Stories by tian dayton PhD on Medium

Stories by tian dayton PhD on Medium

Getting in Touch With Gratitude

Posted: November 18, 2018, 2:01 pm

Explore Your Feelings of Gratitude in an Online Process

Gratitude is one of those emotions that research finds again and again is physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy. First of all, carrying the feeling of gratitude in our hearts and minds is it’s own reward, it just feels good to be appreciative of all that we have in life, to take stock of the good stuff, to “count our blessings”. And expressing gratitude to others, is like some sort of magic elixir that creates more of it, it grows like yeast in the atmosphere.

But gratitude, like any other feeling is multi-layered. We might have blocks to feeling grateful that bear looking into, maybe we can only feel a little of it because other feelings are in its way and crowd it out.

So here’s an interactive process that will let you refine your own exploration of gratitude, just click on the link below, look for the circle that says gratitude and begin your journey. Take a few minutes out of your busy day to honor your own heart, what better time to do that than on Thanksgiving week. Have fun, enjoy the process and ……

Happy Thanksgiving! YOU ARE HERE emotionexplorer

I didn’t hear anything from Sarah….just

Posted: October 25, 2018, 8:39 pm

I didn’t hear anything from Sarah….just on the edges….I’d have liked to hear more from her about tech and moms

The Nature of Traumatic Memory: Why Our Memories Terrifying Events are Spotty

Posted: October 4, 2018, 6:13 pm

As a psychologist who works with trauma, I am very much aware of how difficult it can be to recall details of traumatic experience.Even the question, “can you tell me about your trauma?” can be befuddling, if not somewhat disturbing, to one who has experienced it. In fact, it is the very nature of our human response to trauma that we defend against taking in the frightening experience in its entirety.

We are designed by nature to not let the full weight of the experience become conscious, such is her protective strategy. Nature does not want us thinking about whether or not we should run from a saber toothed tiger, she wants us just to run, so she puts first things first, action before thought.

When our fear is triggered, our muscles fill with extra blood flow and our body spurts adrenaline so we can fight or flee. However our thinking mind, the part of us that makes sense of situations, our prefrontal cortex shuts down.

But even though our conscious awareness is compromised, we still carry the imprint of the experience in the form of sense memories and emotions that inscribe themselves into our mind-body for decades and decades to come and continue to affect how we see ourselves and the world we live in. And the more emotionally charged and sense- laden the memory, the deeper the imprint, because it is the limbic system that gathers the sensorial data surrounding the experience as well as the emotions felt at the time.

Fight/Flight: Why Our Thinking Mind Shut Down

What happens to us in the moment of a terrifying experience is shocking and out of normal context, which is part of why we experience it as traumatic. At that moment when we are overwhelmed by something out of our control, our thinking mind, our prefrontal cortex, shuts down so that our limbic system, our fight/flight, can rev up. When we are flooded with fear, we go on automatic, our animal unconscious takes over. When we cannot flee or stand and defend ourselves, or when escape is not possible, we dissociate, we remain present in our bodies but our minds go somewhere else, we are in a terror state.We’re frozen in fear, our mind goes blank. This means that the thinking mind is not processing our experience, making sense of it and relating it to our sense of self or placing it into the context of our normal life. Because the prefrontal cortex is not doing its job of elevating “experience” (read: emotions and sense impressions) to a conscious level and making sense of them, frightening or traumatic experiences do not get processed and recorded in the same way as ordinary experience. These experiences do not get thought through, reflected on and placed into context. Rather they live in the unconscious waiting to be triggered by some circumstance or trigger event that “jogs” them, till then they are often “forgotten about” or split out of consciousness. As a result of this, people who have been traumatized may not have a clear picture of just what happened to them that they can easily talk about. Rather pieces of these experiences live inside of our mind/body in a fragmented state. We store the sensory information that the limbic system has recorded — the sights, sounds, smells, and so forth — alongside our emotional responses, which are also processed by the limbic system. But we attach no storyline that would help us to place those events within the framework of our lives, because that part of our mind that thinks, is temporarily off line. Therefore the body/mind “memories” go underground.

