This is a unique set of steps for survivors of trauma as they go through the intense experience of healing from abuse. This is based on my own healing from trauma. Please note these steps do not necessarily follow in this order, and vary with each survivor .
This is characterized as shock and disbelief. Survivors are taught from an early age they won’t be believed which feeds directly into their own desire for it not to be true. Then the reality and shock of the abuse starts to permeate one’s entire system and shatters one’s world view, familial ties, relationships and relationship to oneself and one’s environment. Added to this dynamic, is the fact that there is little or no community support.
This stage can produce severe forms of anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive sexual feelings and thoughts, loss of appetite, compulsive eating. Emotional distress can cause distractions such as addictions, self-harm, dissociation, keeping busy.
Outward expressions of anger can cause hostility, rage, explosive behavior or turned inwards can cause depression, fear, self-mutilation. This is also characterized by guilt/self-blame.
Buying time to accept the reality of the situation – “what if……/”If only……..”
Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, withdrawal from friends, family, society in general, loss of pleasure, avoidance, extreme anxiety, preoccupation with death, panic, confusion, fearfulness. Survivors take on the responsibility for what happened and blame themselves. Depression can cause the survivor to self-medicate through addictions and self-harm in order not to feel.
The survivor starts to experience the many losses associated with trauma – loss of a safe childhood, loss of love, loss of friends and support from the community. There are all types of healing modalities to address releasing intense emotions that are trapped in the body or repressed. These feelings can again cause the survivor to self-medicate through addictions and self-harm.
The survivor’s personal identity and belief system becomes integrated and the survivor finally lets go of the past, including working through the memories. The survivor becomes an empowered individual with deep compassion for oneself and others, who can overcome any of life’s obstacles and challenges .