Tag Archives: PTSD

Can trauma be controlled?

Trauma is where your brain has encountered something so difficult to process and comprehend, that your only option is to not process it. It’s a tipping point, often from an event that is no more than 20 seconds long. This is often referred to as a flashback. 

These tipping points are often not what would be perceived as traumatic by an outside observer.  Everyone processes in different ways, depending on their experiences in life, the perceived consequences and meaning in the event, and, to some degree, their perceptions of how they should have conducted themselves versus how they actually did.

So if a child is being brutally beaten regularly, that is not necessarily traumatic. The trauma can be caused more by something the perpetrator says while delivering the beating, rather than the direct, obvious pain caused by the violence.

Problems come, not from what happens, but from the meaning found when processing what happened. 

When dealing with trauma, it is common practice for therapists to wait at least a few months after an event before starting any therapy. 

The brain is an amazing thing, that processes and files, and organises everything that happens to us. 

This process takes time. It will be different for everyone. 

If you start trying to ‘fix’ trauma before that processing has taken place, it can do more damage than good. The event may not have registered as traumatic with an individual. Treating it as traumatic will then result in the memory being enhanced and processed as traumatic.  

Image result for flasher cartoon pictures

My husband once told me a story about a time when he was in the police:

2 teenage girls had been walking down the road and a man had flashed at them. 

They reported it to the police and my husband went along to interview both girls in their home. He interviewed them individually in their homes, with their parents present. 

The first girl was distraught. The mother was raging, talking about how disgusting it was and how traumatic it was for her daughter. The daughter was really affected by it and struggled to be interviewed. 

The second girl was calm and bemused. Her mother was joking about it and saying how ridiculous the stupid man was. 

You do not decide if something is traumatic or not, your brain does. 

So whilst we should be aware of the potential of things to be traumatic, we should not presume to know how someone else will experience and process an event. What we class as traumatic will be very different to someone else.

So be cautious about labelling something as traumatic based on your own perceptions of trauma. 

Everything can change. 

I can help you clear that traumatic block from your head. It only takes one session to clear the trauma, and then a follow up session to work on some of the structures in your brain that have been effected by it. 

Email dawn@thinkitchangeit.com to talk about how I might be able to help you. 

The Black Box

black box

As a child I discovered a little black box in my head.

I was trying to find somewhere to escape – a place I could go to hide that was away from everything. A place that was safe for me and where no one could find me, touch me, hurt me. A place where I didn’t have to feel anything, physical or emotional.

I found a little black box.

When I needed to I would go into my head and climb into the little black box. I would stay there until it was safe to come out again. As time went on I spent more and more time in the little black box.

Anything could happen to me physically, but it couldn’t reach me in the black box.

Eventually the real me hid there most of the time.

I liked my little black box. It was safe and no one knew about it.

One day, when I was at University, when I had just got together with my hubby he decided he would try a sort of hypnotic relaxation on me (what a charmer!)

I lay on the floor and he talked me through relaxing.

Within a minute or so tears were streaming down my face. Not the result he was expecting. Needless to say we didn’t do it again.

Many years later I began training as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist – something that often requires going into a trance state. On weekend 2 of my training, we were doing an exercise to go back to a positive memory. I was working with a partner. I found myself freaking out as my partner tried to take me into a trance state. I left the room confused, upset and shaken.

Eventually, after working with Trevor Silvester (founder of Cognitive Hypnotherapy) for a few sessions, I reached a point where I was happy and was able to feel those emotions I had kept locked away for my whole life. I was able to be myself.

I visited the box less and less. In fact, I almost forgot it was there.

Then, one day, once I had qualified, I attended a course on how to use Cognitive Hypnotherapy to help with childbirth. One of the things we learnt was how to teach a client to get themselves into a relaxed state. We always practice these techniques on ourselves. As the exercise began, I found myself scared to close my eyes. As everyone else relaxed, I once more found myself crying.

I was incredibly frustrated. I thought I should be sorted by now. I shouldn’t have this sort of reaction.

But in my therapy sessions, we had never been near the little black box.

One evening I was chatting to a friend and fellow Cognitive Hypnotherapist. She made a statement that maybe for me going into a trance state had a different meaning/purpose. And whoosh! just like that I returned to the time I first went looking for and found my little black box. And I realised that every time I had tried to go into a trance state it had reminded me of going looking for my little black box. For needing to escape.