The Difficulty in Talking About It

So after the fact, when a well-dressed therapist in a nicely furnished office asks us to reenter those disparate splinters of personal experience and drag them from their hidden world into comprehensible, well-ordered sentences, we feel anxious and put on the spot. What are we supposed to say? It was so long ago, and it feels so very far away. And our terror is retriggered and we may reexperience that mind/body that we lived in at the terrifying moment.We relive the trauma. But those very moments hold important pieces of our aliveness. They have altered the way we live in our own bodies, experience our lives, and connect in our relationships.

Being asked a barrage of either well-meaning or invasive questions can leave us staring into space. Filled with anxiety and fear. We feel unable to bring the fragmented memories of what happened into consciousness long enough to describe them. And when asked how we felt at the time, we may draw an emotional blank. We may feel almost numb.

This inability to tell a clear trauma story can be seen by others as memory loss around traumatic events. It is in actuality, what I have learned to look for as a psychologist, in order to determine veracity.

Thank you…..truly

Posted: October 1, 2018, 8:41 pm

Thank you…..truly it feels very much in the past and doesn’t preoccupy me but I just had to do it both for myself, to go public and maybe just as much to support Christine Blasey-Ford coming forward. Not leaving her out there….I love that so many people are coming forward!

Thanks what a great response….I

Posted: October 1, 2018, 8:40 pm

Thanks what a great response….I think all people need to do really is listen and support. Not belittle, fault find or pretend it didn’t happen. I found the few friends I told were great, they really were just sympathetic but it was more than enough. It is very hard to talk about so just not shutting someone up is a great service to them…..thanks for the encouragement to pontificate!

Thank You Christine Blasey Ford: # Me Too

Posted: September 29, 2018, 6:13 pm

I am a psychologist, my specialties for the last thirty three years have been working with adult children of addicts, addiction and relational trauma/PTSD. I have worked with countless cases of sexual abuse.I have discussed these subjects in several of the twelve books that I have published and in numerous articles. I have given support to hundreds and hundreds of clients, both women and men, in working through sexual abuse in various forms. I have never, until today, written a word about being raped myself at 19 years old. I have talked about it in therapy, with my husband and a few, select people. But I have never gone public with it.It feels too dark. And I suppose I wonder, was this somehow my fault?

The Story

In 1969/70 1 was a student in Hondurus studying the social institutions of Central America as well as Spanish. I was naive. I hired an Honduran tour guide to show me a few churches in the area, I was traveling at that time with my sister who had a boyfriend with her and I wanted to give them some space and this seemed both constructive and interesting. The guide had been showing us around for a couple of days so I wasn’t worried. He was also an older man with gray hair, I offer this detail because it was a reason I would never have suspected that I needed to be on guard. Quite the opposite, I felt that it made him a protective presence.

What I Remember:

We were driving and dusk was falling, I wanted to return to the hotel and he seemed to be driving in the opposite direction, into the country away from the town.

He pulled into what he called a restaurant saying that he wanted to get a bit to eat before returning.

I had an increasingly uneasy feeling. Maybe this man wasn’t a nice older tour guide. Oh My God, where am I? I saw men who looked like they were drunk. I saw a long row that looked like a motel. Was this a motel? I heard high pitched screaming from women, laughter, drunkenness.

I refused to get out and insisted we return to town.He pulled the car out of that driveway but turned the other direction from town. Suddenly I knew, I saw it, I knew. I told him to turn around.He refused. I unrolled the window and began to climb out because the door was somehow locked. He grabbed me and became aggressive. I pulled the keys out of his ignition and the car stopped. I then made it out the window and began to run down the side of the road. He came after me. He became violent. He tried to pull me down on the ground. Here my head spins and what I see in my memory are swaths of tall green grass, sounds, nature sounds I think, I see the long road, he is swinging me around by my arm, I am swinging in circles. I feel the inevitable closing in on me. This man might kill me I think as I am swinging around and he is getting stronger. He pushes me down. I make a split second bargain with God, be here with me God, be here in this moment and let it happen fast, let me love this man for a moment so I will not be raped. God save me now.

