Saturday, November 9, 2013

Trauma & Healing

Trauma & Healing
By Payam Ghassemlou MFT, Ph.D.

Current or past abuse, neglect, betrayal, and any kind of tragedies or traumas affect everyone differently. When human beings are subject to cruelty especially as children, they often relate to life from their experience of torment and betrayal unless they work on changing that. As Alice Miller, the author of The Drama of the Gifted Child, stated, “All destructive behavior has its roots in the repressed traumas of childhood.”

Some victims of trauma can get lost in the darkness of their victimization and lose touch with their own inner light. In some cases, these people’s hearts can get covered up by debris of the unfairness of what happened to them, and they lose their ability to be compassionate.  They can also lose their ability to be vulnerable again. These wounded individuals began to live in all good or all bad worlds where “you are either with me or against me.” Because of what was done to them, they often feel the world is a dangerous place, and they are ready to strike first. They can never trust anyone easily, and they often imagine the people in their lives will eventually hurt them. In an attempt to protect themselves from ever becoming a victim or humiliated again, they victimize others. Many become a bully or tyrant in order to avoid feeling powerless.  They cannot make a connection between the impacts of their past mistreatment on their current relationships with others. For these individuals not being able to feel safe with anyone is the real loss that can be worse than the tragedy itself. Going through life without a safe and meaningful connection with others can feel like being in solitary confinement. Such individuals can be helped if they are willing to develop compassion and empathy for themselves and others despite their past mistreatment. They need to stop mixing up the past with the present. They additionally need to stop treating everyone as a potential threat. It will take a great deal of psychological labor to learn to love themselves.

There are those individuals who remain the victim of their tragic experiences by putting themselves in one oppressive situation after another. They lose touch with their sense of worth and treat themselves with disrespect. They either keep doing to themselves what was done to them or associate with others who can mistreat them. They tolerate humiliation by others and never say no. These untreated victims of humiliation and abuse live a life void of joy in order to continue the dark legacy of their familiar suffering. The world becomes a fearful place and hiding and not asserting themselves becomes their protection. They can never fully show up and stand up for anything meaningful due to fear of displeasing others. Their sense of worth can come from pleasing others. Not feeling a sense of worth as a person becomes a bigger tragedy than what they endured. Healing is possible for them as long as they are willing to reach out and ask for help. They can learn self respect, setting healthy boundary with others, and assertiveness.

It is important to know that not every victim of mistreatment or trauma is going to mistreat themselves or others. Those victims of tragic life circumstances who recreate their painful past can avoid the above mentioned scenarios by reaching out and getting professional help. Life tragedies or betrayal can become opportunity for growth. People can bring higher meaning to their painful life experiences and relate to them as the dark night of the soul. People can learn to use the pain of their suffering to develop more compassion and empathy for others. Victims of mistreatment and abuse can learn to grieve and consciously feel their feelings of anger, loss, shame, and abandonment. They can learn to provide support and regard for their own emotional pain. These survivors can turn to spirituality and the God of their understanding for comfort. There are countless number of kind and loving people in this world, and they can reach out to them for support. Sharing their torments with those who are caring can be very healing. Eventually, one day at a time, the victim of life tragedies or traumas can learn to love themselves and move beyond them.

© Dr. Payam Ghassemlou MFT, Ph.D. is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (Psychotherapist), in private practice in West Hollywood, California.

He is the author of Fruit Basket: A Gay Man’s Journey. In his book, Dr. Payam Ghassemlou writes about the psycho-spiritual journey of a gay man named Javid, in which he struggles with homophobia and having a life purpose. Available on Amazon

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