I have done work on that black box since then, and it’s been profound. Actually it’s been life-changing. There is a calmness without the need for that. Although that black box felt like a safe place, I was only going there because everything else didn’t feel safe. The work I’ve done has been to see the rest of the world, the world outside the box, as safe.

That makes for a much calmer life.

I still have the box. When I took my abuser to court I went there a lot. I’m not sure that I will ever lose that space. I just hope, eventually, to never need to go there again.

Often I work with my clients on their version of a black box. Those who have had bad childhood experiences, or traumatic events later in life, usually get by through some sort of black box strategy. It might be a wall, or a black hole, but what it does is create a numb part in their head that feels safe. Unfortunately, this means that everything outside of it is unsafe. It can lead to a permanent state that might be described as hyper-vigilance.

I help them blur the boundaries between safe and unsafe so that everything becomes safe. As a result, my clients get to be present and to live their lives without the fear.

If you feel you have your own version of a black box, I can help. Nothing needs to be the way it’s always been.

Email dawn@thinkitchangeit.com 

The effect of childhood trauma

6a0120a729706f970b017ee493127b970d

As a child I discovered a little black box in my head.

I was trying to find somewhere to escape – a place I could go to hide that was away from everything. A place that was safe for me and where no one could find me, touch me, hurt me. A place where I didn’t have to feel anything, physical or emotional.

I found a little black box.

When I needed to I would go into my head and climb into the little black box. I would stay there until it was safe to come out again. As time went on I spent more and more time in the little black box.

Eventually the real me hid there most of the time.

I liked my little black box. It was safe and no one knew about it.

One day, when I was at University, when I had just got together with my hubby he decided he would try a sort of hypnotic relaxation on me (what a charmer!)

I lay on the floor and he talked me through relaxing.

Within a minute or so tears were streaming down my face. Not the result he was expecting. Needless to say we didn’t do it again.

Many years later I began training as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist. Something that often requires going into a trance state. On weekend 2 of my training, when we were doing positive trance work with a partner I found myself freaking out as my partner tried to take me into a trance state. I left the room confused, upset and shaken.

Meanwhile I went on this amazing journey with the help of Trevor Silvester, founder of Cognitive Hypnotherapy. I reached a point where I was happy and was able to feel those emotions I had kept locked away for my whole life. I was able to be myself.

I visited the box less and less. In fact, I almost forgot it was there.

Then I went on another course where we were being taught Self Hypnosis. Again within minutes of starting I had tears streaming down my face and I was shaking.

I thought the work I had done with Trevor had sorted this.

But we had never been near the little black box.

Then a fellow Questie and lovely lady called Michala and I were chatting one night. She made a statement that maybe for me going into a trance state had a different meaning/purpose.

And whoosh! just like that I returned to the time I first went looking for and found my little black box.

And I realised that every time I had tried to go into a trance state it had reminded me of going looking for my little black box. For needing to escape.

And so I went back to Trevor. I told him about my black box. I told him how I used it. I asked him to help me get rid of it.

Trauma is not created by an event. Trauma is created when the event is so emotionally overwhelming that your only option to cope is to shut down (to escape into something like the black box). This is why each of us will process events differently. For some they will be traumatic, for others they will just be horrible.

The problem with triggering a traumatic episode in your brain, is that it then creates a barrier, a void. Everything that went before the void is cut off. And whilst those things before the void are outdated and primitive, they at least provided some structure; some guidance, for how to deal with life events.

Everything after the void becomes uncertain, a risk. Without rules there is no structure and without structure, nothing is safe.

This is what trauma does.

Trevor worked with me to help removed the black box. It was one of the hardest sessions I have ever had. It was also one of the most transformative. Even now, over 4 years after that session, I notice things that are safe that didn’t used to feel that way.

There is a trend right now to define child abuse as trauma. Clients often come to me with a PTSD label after being diagnosed by mental health professionals.  They then work with the symptoms of the trauma. This can detract from the root cause, the traumatic moment.