I remember the feeling of grass poking into my back. I remember with such disgust his lips trying to find mine, trying to pretend this was somehow love, that I had said yes, that ….OMG. It happened, he for a few seconds/minutes I cannot say. I cannot say he entered me. But he did. More disgust. Such disgust. It is over, is he saying he loves me. You disgusting old man, you perverted monster. I get up, I pull my dress back in place. I hail a car in the road hoping to find help.

A car filled with men stops. I try to tell them in my broken Spanish that I am being attacked. They look nice, they are sympathetic. They will help me.

The man comes up behind me and says some things in Spanish. They all laugh and drive away. I watch the car going away into the night. No help is coming.

I don’t know where I am, I think I am near some sort of place of ill repute and men stick with men, they laughed. Worse could have happened.

The man who raped me becomes nice and protective acting again, like he was a tour guide.

I make a split second decision to go back to the hotel as he is saying he has to get home.

It feels like my only choice now, I get in.

He is docile. He is trying to tell me he loves me or something like that. I do not know this man, what is he saying. I am quiet but do nothing to aggravate him. He wants to give me money.

I say no.

He tries to put it in my lap.

I give it back.

He begins to get angry again, aggressive, forceful. I get scared, I cannot risk more.

I let it fall on my lap.

Four dollars in Honduran money.

Four dollars.

Four dollars.

What does this mean. Was I just paid for sex? NO.

I get to the hotel where my sister is with her boyfriend. I tell them what happened.

This is very strange to write…I have to list the facts as though it is an account about someone else. It feel like it is sometimes. But I know it is me, I remember it the way I remember the last words my Father said to me before he died, my first kiss, my favorite dog as a kid. It is branded into my psyche.

The laughter of the men.

The high pitched screams of the women.

The wetness of the tall grass.

The man’s glasses.

The dirt road.

The feeling of trying to climb out of the window.

I remember it.

100%.

I also remember the dress I was wearing with the orange, gross grain straps. But this part you will understand only if you have been through it. I could paint it even today I remember it so vividly. My stomach tenses as I write this, my throat is going dry. I actually remember the scene from above, of the man getting violent and swinging me around. My mind left my body and I could see myself and this man and the decision I made to allow this to happen I made from up there. Simply because I didn’t want to die that night.

This happened 49 years ago and I have never written it down. Until today. Until feeling pulled by Christine Blassey Ford’s testimony and my burning awareness because of my years as a psychologist of how little people really understand traumatic memory. I am relaxing now and sailing back into that part of my mind that can think clearly and write easily and in descriptive, long sentences. I am out of yesterday and back to the here and now. And I don’t want to go back there. None of us do, those of us who have experienced sexual assault. I saw in Christine Blassey Ford a woman who doesn’t want to go back there, who like me would rather not talk about it. But who like me is a trained professional who knows that she should so that she can heal and move on.

Back to the details which are easier to say now that I am in the present again.

When I got back to the hotel I told my sister and her boyfriend. They were pretty horrified. I told them that they had to take the 4 dollars, they felt radioactive in my hand. They didn’t want them either so I got them to promise that they’d go with me the the next day and we’d buy hot fudge Sundays, familiar comfort in a strange land.

I went to the shower, it was a dingy hotel and a dingy shower. I stood below a stream of water for I don’t know how long, I wanted to wash away the grime, the fear, the torridness. I prayed for God to wash it off, to rid me of this and I let the water be cleansing, holy water.

The next day I wrote my mom about this.

When I got back to the states I told my other sister.

My mom never asked me one question about it, not one. I took this to mean I should never bring it up again. There was other sexual abuse in my family that my mother never talked about. But it’s not my story to tell, not today anyway. It didn’t directly involve me.

But I knew Mom’s rules. I knew her ways.

My other sister did not seem to understand what I had been through and brought it up twice in social situations, like it was an adventure.

It was not an adventure.

It was awful.

But I knew the rules. Don’t talk. Drop this.Unless you want to be ridiculed or doubted or blamed.

Truthfully both times my sister brought it up I felt very supported by the other people in the room. It felt good and it came from men and women alike, they seemed concerned about me. I took it in. I had learned to take in support where I could find it.

