Monday, July 16, 2018

Emotional Trauma - Can We Ever Recover?

An essential part of our work here at FACT is being a support system for those in need. Emotional and or Mental trauma is very difficult, there are any number of situations that can cause emotional trauma, here are a few that we hear about on a regular basis:

1. Loss of loved ones due to involvement in a cult - parental alienation and or shunning are common practice in these high control groups/cults.

2. Loss of an entire community, lifelong friendships and careers due to leaving a high control group/cult or being labeled an "apostate" by the group/cult.

3. Being harassed, intimidated, threatened (by the cult and or "friends" within the cult) and otherwise living in fear for speaking up about abuses that have occurred, disagreements and or about wanting to leave a group.

4. Loss of a loved one or friend due to suicide from involvement in a cult or abusive relationship. 

There are many factors for emotional trauma and loss, those are just a few that we hear about regularly in our work with victims and survivors. As a result of emotional trauma, one may begin to feel numb, disconnected and possibly lose trust in others and even ourselves, our own intuition. It can take a lot of time for this pain to go away, and for us to feel safe again and comfortable in our own skin. If the trauma we’ve experienced is psychological, we may suffer from troubling memories, anxiety and emotions. Trauma causes a shock to our minds, bodies and souls, which can lead to emotional problems in the future. There are cognitive, behavioral, physical, and psychological reactions to emotional trauma.

There is a natural process of grieving that occurs after any type of loss, whether we are aware of that process or not.

According to Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross there are five stages of grieving:

1. Denial and Isolation: “This can't be happening, this isn't real, I don't believe it". Denial is a common defense mechanism and is a normal reaction to rationalize our overwhelming emotions. We can start to believe that life is meaningless, and nothing is of any use or value. For most people experiencing grief, denial and isolation is a temporary response that helps us through the initial wave of pain and shock.

2. Anger: As denial and isolation begin to wear off, reality and the pain will inevitably rise to the surface.

3. Bargaining: - The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control. I remember during my "bargaining" phase, one evening I was hiking through the mountains and I was still very angry of course but also feeling very helpless in re-constructing my life. I was overwhelmed with emotions and I dropped to my knees right there in the forest and screamed, yelled and cried, looking up to the sky asking anyone who was listening "why is this happening to me", "what did I do" etc.

4. Depression: Sadness is a perfectly normal reaction to life’s struggles, setbacks, and disappointments. Many people use the word “depression” to explain these kinds of feelings, but the symptoms of depression are much more than just sadness. Depression is the overwhelming feeling of sadness when everything in your life seems to be going right.  However, some depressed people don’t feel sad at all—they may feel lifeless, empty, and apathetic, or some may even feel angry, aggressive, and restless.

The final stage of grieving is:

5. Acceptance: Acceptance in human psychology is a person's assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition without attempting to change it or protest it. This might be one of the hardest stages, but it can also be the most freeing. As one accepts their situation they are then free to move on from it, the burden of the grief and all the pain, anger, sadness etc is finally been processed. It's not to say that one will never revisit that grief or loss, as it will always be with us to some degree, but the bulk of it has been processed and there is a renewed sense of life after that, from my experience anyways.

When I was grieving and struggling I had no idea there were actually stages of grieving, I thought I'd be burdened with these overwhelming feelings and helplessness forever. Which is in part, why I wanted to write about it. If you're struggles and burden are to much, to overwhelming, please reach out for help to a trusted friend or loved one or a support group. There is light at the end of the tunnel!

Stay Strong!

A Member of the FACT Team

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