Since 9-11, numerous individuals I have been working with in my therapy practice have gotten a lot of past trauma, responsible for their Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, cleared away as a result of current day triggers (suicide bombings in Israel, war in Iraq, etc.). Here and now “trauma” (frightening current events, anxious times, fear of the unknown with regard to where these current event will lead us) can pull up feelings about past unresolved trauma (WW Two, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War experiences, sexual, physical emotional violation in childhood or adulthood).
Secondary Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome involves feelings regarding here and now trauma, combining with those emotions related to past trauma. This combination basically has the potential to create an emotional nuclear bomb, especially if past traumas have not been addressed. Instead of looking at these past traumas, working through the feelings about this, many individuals push such emotions aside, become totally focused on current day situations in excess. With this, emotions feel extreme, out of control. When powers greater than ourselves appear to be in control of our destiny, this can also trigger what it felt like to be a little kid, living in dysfunction or being controlled by past offenders. Current day “players” in the limelight can take on characteristics of past offenders.
If we take the time to sort out our feelings about past losses, grief, anger, violation, situations which were at one time in our history dangerous, from what is happening today, the war in Iraq, heightened terrorist alerts, tighter security across the country, loved ones over seas in the military, we can lessen, not eliminate, but lessen the intensity of the emotion we are feeling. By matching feelings with actual incidents, real terror about past terror experienced, grief and loss, from feelings about current day affairs, we will be better able to manage our emotions about what is happening in the world today and live life, day to day.
When the triggers become too much, action is needed, otherwise we will sink into depression, rage, helplessness, hopelessness, anxiety….Take the following action steps if you find yourself in this situation. Such action is called “Self Care.”
- Turning off radios or television,
- Putting down newspapers and war related stories in magazines
- Upping church, temple or meeting attendance,
- More time with friends and family, less alone time for ruminating or getting into the “what ifs”,
- Writing about how current affairs are pulling up past trauma and sharing this with trusted friends or if necessary, clergy or therapists,
- Active anger and grief work – Owning feelings in a responsible manner without being OFFENSIVE to others, shaming them for their views on current day events – instead focus in on how this is triggering you personally, keeping the focus on your history, feelings,
- Watching sugar, caffeine intake, keeping a healthy, balanced diet,
- Upping exercise to get the endorphins going,
- Taking time to cry if that is what is needed,
- Getting a good night’s sleep,
- Take time out to play, go to the movies, read a good book, plan a meal with friends, escape into a hobby,
- Practice your spirituality, prayer, meditation, etc.
These are just a few of the suggestions I have been recommending to trauma survivors for sometime now. Even if you are not a survivor of trauma, know they can work for you. I too have been practicing what I preach. its important for me to keep attending to my own house, separating out here and now stress, concern, emotion, from triggered past trauma, and I must process all of this out – fear, rage, hurt, betrayal, loss of control, grief. In other words, personal responsibility and focusing on what’s right in front of us, in immediate need of our attention will keep us grounded during these turbulent times. Best of luck to all of you.