Hard to write again, my fingers are shaking. Breathe, it isn’t now. It was then. Breathe. Coming back now, back into the present.

Thank you Christine Blasey Ford for making it safe enough for me to come out with this in writing. If you could do what you did, I can do this in the privacy of my own living room with my husband’s full support. If you can do what you did, maybe some of this can change.

Wanting to cry now. That’s good. Tears are good. Oh they are gone again, just a flash of sadness, it’s gone again.

That’s OK. That’s OK.

I am a psychologist and I understand the nature of traumatic memory.

It comes and goes. Sometimes I feel a lot, sometimes so little. I remember some things with a kind of crystal clarity that is spellbinding, other details elude me.

It happened so long ago.

About 20 or more years after this occurred, once I was married with two children leading a very wonderful life on all levels I was chatting on the phone with my mother. Out of the blue she said , “hey, I owe you an amends, I think.” I said, “what for, Mom?”.

“Well when you were raped as a kid you sent me a postcard and I never said anything about it.”

I felt as if she had taken a knife and driven it through my heart.

“Mom, you got that card? You got my card? You never said a thing? Oh Mom.”

But I didn’t say this.

Instead I asked, “what were you thinking that you didn’t ask me about it?” I so couldn’t imagine doing that myself.

Mom’s voice came back, “I guess I just thought what’s she gotten herself into now?”.

The knife went further in and I wanted to say, “why tell me this now Mom, why crack open my heart like this? I had forgotten, convinced myself that …I don’t know….I had successfully “forgotten” that you said nothing to me.”

It took days from me to get past that feeling, weeks maybe I don’t remember. But it was clarifying. Why would I feel safe talking about this when I knew what might be in store for me?

But today I feel what we call in the trade safe enough. Thank you Christine Blasey Ford for opening this door so wide that I can walk through it, too.


Thank You Christine Blasey Ford: # Me Too was originally published in Thrive Global on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Love the conceptual side of this thinking….and

Posted: September 13, 2018, 10:53 pm

Love the conceptual side of this thinking….and the practical tool for playing/experimentation…am buying for my architect daughter and grandkids….

Emotional Stress: Long Term Deep Stress That’s the Result of Parental Addiction, Adverse Childhood…

Posted: August 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

Emotional Stress: Long Term Deep Stress That’s the Result of Parental Addiction, Adverse Childhood Experiences and/or Trauma

Got one or more of these? Keep reading……

Everyone knows about stress. We work too hard, play too hard and sleep too little. We’ve got too many balls in the air and ignore self care. No me time, no down time. The result we’re stressed out! And everything suffers, our mood, our health, our work….to say nothing of everyone around us. Small problems feel bigger and our reactions to anything from waiting in a grocery line to how we are with our partners and kids are out of whack.

For this kind of stress there are many solutions out there; shift priorities, get more rest, sleep and downtime, exercise, eat better, drink less and pay some attention to more mindful living.

But what about when the stress is emotional, when the stress is not a result of normal life stressors that get handled in normal life ways, but it stems from growing up with parental addiction, neglect, abuse or neglect? What role do our emotions, past present and future play in our stress cycle then, and what’s the fix for that?

As a psychologist I am aware that we still haven’t adequately wrapped our minds around this subject. There’s a saying in twelve step programs, “if it’s hysterical, it’s historical” meaning that if your reaction to any given stressor is way bigger that the present day circumstance warrants, there is some past, unresolved pain that’s likely driving it.

There was an excellent study done called the ACE study. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have a long term impact on both physical and mental health. Originally researchers from the Center for Disease Control (CDC)and Kaiser Permante were simply looking at what factors drove health care costs up; what made people go to the doctor more often and make claims on their insurance? Well it turns out that growing up with emotionally and psychologically painful experiences were one of the strongest predictor of health problems later in life, hence the coining of the term ACE factors. And ACEs tend to cluster; “once a home environment is disordered, the risk of witnessing or experiencing emotional, physical, or sexual abuse actually rises dramatically”, says Rob Anda lead researcher on the study from the CDC.

