Monday, January 12, 2009

Healing PTSD, Resolution #1: Defining What We Want, Part One

So, now that your face is warmed up and you’ve spent some time forging the first small attempt to physically reconnect with your untraumatized self, let’s talk about the crux of who that self is.

It is not possible to survive trauma and remain unchanged – we all know that. But the truth is, we’re all changing all the time anyway. Trauma just makes us notice it in a bigger, more calamitous way. But think back for a minute. Are you exactly the same person you were at age 5? Age 25? Age (fill in the appropriate number)? The answer is, NO. We are always evolving in subtle ways, sometimes so imperceptibly we don’t even notice, but the truth is, while there is a core self, there’s also an evolutionary self. Our inner life is sort of like the solar system: there’s a constant sun, and then planets that revolve around it. In PTSD our solar system has been swallowed by a Black Hole, but somewhere in another galaxy the sun still exists and our goal is to get back into orbit around it.

Deepak Chopra explains it this way:

“I” never goes. Only “I am this or that” goes. Ultimately, enlightenment is for you to always be grounded in "I," but the limited, "I am this or that," goes.

You had a sense of "I" when you were a baby. You had a sense of "I" when you were a teenager. You have a sense of "I" now. You'll have a sense of "I" when you are an old person. But, in each of these cases that sense of "I" will be identifying itself with a different person. The baby's not the person you're in now. You have a different body, different ego, different personality, different thoughts, and a different way of looking at the world.

The problem with trauma is the shock. Rather than changing gradually from a child to a teen, we change in an instant from powerful to powerless. Over the course of any trauma, lasting one day or over several years, we can all think of at least one moment in which we felt ourselves violated and so immediately altered for the worse.

But we are mutable beings, with free will – we do not have to remain stuck in this altered, sad, horrible state. We can choose to alter again, this time for the better. The question is, How? While the answer and the path vary for each of us, the core for all of us is the same:

In order to revamp ourselves, we need to get back to basics, to know ourselves again. But not our traumatized selves. We know those all too well! Instead, we need to pull aside the curtain of PTSD and see who’s huddling behind there. What is his or her desire? Knowing who we are has a lot to do with knowing what we want. Which has a lot to do with healing and moving on to live a joyful, productive life.

Desire is defined as:

To want strongly; the feeling that accompanies an unsatisfied state; hope: expect and wish; an inclination; a natural state of longing.

You have those feelings over a lot of things. This week, as part of the BRIDGE THE GAP healing process we’re going to focus on reclaiming your desire.

First, we turn our attention to what those desires are in the PTSD state.

Today, let’s flex your desire muscle by getting a clear picture of all of the PTSD desires you have. We all walk around with this summary wish: I want not to feel this way. But let’s flesh that out a little.

Make a list of what you want that is PTSD related. For example:

I want the past to let me go.
I want the nightmares to stop.
I want the flashbacks to end.
I want to sleep through the night.
I want to not be so anxious.

I know I haven’t tapped out your daily PTSD-related desires. Add 10 more ‘wants’ to this list. And then keep going! I used to teach creativity and writing. One of my favorite exercises with my students was to give them a prompt and a time limit and then let them just free flow their ideas. The first things that come out are at the top of your consciousness, but the really interesting things surface when you’ve tapped the easy stuff and then keep on going.

When you have some time today, sit down with paper and pen. At the top of the page write, ‘PTSD things I want to be rid of’. Then set a timer for 5 minutes and write all of the PTSD symptoms and experiences and thoughts you want to end, be rid of and eliminate. Don't worry about or check spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc. Do not edit your thoughts for brilliance or stupidity. There is no right or wrong here; there is only your voice on the page.

When the 5 minutes is up, take a highlighter and read through what you’ve written; highlight the desires that seem most important. This can be all or just a few.

Now, set the timer again and finish this sentence: ‘I want to be rid of these things because….’

It’s not only important to know what we want, but why we want it. Understanding ourselves deepens and supports our intentions, which helps us focus so they can be achieved.

We spend so much time silently suffering, suppressing our desires, tamping down our personalities just so we can cope. Today, let your personality stretch itself a little, give it some exercise. Freeing ourselves from PTSD means freeing ourselves from everything about it. Give those suppressions a voice. I can hear them; they’re calling you.

(photo: tyla’75)

1 comment:

Destress Yourself said...

Awesome post! As usual...