried the buzzers. Since I didn't have to follow the hand, I was able to close my eyes while holding the buzzers (that shows the level of trust I built because I could never close my eyes during therapy before) and this meant I could concentrate on the memory more. It made the memory more vivid and it seemed to go faster. I was able to feel better in the one session. We are not done. We are going back again to redo that memory to make sure it's completely "cleared"

I was skeptical about EMDR, but open to try it. I never expected it to work as fast or as well as it did. It's not easy. It's very uncomfortable to "think" about the memories as you are doing the EMDR. But it is worth it.
 

TruthSeeker

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 in the 4th quarter of life, and there have been a lot of different kinds of trauma, and lots memories! I just started this journey 3 years ago, and had issues with my last therapist who didn't help me with the processing part-we ended up with trust issues (add insult to injury). But now, with my therapist in the last year and a half, I tolerate a lot more trauma discussion than I did, I don't dissociate like I did just thinking about it a specific trauma, or don't project what might happen (hypervigilence) and I don't have rage fits like I used to over specific traumas......and when I'm in therapy, I can stay more grounded. That has taken lots of practice. So my take on trauma processing is here is trauma X, I write about it at home in a safe place, then I talk about it in the T's office (struggling with dissociation), then I leave it alone for a little while and let those feelings sit a while. I also decide what I'm going to talk about in T so I kind of pace it myself. Letting it sit a while keeps me stable and gives me an opportunity to view it differently when I can step back from it. I can't access my emotions about trauma if I'm dissociative nor make sense out of what happened in a state of hypervigilence, and you can't do it all at once. It is a process. I think have a therapist who is on the ball with trauma, and has clear boundaries, and highly skilled is essential. Eventually, it is easier to talk about a specific trauma in the T's office....and when I feel myself beginning to dissociate.....I remind my T to talk about something else that happened during the week before I leave....and she writes down what I tell her, and she'll run interference to keep a balance in therapy when it appears like I've had enough. I can't do the processing if I'm dissociative and I can't learn to stay better grounded if I don't talk about the trauma. So, laying the groundwork to stay grounded for me, was essential as first steps to processing trauma.

So, in my experience, dealing with trauma processing is that it is done is small stages and amounts until tolerance and staying grounded is achieved has been super helpful. Learning distraction skills, and getting hobbies which are highly focused, so I can't loop reduces the intrusive thoughts......and they go away along with unpleasant dreams when I've finished dealing with an issue.

Once I get that far with a trauma topic and I'm in control, rather than my subconscious or my brain going into autopilot when it feels threatened, then I can connect with my emotions and figure out how I want to package it up as part of my history, an how can I let it go. I'd call that the end part of trauma processing....after I can talk about it grounded, like it was an unpleasant fact in my life and I'm no longer raging or fearful or shameful or any of those other feelings that consumed me then I work towards letting it go..... At this end stage, I'm able to find ways to let things go.....or put it away as an ugly fact of life that I've talked about enough, understanding it....and understanding my reactions to it, and my part in it, and accept my part in it if anyone was hurt by my actions.....at this part, comes acceptance. So, it seems to me anyway, there's a lot of desensitizing and preparation to get to the real talking and integrating the event as a part of what "really happened" stage......and finding a different way to view what happened to be able to live with it and move on. I believe we are in part, what we learned from our family, we are in part what we expect from ourselves, and from others, and we can get to a point when we deal with our emotions and hurts without fear, so that we can become who we choose to be-if we want to live differently.....remembering, we are not our past.
 
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Elsewhere

Learning
That’s a great description, @TruthSeeker, and I appreciate what you’ve said. I believe that I’ve kind of organically started doing the types of steps you explained, informally anyway, but (I guess this is no surprise) I can find myself getting stuck on acceptance

I start to believe that I’ve sufficiently worked on a certain traumatic experience and that I’ve integrated it to the required degree, and then, bam it comes back again at some point. So that makes me question whether I’d achieved acceptance

Also, the steps make a lot of sense for single-episode/shock types of trauma, but it’s harder for me to conceptualize with complex/relational/death-by-1000-cuts trauma (I have both)

I think I have yet to feel confident that I’ve really put anything to rest. This is despite me having successfully corrected my cognitive distortions around many of my more troubling past experiences (or, at least I’m fairly confident that I’ve gotten to a point where my conscious beliefs about certain experiences are now both more tolerable and more realistic)

(Sorry if that’s confusing—oatmeal for brains today....)
 