Painful childhood experiences that don’t get handled at the time or near the time they occur can morph into what Harvard researchers call toxic or chronic emotional pain and can impact all health issues across the board, physical and mental and…… you guessed it….. they increase the number of visits to the doctor and health care costs sky rocket. And here’s a key point, although they are emotional issues they read in the body as physical ailments, anything from chronic back problems, gastrointestinal issues, heart problems etc. In other owrds, what may have started out as “all in your head” has worked it’s way into the muscles and organs of your body. What happens in your feelings not only impacts your moods, it impacts your health.

Amazingly it is only in the last few years that mental illness and addiction became reimbursable thanks to the Affordable Care Act passed by congress in 2008 which included mental health parity. Until then there was little or no insurance coverage for mental health and substance use disorders and we were still insisting that the brain/mind and body were totally separate entities; that what went on in your mind had nothing to do with your physical well being. Big mistake, as it turns out that what goes on in your growing up years and throughout your life emotionally and psychologically has everything to do with your state of health and your….yes…doctor visits.

Emotional stress then is the kind of stress that impacts how you feel about yourself, your relationships, your life and your future. It’s pressure from within and the kind we’re talking about here is the kind that is unconscious enough, intense and chronic enough so that it surfaces in your body. Deep emotional stress can be experienced as anxiety, depression, hyper-vigilance, intense emotional reactions, shutdown or withdrawn and of course PTSD, to name a few. It is not grief, rather I’d say it is the absence of grief where grief was needed.

According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2015). “the toxic stress response can occur when a child experiences strong, frequent, and/or prolonged adversity — such as physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship — without adequate adult support. This kind of prolonged activation of the stress response systems can disrupt the development of brain architecture and other organ systems, and increase the risk for stress-related disease and cognitive impairment, well into the adult years.”

This notion of “adequate adult support” is a big one here. Were there adults in a child’s world who they could turn to for comfort, reassurance and stability in times of stress or were those adults so preoccupied with their own problems that the child was left to try to comfort themselves with little or no help from the grown-ups around them? And to take that point even one step further, were the adults in that child’s world the ones who were actually causing the stress; as is the case when there is parental abuse, neglect, addiction, absence or mental illness? In this case kids are at a double risk. Not only are they being hurt but the people they’d normally turn to find their way out of pain and stress, to normalize it and explain to them what’s going on, but the adults in their lives are the ones creating it. So this kind of stress can become chronic and toxic. And we may not be able, without the help of a caring adult, to process it, learn and grow from experience and develop resilience. Some kids can but when you scratch the surface they usually got some kind of help. Or had an unusual and inborn ability to turn even a TV show into a sense of positive direction and normalcy, “God bless the child who’s got his own!”

But the cardinal finding in virtually all research on resilience is that resilient kids have at least one adult who cares about them, https://www.google.com/url who they can turn to on a consistent basis for support and a sense of safety, someone who values them and wants the best for them. Someone who can help them learn how to mobilize the supports in their world so that they can summon the inner strength and self-valuing to soldier ahead.

Wong and Wong in their research on resilience identify at least three prototypical patterns that resilient people appear to display, which may occur in different contexts for different individuals. These are developed as individuals meet life challenges; they are dynamic, constantly evolving qualities rather than qualities residing only within the individual. They are the ability to:

  1. Recover: To bounce back and return to normal functioning.
  2. Remain Invulnerable: remaining relatively unscathed by the adversity or trauma.
  3. Experience Post-Traumatic Growth: they bounce back and become stronger as a result of overcoming life challenges.

When a child is left to understand what has happened to them that has hurt or even terrified them all by themselves, they come up with the meaning that they are capable of making at the time that they were hurt. Some are more able to bounce back than others, but generally those that thrive have the ability to use the world around them as a resource rather than withdraw from it. Most according to research have help in some form. But if the stress is chronic and emerging in adulthood then it becomes the adult’s responsibility to use the resources that they can find and take responsibility for their own healing.

So What Can YouDo About It?

