- Hyperarousal – the persistent expectation of danger
- Intrusion – the unforgettable memory/imprint of the trauma
- Constriction – the numbing response of surrender
Initially, hyperarousal dominates responses as a person finds themselves in constant alert and agitated shortly after experiencing the trauma. Following this period of increased adrenaline and extreme responses, intrusive symptoms begin to emerge, usually within three to six months. Of course, every person is different, and some people arrive at this stage earlier or later, for some, even two to three years after the traumatic event took place.
After intrusion, constriction symptoms begin to emerge. However, there are instances where intrusion and constriction begin to work opposite of each other. In her book, Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman offers the example of a rape victim struggling to find meaning in life years after the abuse took place. She is done with hyperarousal, but the symptoms of intrusion and constriction work as if they depended of each other:
“She may complain that she is just going through the motions of living, as if she were observing the events of daily life from a great distance (constriction). Only the repeated reliving of the moment of horror temporarily breaks through the sense of numbing and disconnection (intrusion).”
Judith Herman goes on to say that, “The terror, rage, and hatred of the traumatic moment live on in the dialect of trauma.”
The Challenge of Conflicting Emotions
As long as there are conflicting emotions, it is difficult to find peace and healing from the event that created the trauma. It is difficult to understand overwhelming emotions, it is even more challenging to understand more than one overwhelming emotion, especially when they seem to contradict each other and control our lives. It is difficult to overcome PTSD on our own, we need help.
Two Strategies to Cope with Trauma
Psychologist Dr. Thomas Brunner works with children that have experienced post-traumatic stress. He talks about how to prepare children for trauma and build resiliency into their character.
- Build self-esteem and insight. Tell your kids what is valuable about them. Teach them how to like themselves, control their emotions, and respond to their world, rather than react to it.
- Build a sense of hope. Teach your children to see their world through a positive lens. Even the most negative experiences can be reframed positively. A powerful example is the movie Life is Beautiful.
While these two important aspects apply to children, they are true for adults dealing with PTSD. A Counselor can act as a “parent” figure that helps a person dealing with trauma find hope and healing
Hope and Insight Through Christian Counseling
A Christian Counselor can help you see that you are valuable. You have gifts, talents, and abilities that make you a valuable person. A counselor can also help you to discover things that you like about yourself, and learn how to control your emotions. With help from a Christian counselor, you can also learn ways in which you can respond to the world, rather than react to it from a result of the trauma.
A Christian Counselor can help you deal with the trauma so that you can see the world through a positive lens. Although your experience was traumatic and it might affect your everyday life, it is possible to regain a sense of joy for life and recognize the good and positive that surrounds you. Trauma can be complex and difficult to overcome, but there is hope for recovery and a future. A Christian Counselor can help you overcome the emotions of trauma, and find healthy ways to cope with the pain and suffering that resulted from your experiences.
“Solitude – Contemplating Conflict,” courtesy of Jing Qu, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0) ; “Arms Raised Man Watching Sunset” courtesy of Chaiwat Freedigitalphotos.net
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