TruthSeeker

MyPTSD Pro
That’s a great description, @TruthSeeker, and I appreciate what you’ve said. I believe that I’ve kind of organically started doing the types of steps you explained, informally anyway, but (I guess this is no surprise) I can find myself getting stuck on acceptance

I start to believe that I’ve sufficiently worked on a certain traumatic experience and that I’ve integrated it to the required degree, and then, bam it comes back again at some point. So that makes me question whether I’d achieved acceptance

Also, the steps make a lot of sense for single-episode/shock types of trauma, but it’s harder for me to conceptualize with complex/relational/death-by-1000-cuts trauma (I have both)

I think I have yet to feel confident that I’ve really put anything to rest. This is despite me having successfully corrected my cognitive distortions around many of my more troubling past experiences (or, at least I’m fairly confident that I’ve gotten to a point where my conscious beliefs about certain experiences are now both more tolerable and more realistic)

(Sorry if that’s confusing—oatmeal for brains today....)
I'm also called "complex trauma"...not just a single trauma or two. Complex...how about that....it seems so daunting to be classified that way. I'm strongly considering starting my memoirs (which is different from journaling), and tackling the family dysfunction---- leads to how I learned to behave.......the sexual piece as a woman and rapes.....the near death abuses....how medical trauma helped shape my life.....living with Dysfunctionals and awareness....and cult-like abuse. Sounds like different chapters to me....but I think I can write the narrative with feeling, but find closure in the process. My T thinks its a great idea...and I think she gives amazing on point feedback without having to blink.... Then I can say I've done my trauma processing-here it is in my memoirs.....I think that will help integrate of all those personality fragments and help those unsettled parts of me find closure with "my life" as it was. I want to have a finality to the therapy history wahwa by giving my past the attention it deserves, documenting it by assimilating it as the truth, find the lessons learned, remember the things that were good or the things I learned, integrate the fragmented parts....give them an acknowledged place, and when the last chapter is written.....put it away. That's my this years and probably next year's plan, anyway. You and I sound kinda like we are in a similar place with "where do I go?" This memoirs decision was very recent. it was good to hear your perspective @Elsewhere .
 

shimmerz

MyPTSD Pro
Cathy O'Brien, who you may or may not know, states in one of her books, PTSD: Time to Heal that writing (actually writing, not typing) is one of the most healing things you can do for yourself. Best of luck to you on that project @TruthSeeker . I am still not able to get my thoughts into a complete timeline yet but am hoping to before my time is done here.
 

TruthSeeker

MyPTSD Pro
Cathy O'Brien, who you may or may not know, states in one of her books, PTSD: Time to Heal that writing (actually writing, not typing) is one of the most healing things you can do for yourself. Best of luck to you on that project @TruthSeeker . I am still not able to get my thoughts into a complete timeline yet but am hoping to before my time is done here.
Don't know Cathy OBrien......but she's probably got something there. I have done journal writing and it's very cathartic but it hurts my hand.......I've spent my entire life typing. However, the writing process probably produces more accurate or in the moment results....so first thoughts are always on the paper!
 

Sues

Confident
Wow, that’s very encouraging. Thanks for sharing, @Sues

If I may ask, how many sessions (or how long) did you end up working on that one memory?

Also, are you able to tell (yet) whether you are no longer susceptible to getting spontaneously triggered by things related to that event, or are you talking more about not feeling negative emotions anymore when you consciously recall the event (...or both)?
Yes, I was able to process that one memory in one 40 minute session. I've since gone on and done 2 "rooms" in that house that had many memories in them, all in single 45 minute sessions. I did a 4th "room", but it took 3 sessions and had a bit more memories. I'm now working on another area that has many really bad memories, and I can see progress, but it's taking a few more sessions.

All of this with no more triggering attached to them. I can think about the events that happened in those rooms and they are just bad memories that no longer make me panic or want to bury them to escape. EMDR works and I am so thankful for it.
 

Waterbear

Learning
think one factor that matters is the "window of tolerance." When we are outside our window of distress tolerance, we are often
(1) flooded by disconnected emotions and/or memories. They are intrusive and loud and painful and there is nothing productive happening - we're just swept up in the flood and banged about.
(2) dissociated, disconnected, numb. How did I get here? Why does everything feel so far away? Meh, not sure. When did it start? Shrug.

Trauma processing doesn't go so well until we figure out how to access it in manageable chunks. Sometimes, these chunks are unbelievably, infinitesimally, frustratingly small. I can't stand red scarves, so I take a blue scarf that I love and weave a single red piece of yarn into it, in the shape of a heart. And wear it and wear it and wear it until I don't notice anymore. Or I begin chipping away at shame, looking for tools and ideas and metaphors that have helped others on
Wow! This. Thank you. We just spent the last session talking about this exact same thing, and then I read an article about the affective edge this week too. You put is so eloquently that I won't try to add to this. It's hard, but I'm hoping (trusting) that my T knows what we are doing. She can read me. She can push me and bring me back. I'm learning. Thank you for writing this.
 
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