Here’s where you start:

  • Educate Yourself: Find books and google articles on the subjects of Adverse Childhood Experiences, Adult Children of Alcoholics/Addiction (ACoAs) and trauma. I have two books, Emotional Sobriety (also has a workbook) and The ACoA Trauma Syndrome that will cover the waterfront.
  • Twelve Step Programs: Twelve step programs are free, they offer the kind of support and information that is needed to take further steps, they normalize deep stress because that’s what most people are there to deal with and they are easily accessible. There’s a twelve step program that you can probably fit into if you look and ask around.
  • Consider Therapy; both one-to-one and group, consider psychodrama. Here I’d take advice from those who might also be on this journey, you’ll meet them in twelve step rooms. Go with your gut, it’s important that you have a good connection with your therapist and that you’re comfortable (enough) opening up around them.
  • Exercise: Walking with friends 4x/week is a research based rx for depression. According to studies it is as effective as medication as it gets serotonin going in the blood stream and relationship connection is way up there too as a factor that contributes to health and well being.
  • Nutrition: If you eat food that is throwing your body chemistry into chaos, it will impact you emotionally. So get familiar if you aren’t already with healthy carbs low sugar, veggies, fruit, legumes and healthy meat if you eat it. Enjoy yourself but in a healthy, mindful way.
  • Lean Into Your Spiritual Life: Whether it’s meditation, church, temple, Mosque or twelve step programs, a spiritual life gives you that center and sense of community that’s so important to us humans and there is a lot of meaning and value added as well.
  • Create Down Time: Sleep “knits the raveled sleeve of care” and has for a long time apparently as it’s Shakespeare who said it. Adequate sleep along with rest and downtime mean that you carry so much less stress around throughout your day that it spawned a movement. The mindfulness movement is sweeping the country as people figure out how crucial mindfulness is to happy and productive living.

So it’s progress not perfection, take it a day at a time and remember to enjoy the journey because this is a journey that gets better all the time. No harm in sticking your toe in the water and seeing what’s out there for you that can enhance your life and the lives of those you love.

References:

Anda, R. F., V. J. Felitti, J. Walker, C. L. Whit!eld, J. D. Bremner, B. D. Perry, S. R. Dube, and W. H. Giles. 2006. “The Enduring Effects of Abuse and Related Adverse Experiences in Childhood: A Convergence of Evidence from Neurobiology and Epidemiology.”

Dayton, Tian (2007) Emotional Sobriety: From Relationship Trauma to Resilience and Balance, Health Communications, Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Dayton, Tian (2016) The ACoA Trauma Syndrome, Health Communications, Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Werner, Emmy — Protective Factors and Individual Resilience: Handbook of early intervention, 2000

Wong, P. T. P. & Wong, L. C. J. (2012). A meaning-centered approach to building youth resilience. In P. T. P. Wong (Ed.), The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (2nd ed., pp. 585–617). New York, NY: Routledge.


Emotional Stress: Long Term Deep Stress That’s the Result of Parental Addiction, Adverse Childhood… was originally published in Thrive Global on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Golden Moment Map

Posted: July 3, 2018, 4:48 pm

It’s Almost the 4th of July. In honor of our country’s independence and our emphasis on individual freedom, here is an exercise to do that explores a very happy and/or empowering moment in your life.

Here Goes……

Think of a moment in time when you felt just great about yourself and what was going on around you, where life felt easy and filled with pleasure and possibility.Make a little stick figure diagram or map of yourself and then your close relationships at that moment. Include pets and even organizations. If you don’t feel like an artist, use circles to represent women, triangles for men and squares for organizations. If people feel large and distant, reflect that or small and close, overlapped…whatever. Just for you to reflect on.

Sharing About A Golden Moment Map

Share about your golden moment in one of two ways, either reverse roles with yourself at the age you were at the time this golden moment occurred and share from that age, e.g. I am Soledad, I have just gotten a part in the play, my best friend is in it too, and at rehearsal today I remembered all my lines and everyone thought I did a great job!

OR share from the point of view of yourself today, e.g. I am Soledad and it makes me want to tear up to see myself as a kid so happy and whole because I know how things changed for me. But I admire myself as well because…..etc.

Golden Moment Journaling Questions

How does it feel to look at this map today? Share a little about that.

What do you see in yourself in this moment that you feel you might have lost or that you want back?

