From Trauma To Freedom: How To Recover From Frightening ExperiencesIf you’ve been searching for a book that addresses the problems associated with trauma, here it is.

Trauma is not well understood, and it is a subject which people are frightened to talk about, preferring to hide away in an attempt to ignore it. It can make people think that they are crazy or evil. It is often talked about in hushed tones, as if it were some mystery or illness from which the sufferer is never going to recover.

My passion for writing this book arose because I realised that there is nothing for the “ordinary” person to sit down and read. Something written in plain English which can be read in an evening was lacking. Trauma survivors suffer from an array of difficulties in life, ranging from sleep issues, nightmares and flashbacks to seemingly unrelated events triggering a withdrawal or an outburst. These issues leave the survivors feeling as though it is they who have done something wrong, rather than it being a condition for which they simply need treatment. It is often an area from which therapists shy away simply because of a lack of expertise; indeed, many therapists simply do not know that confronting the traumatic incident can have a retraumatising effect. Confronting the trauma may not be necessary; focusing more on helping to relieve symptoms and living an improved daily life is the preferred initial approach. Later in the therapy may be the time when we would start looking at the incident, and then only piece by piece.

Friends and partners of the trauma survivor will also find they can start to have an understanding of what is happening. When we are unwell physically, we go to the GP. There is, however, a great deal of fear when we are unwell mentally. We often do not want to tell anyone that we feel we are going crazy because of the fear of being locked up or being put in hospital – or, worse still, there is the feeling that no help is available. So where do the trauma survivors turn?

The booklet offers hope and reassurance that help is available, and that healing is possible. Trauma is not a life sentence.

There is no “one size fits all” treatment. Each incidence of trauma is examined in detail, and, thanks to the author’s extensive and comprehensive training in the subject, a clear treatment plan which is tailor made for every individual is available.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a complex subject, and this booklet demystifies it. It comprises twelve chapters, each of which is dedicated to one of the twelve principal issues of trauma. Each chapter gives examples of how the issue in question affects people and how therapy can help them to overcome the issue. The booklet describes in simple terms some of the problems that trauma survivors typically experience day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute. The booklet also offers long sought-after solutions.

Trauma is not just something that happens in the mind, but it also affects the body, and in Chapter One we look at an example of how this is represented in the body.

“Ant’s physical issues ranged from severe mouth ulcers to being allergic to many things, almost as though he was allergic to everyday life. He felt unable to go out because people would stop and stare at him. Not only the physical pain but the shame this brought him was excruciating.”

The booklet provides relief because it gives hope – indeed, there is a chapter dedicated to hope, and its importance has often been overlooked. In my therapy room there is a stone with the word “hope” on it. I show this to every client when I meet him or her for the first time. I understand that if a survivor has perhaps seen several people and made no progress, it’s hard to know that there is hope. In the book we look at how healing from trauma actually happens – and the booklet therefore helps to point the way towards a more positive, healthier and happier future.

Although intended primarily for survivors of trauma, this groundbreaking booklet also contains much of interest to the general reader. It is also very beneficial for anyone charged with the challenging task of caring for a survivor of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and for the families, friends and partners of survivors.

When you have experienced trauma, you start looking for others who may have had similar experience, or for someone to trust.

“I started making friends with others on internet forums, but it was just too much for me, internet forums can be useful, but also draining.”

Body

A question I always ask is, “Where do you hold your feelings in your body?” Some people will point to various parts of the body, but often I see a blank stare and hear the reply, “In my head, I suppose.” Often we become cut off from our bodies, initially to protect ourselves; this can, however, lead to other issues such as eating issues. We need to learn how to take care of ourselves; it is the body, and not just the mind, which remembers the trauma.

Boundaries

In this chapter we look at various questions regarding what boundaries are, how they keep us safe, how important it is to be able to say “No” when we want to, what healthy friendships and – equally importantly – what unhealthy friendships are.

“I can be a really good girl and help everyone, but now I realise I’ve almost been too helpful… and it’s exhausting.”

Triggers/Flashbacks

Discovering what your personal triggers are and how to have strategies to deal with them are an important part of trauma therapy. I’m often asked, “Why is it so hard for me to help myself?”