That traumatic moment is not what you might expect. It is often not the worst act or event in a stream of abuse. It is usually a moment that you simply can’t bear to think about. A moment that your brain won’t allow you to go near: A person walking into a darkened room, a bag left on a chair, a sound of breathing, a physical moment. It was for me. It has been for many of my clients.

When a client comes to me that has clearly got a traumatic memory, we first clear that. I recognise that while I can do other stuff, as long as the void/barrier/black box remains, they will remain on alert. And the great thing is, the work I do doesn’t require them to tell me anything about the moment that created the trauma. All the work is done in their head with me as a guide.

A traumatic event does not have to create a lifetime of trauma. It can be changed. Email dawn@thinkitchangeit.com to learn more.

Dealing with birth trauma

Giving birth is a beautiful thing.

It is magical.

It is what a woman’s body is designed to do.

But the realities of giving birth can sometimes not be magical. Or beautiful.

Sometimes giving birth can be painful, humiliating and scary.

Sometimes giving birth can involve a major operation that requires months to recover from physically and years to recover from emotionally.

When you do it through the system (as opposed to a home birth) there is often nothing dignified about being pregnant and having a baby. Suddenly your body is looked at in the most intimate ways, measured, prodded and invaded by total strangers as they track progress of the baby.

During birth in a hospital there are even more strangers around and you lie exposed for everyone to see…and this is supposed to be ok. Because this is the process.

Sometimes things go wrong and everything seems to spiral out of your control. You just want to be with your baby but things start getting in the way of that so to add to the fear there can be the very primal need to connect that is not met. 

And when things go wrong (or even when they go right) even people with the most robust body image can find themselves struggling with feeling out of control and with the lack of dignity.

I have had a number of women come to me over the last year or so who have struggled with this. Struggled because their child is now a few years old and they still can’t look back on the birth without anxiety or fear. They feel guilty for not being able to appreciate the birth or for not being ‘as good as’ someone else who seemed to cope so much better than them.

These women who have been traumatised by their birth experience are often experiencing effects very similar to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) in their day to day life.

There is hope though.

It is never too late to work on this.

I can help. I can help a woman by taking away the trauma of birth which then frees them up to accept that things happened as they did without the pain and anxiety it used to evoke. I can’t change what happened during birth but I can change the way you feel about it.

It can be quite liberating to be able to look back on the day your child was born without fear and anxiety for the first time.

This is something I can do online via Skype and Face to Face so if you are being held back by a traumatic birth experience why not drop me a mail to dawn@thinkitchangeit.com and see if I can help (and don’t worry if it’s too hard to talk about, we can do just as much without you telling me the details of what actually happened)

Maureen Lipman…if memory serves me right

Last night there was a fascinating programme on the BBC by Maureen Lipman about memory. You can catch it here if you missed it.

I found the programme fascinating as she explored the brain and how we can influence it. It showed why some of the things we do in Cognitive Hypnotherapy can be so powerful.

It showed how there is no such thing as hard coded reality. It doesn’t take much to create a ‘false’ memory and that means that it doesn’t take much to materially change any memory. Essentially every memory is false because it’s a circumstantial recollection that changes through time and experience.

It also showed that the brain is essentially plastic. Actions we take through thought can physically change the composition of the brain. I was shocked to see the cross section of a brain of a healthy person next to the one of someone with Alzheimer’s. As the doctor said, the miracle is that those with Alzheimer’s can do so much given what their brain goes through.

She explored memory with Michael Mosely who showed her how simple it was to improve the memory.

And the thing that had the most impact on me was probably the interview she did with 2 PTSD sufferers (Post traumatic stress disorder). One lady had been on the tube for the 7/7 bombings and had been reliving what she called ‘the video’ of the event since then. She had 2 years of CBT and had improved a lot but clearly it was still extremely emotional to her.

The 2 years amazed me. With Cognitive Hypnotherapy we can usually affect significant change in just a few sessions and it can be particularly effective with PTSD. I would love to have helped both of them. It was hard to watch them getting so upset when I knew I could help.

Then there was the immense bravery of Terry Pratchett and his family.

It was a truly fascinating programme that I think did a good job of showing how much we can do with our minds if we just know how.

If the programme rang any bells with you and you need my help, why not start by dropping an email to dawn@thinkitchangeit.com and we can have a chat.