What resentment towards others are you aware of as you look at this moment?

What gratitude do you feel towards yourself or anyone else on this atom as you look at it trough your eyes of today?

What do you want to say to yourself on this atom knowing what you know today?

Write a Letter From Yourself, to Yourself

Reverse roles with yourself at the time of this atom and write a letter, from that age, as that child or younger self to yourself today.

Write a Letter From Your Adult Self to Your Child Self

From the mature person you are today, write a letter to the happy child within you who feels great about life.

The Trauma Timeline: A Journaling Exercise for Understanding the Impact of Relational Trauma in…

Posted: June 27, 2018, 1:16 pm

The Trauma Timeline: A Journaling Exercise for Understanding the Impact of Relational Trauma in Your Life

“The essence of psychological trauma is the loss of faith that there is order and continuity in life. Trauma occurs when one looses the sense of having a safe place to retreat within or outside of oneself to deal with frightening emotions or experiences.”

Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD

Relational trauma can be a confusing issue to deal with, partly because it is cumulative, it is not one incident but many small attitudes, incidents and dynamics that span time. It’s easy to lose track of when something happened, how often it happened or what exactly it was that was painful, particular if the trauma was some form of neglect, emotional abuse or disinterest.Filling in a time line helps to make these issues and dynamics visable. It can also reveal which were significant incidents, which were ongoing dynamics and what periods felt relatively safe and happy.

Next to or within each five-year span write a few words that refer to some thing, some relationship dynamic, or some ongoing situation that you experienced as traumatic. Note: neglect can be traumatic as well as abuse, divorce in the family, addiction, siblings or parents leaving, accidents, hospitalizations, family illness, etc. . . . the idea here is to understand how you experienced it, not whether or not it fits some criteria as to what is formally called trauma.Write in whatever comes to mind in this catagory we’re discussing in the appropriate lines.

0 yrs _________________________________________________________________

5 yrs

___________________________________________________________________10 yrs ___________________________________________________________________15 yrs ___________________________________________________________________20 yrs ___________________________________________________________________25 yrs ___________________________________________________________________30 yrs ___________________________________________________________________35 yrs ___________________________________________________________________40 yrs ___________________________________________________________________45 yrs ___________________________________________________________________50 yrs ___________________________________________________________________55 yrs ___________________________________________________________________60 yrs ___________________________________________________________________65 yrs ___________________________________________________________________70 yrs ___________________________________________________________________75 yrs ___________________________________________________________________80 yrs ___________________________________________________________________85 yrs ___________________________________________________________________90 yrs ___________________________________________________________________95 yrs ___________________________________________________________________100 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

Answer the Following Questions:

What jumps out at you as significant when you look at your timeline?

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________ What was a particularily difficult period in your life?

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________What were the silver linings, what were the gifts of trauma?

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________Were there periods that were relatively easy and good?

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________What painful relational dynamics from the past are you still living out today?

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

Inner Child Work: Having an Inner Dialogue

Instructions: “Mentally reverse roles” with yourself anywhere along the Trauma Time Line continuum and write a journal entry speaking “as” that part of self, e.g., “I am Shahara, I am eight years old and I am” or “I am Hank, I am around thirteen and I just . . .” After you have completed your journal entry “answer back” from your “adult role” of today. In other words, begin a journaling dialogue between the two parts, your childhood self and your adult self and allow your adult to help your child or adolescent self learn to talk about your experience rather than hide it from your adult self and allow your adult self to listen to, support, and guide your child self.

CHILD/ADOLESCENT ROLE: I am ______________. I am ___ years old and I .

___________________________________________________________________

ADULT ROLE: (Answering back to your child self from your adult self)

___________________________________________________________________CHILD/ADOLESCENT ROLE: I am ______________. I am ___ years old and I .

___________________________________________________________________ADULT ROLE:

___________________________________________________________________CHILD/ADOLESCENT ROLE: I am ______________. I am ___ years old and I .

___________________________________________________________________ADULT ROLE:

___________________________________________________________________

End this exercise by writing a few sentences to yourself as a child from where you are today, what you know now that you didn’t know then.

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________