Lather, rinse, repeat & repeat & repeat? Not this time.

breaking chains

I’ve been thinking about the time I’ve spent remembering and analyzing within the context of healthy. When H has said to me that I’m studying too much or dwelling too much (i.e., obsessing), I have simply responded that this is the work I need to do to cultivate awareness and understanding so I can build a better foundation for my life. Since H is not interested in doing this kind of work, he doesn’t understand my drive. That’s OK…until the consequences of my self-work adversely affect him (e.g., setting boundaries and limits in how I will allow myself to be treated or not enabling his dysfunctional behaviors). That’s where his tires screech to a halt. Again, that’s OK because my process is my process. His will be different and whether or not he takes up the work necessary to be whole, I choose to continue.

So why dredge up trauma? For me, it only comes down to doing my best to feel and process whatever I’ve stuffed down or dissociated. My theory is that if something keeps coming up in life, there’s a reason that usually holds a lesson not yet learned. The point is not to dwell or blame or aggravate symptoms and neuroses. I have no interest in that. Further, I have no interest in engaging in the compulsion to repeat the trauma as reflected in the research. According to Freud (1920, as cited in van der Kolk, 1989),  one “who did not integrate the trauma was doomed to ‘repeat the repressed material as a contemporary experience'” (para. 1).

In other words, if I do not process and integrate all of this trauma, the literature suggests that I will be drawn to situations and people who will assist me in repeating the trauma.

WHOA. That’s seriously enlightening. And true. Such are the reasons why I have zero intention of staying in this emotional place one minute longer than I absolutely must to get the job done.

van der Kolk (1989) states  “the only reason to uncover the trauma is to gain conscious control over the unbidden re-experience or re-enactments. Prior to unearthing the traumatic roots of current behavior, people need to gain reasonable control over the longstanding secondary defenses that were originally elaborated to defend against being overwhelmed by [the] trauma[tic]” (Treatment Implications, para. 40).

The author further points out that “The presence of strong attachments provides people with the security necessary to explore their life experiences and to interrupt the inner or social isolation that keeps them stuck in repetitive patterns” (Summary, para. 50). I recognize that because H and I are codependent, he cannot be that strong attachment. I’m not sure who that strong attachment is for me at the moment but I believe blogging is a huge support in my case.

In support of my statement, van der Kolk (1989) observes that “People need a ‘safe base’ for normal social and biologic development. Traumatization occurs when both internal and external resources are inadequate to cope with external threat. Uncontrolable disruptions or distortions of attachment bonds precede the development of post-traumatic stress syndromes. People seek increased attachment in the face of danger. Adults, as well as children, may develop strong emotional ties with people whe [sic] intermittently…threaten them. The persistence of these attachment bonds leads to confusion of pain and love. Assaults lead to hyperarousal states for which…interferes with good judgment about these relationships and allows longing for attachment to overcome realistic fears” (Summary, para. 46).

Finally, the author argues that “Gaining control over one’s current life, rather than repeating trauma in action, mood, or somatic states, is the goal of treatment. The only reason to uncover traumatic material is to gain conscious control over unbidden re-experiences or re-enactments. [emphasis added] The presence of strong attachments provides people with the security necessary to explore their life experiences and to interrupt the inner or social isolation that keeps them stuck in repetitive patterns. In contrast with victimized children, adults can learn to protect themselves and make conscious choices about not engaging in relationships or behaviors that are harmful” (Summary, para. 46).

Reference

van der Kolk, B. (June, 1989). The compulsion to repeat the trauma: Re-enactment, revictimization, and masochism. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 12(2), 389-411. Retrieved from http://www.cirp.org/library/psych/vanderkolk/#n44

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