NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Overcoming Emotional Trauma and Developing Resilience

During the course of a lifetime, everyone goes through hard times.  Unfortunately, emotional suffering is part of life and we can't expect to avoid it.  It's how you respond to these times that can make a big difference in the quality of your life.  Responding with resilience can help you get through difficult times and increase your self confidence.

Overcoming Emotional Trauma and Developing Resilience

Trauma Can Affect Your Ability to be Resilient
Unfortunately, people who have trauma in their lives can find it very difficult to respond with resilience.  Of course, there are always exceptional people that we hear or read about who have gone through a lot of trauma who seem to maintain their resilience.  They can be inspiring, but if you're someone who has been traumatized and you're not as resilient because of your experiences, hearing about these exceptional people can also cause you to feel badly about yourself, feeling like  you don't measure up to them.

Many people who have had multiple experiences with trauma feel hopeless and helpless in the face of new adversity.  This is a common experience for people with multiple traumas.  No amount of telling them to be resilient will change this.  After a while, many of them feel that bad times are all that they can expect, which is unfortunate and, often, a distortion.  

Unresolved Trauma Can be Triggered by New Difficult Experiences
People who have suffered trauma that keeps them feeling beaten down need to work through their trauma in psychotherapy.  If the trauma is not worked through, they are vulnerable to being triggered by new events because new events can trigger old trauma.  

Often, when we think of being triggered, we think of the example of the war veteran who is triggered by a loud noise, which takes him or her back emotionally to the battlefield.  But there are all kinds of triggers, aside from the ones that veterans experience with noise, that can trigger old trauma.  Potential triggers can be loss, including loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of a pet, and so on;  physical or emotional abuse; a medical problem; a car accident; a major life change, etc.

Overcoming Emotional Trauma and Developing Resilience: Coping with Unresolved Trauma

Trauma, by nature, is an emotionally overwhelming experience that hasn't been "metabolized" by the mind.  So, it remains in its "unmetabolized," untreated form just under the surface and it's there to be potentially triggered by new difficult events.

What might be traumatic to one person might not be traumatic to someone else for a variety of reasons, including personal history, environment, learned attitudes, and a person's inherent ability to deal with overwhelming events or experiences.  It's not about being "weak" or "strong."  

Trauma, Compassion and Self Compassion
Recognizing that it's not about "weakness" requires self compassion as well as compassion for others.       I once met someone who was a retired Marine who had gone through a series of traumatic events while in the military and afterwards in civilian life.  He never got treatment, and he berated himself severely whenever he cried about his experiences, saying, "I'm a Marine.  I should be able to handle this."  Possibly, this was part of his training in the Marines, but it was only making matters worse until he got psychological treatment to overcome his trauma.

Getting Help in Therapy:  You Can't "Tough it Out"
This is why it's so important to get psychological help when you experience trauma. Trying to "tough it out" doesn't help.  In fact, it can make things a lot worse because you might "disown" and suppress your traumatic feelings rather than acknowledge them and get help.  Suppressing these feelings, even if you can for a while, doesn't make them go away.  They're still there to be triggered in ways that you might not expect or want.  They can also develop into physical problems, like migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, body aches and other physical manifestations.

Overcoming Emotional Trauma and Developing Resilience: Getting Help in Therapy

I've worked with many clients over the years who have experienced trauma, including PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder).  My experience has been that talk therapy can be helpful, but Somatic Experience, hypnotherapy and EMDR are more effective in overcoming trauma and developing a greater sense of resilience.

There's no magic bullet when it comes to working through trauma, but these treatment modalities take into account the connection between the mind and the body, not just the mind.  I have nothing against psychodynamic psychotherapy.  In fact, my original training is in psychoanalysis and psychodynamic itreatment.  I also use cognitive behavioral therapy for some clients.  But when it comes to trauma, I find the mind-body oriented psychotherapies to be most effective.

If you think you might have PTSD or trauma symptoms, you owe it to yourself to get help.  I will provide websites below so you can find licensed mental health professionals to help you.  My personal recommendation is that you find someone who has a mental health license.  There are many people who do hypnosis and Somatic Experiencing who are not clinicians.  

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individual adults and couples.  I've helped many clients to overcome trauma.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Somatic Experiencing:  Somatic Experiencing Treatment