What is it like to be suffering from something that isn’t adequately recognized?

Today I stumbled across an excellent article by UK psychotherapist Valerie Sinason about Dissociative Identity Disorder and the difficulties in both diagnosis and treatment which exist within the very traditional British public health care system.

Sinason writes:

Without early specialist training on the consequences of abuse, professionals are attacking each other’s contradictory diagnoses without realising the aptness of Walt Whitman’s words “I am large. I contain multitudes”.

 

truth hidden attachment John Bowlby

We cannot see what we cannot bear – John Bowlby, psychoanalyst

Compared with Freud’s ability to recognise the traumatic aetiology of hysteria one hundred years ago (Freud, 1896), contemporary clinicians have found it extremely hard to bear the horrors of patients’ objective lives. Sometimes (Hale & Sinason 1994) psychotherapists’focus on the internal narrative is a defence against the historic external reality.

However, as de Zulueta (1995) comments: “a refusal on the part of psychiatrists and therapists to validate the horrors of their patients’ tortured past implies a refusal to take seriously the unconscious psychological mechanisms that individuals need to use to protect themselves from the unspeakable.

Both quotes come from the revised edition of Attachment, Trauma and Multiplicity by Valerie Sinason (Editor), which contains contributions by both survivors of trauma with Dissociative Identity Disorder and professionals working with psychological trauma.

Does the NHS have (undiagnosed) Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Recently I heard a therapist who does a great deal of trauma work in the UK refer humourusly to the British NHS health care as having a so many separate states that do not communicate with each other, and typically have different and opposing ideas, that it felt as if the NHS system itself was in fact suffering from dissociative identity disorder… Sinason writes about “Fragmentation within professional teams” as well as between them:

“the psychiatrist who meets a frozen DID patient who shows only one state (as a result of correctly assessing their psychiatrist’s inability to deal with the subject) then attacks the other psychiatrist/social worker/psychologist/psychotherapist who points out the fragmentation into states. We are then witnessing the trauma-organised systems… that systemically mirror the DID experience.”

Read more (Details may trigger.)

 

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Forgetting the horrors of the past: repressed memories

Today’s blog post was inspired by a piece of poetry from an abuse survivor titled I wasn’t supposed to remember.

Breaking the silence surrounding child abuse has been shown to be fundamental to the healing of abuse survivors, and allows the painful memories to be revisited and processed within the mind. Processing trauma memories prevents the continuing intrusive symptoms such as flashbacks which form a core element of posttraumatic stress disorder.

Judith Lewis Herman, author of Trauma and Recovery, and prominent researcher into Complex PTSD tell us:

“The ORDINARY RESPONSE TO ATROCITIES is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable.

“The ORDINARY RESPONSE TO ATROCITIES is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable.

she goes on to say:

Atrocities, however, refuse to be buried. Equally as powerful as the desire to deny atrocities is the conviction that denial does not work. Folk wisdom is filled with ghosts who refuse to rest in their graves until their stories are told. Murder will out. Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and for the healing of individual victims.

The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma. People who have survived atrocities often tell their stories in a highly emotional, contradictory, and fragmented manner that undermines their credibility and thereby serves the twin imperatives of truth-telling and secrecy. When the truth is finally recognized, survivors can begin their recovery. But far too often secrecy prevails, and the story of the traumatic event surfaces not as a verbal narrative but as a symptom.

The psychological distress symptoms of traumatized people simultaneously call attention to the existence of an unspeakable secret and deflect attention from it. This is most apparent in the way traumatized people alternate between feeling numb and reliving the event. The dialectic of trauma gives rise to complicated, sometimes uncanny alterations of consciousness, which George Orwell, one of the committed truth-tellers of our century, called “doublethink,” and which mental health professionals, searching for calm, precise language, call dissociation It results in protean, dramatic, and often bizarre symptoms of hysteria which Feud recognized a century ago as disguised communications about sexual abuse in childhood. . . .”

Our own personal history is important to use – whether it includes trauma or not.

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.

What reminders do we use as a society to prevent the experiences of the past repeating themselves?

blog war photos

Memorial day and the mass graves will remain long after the last soldiers from World War II have died. Each memorial day is a reminder not just of the recent deaths and injured servicemen and women, but of the mass graves from those who died many decades ago.

We are now have Laws against physical assault and abuse, and almost all countries in the world have child protection services.

free to copy & remix

Child abuse awareness ribbon

 

Unhelpful Core Beliefs as a Result of Childhood Trauma

A key post about “core beliefs” – could this be the essence of long term recovery from child abuse?
Trigger warning: Eating disorders

Life as a Committee

This post touches child sexual abuse

and contains images that may be

distressing to those with eating disorders.

 

 

 

 

 

I could write you a thousand word (or more!) essay on core beliefs, and although that would be interesting, it would be every so slightly dry and a tad boring. This blog is my story. I try to educate and inform as I write, but each post is filled with my own thoughts, feelings and experiences.

I have to start with a definition of core beliefs. What are they? I think the term can seem a bit obscure and hard to understand. The way I think of core beliefs – they’re those beliefs about yourself that underly how you think, feel, and behave. Even that seems a bit confusing!

In 2005 my psychologist at the time handed me a wad of papers stapled together entitled ‘Core Beliefs’…

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