” Triggered feelings are much harder so soothe….the body reacts first and then processes the issue verbally.”

Dissociation

I’ve seen so many people who have encountered this. Dissociating can be a terrifying experience.

“James described himself as coming out of his body and feeling as though he was watching himself from the outside.”

When I reassure people that this does not mean you’re “crazy” and that in fact it is a way to keep yourself safe from the trauma, and that the process of therapy will work on helping it to stop, I see the relief on people’s faces. So often this feeling of relief is missed because people are simply too frightened to talk about it.

Memory

For some people in trauma the memories can stay at the front of the brain, staying “online” as it were. The process of therapy helps to put these memories into a different place in the brain, so that finally you can say, “It’s in the past”. However, for some people, especially where abuse has occurred, it may be the body that remembers, which often gives rise to various unexplained symptoms. The brain may not be able contact that memory for many years, thus making people think, “It must be a false memory”. False memory is, in my experience, very rare.

Shame

Shame is a massive issue for trauma survivors, especially if it is connected to abuse.

“Abuse isn’t something you tell anyone. It’s dirty, I’m dirty.”

Most of us will be able to think of moments we were shamed – perhaps by a parent or a teacher – but for those who have been abused, that feeling of shame is magnified a hundredfold. It makes the world a very frightening place – a place where you don’t know that it is OK to be you. Shame makes us shrink and shrivel and go to a very small “child place”. Much empathy and gentleness are needed before we know we can start to lift our head again and start to know we are OK, let alone celebrate who we are.

Anger

Anger can burn deep within us. Perhaps it is a result of the injustice of what happened, and for some who have experienced trauma such as a car accident or bullying at work, there can be lifelong consequences. You go over and over it with friends, trying to process and make sense of it all, until your friends are sick of hearing about it. For some people, their whole personality can seem changed after a trauma, and the person who was once mild-mannered has unaccountable outbursts of anger. Unhealthy and inappropriate anger can be just as frightening and upsetting for the person getting angry as for those around them. Some people will not want to let go of the anger because it might have been the only time they felt safe or had any control over a situation. Understanding why you are angry, what have been the triggers, and then understanding how you can be different is an important part of therapy.

Self-esteem

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I know there is another person in here struggling to get out.”

This is a very common reason why people seek help. I hear the above remark frequently, and, in my opinion, what people are noticing is the difference between the person they want to be and the person they are now with all the negative and limiting beliefs. It is necessary to help the survivor to break free from this step by step; essentially, it is about the survivor’s knowing it is OK to be “me”.

Spirituality

This is an area that few psychotherapists cover. However, I am aware that increasingly over the last few years more and more people want to talk about this. I used to be asked in hushed tones whether they would mind if we looked at this, whereas now people will often be much more direct in asking to talk about this as we are much more in tune with realising mind, body, heart and ”soul”  (whatever that is for you) are all connected. We all have different ideas of what spirituality is. It might constitute God, the universe, the law of attraction, or some other focus. It is what helps us feel “nourished”. For some people it is about having a framework to make sense of the chaos, because trauma disorganises you and your life. For others, spirituality can lead them into a totally new and profound place. I know of a local organisation of ex-prisoners who have now put God at the heart of everything they do and the way they live.

The knowledge that we are not alone in whatever we are feeling can immediately take some of the burden away.

Trauma can arise from many different circumstances. Being involved in or witnessing a traumatic event such as a car accident, any form of abuse (such as sexual abuse or male or female domestic violence), being directly involved in a war, diagnosis of a serious illness, bullying or bereavement are all very common causes of trauma.

Wide-ranging traumatic events can turn a person’s world upside down. They affect the survivor’s life and the lives of family and loved ones, giving rise to a variety of symptoms such as insomnia and/or nightmares, an inability to concentrate, triggers, flashbacks and a feeling of being disconnected. The survivor often feels numb and shut off from reality.

The booklet is the result of many questions posed in therapy sessions over the years and many requests for simple explanations about trauma, issues surrounding trauma, and its effects. Difficult concepts have been explained in simple terms to make it easier to grasp more quickly. The booklet asks and answers key questions surrounding trauma, and it contains many examples to help the reader finally understand trauma and its effects.

You can order the book from Amazon here.