Healing the Fragmented Selves of Complex Trauma Survivors
Our adrenaline stress response system is a protective mechanism to help us survive trauma. But it can leave survivors of trauma with an inadequate record of what happened and how they endured it. Events that trigger past trauma can also hijack body and brain, heart and spirit. Healing Fragmented Selves.
A Comprehensive Model to Heal Fragmented Selves
Complex trauma often results in the wake of exposure to interpersonal disconnections, either ongoing or repeated. Abuse, neglect, attachment trauma or any number of overwhelming events can lead to the necessity to exist in pieces — an adaptation to preserve the self at any cost. Treating clients with complex trauma can be among the most challenging experiences of our professional lives.
Traditional talk therapy actually has the potential to increase the activation of trauma responses and symptoms. Healing fragmented selves requires a comprehensive model to overcome this alienation from self. The therapy must focus on cultivating clients’ ability to observe painful emotions as signs of their disowned selves and disowned experiences. When clients discover their trauma-related, structurally dissociated younger selves and bring them “home,” they spontaneously begin to feel an internal sense of warmth and safety that changes their internal experience.
Treatment of trauma is has greatly evolved from the way we worked 25 years ago. Neuroscience research now leads us to understand self-destructive behavior as driven by impulses to regulate fear-based fight and flight states. When our clients feel vulnerable and overwhelmed by self-destructive impulses, it’s a desperate attempt to manage emotions and physical sensations.
Trauma-Informed Stabilization Treatment
Therapist, trainer, author and consultant Janina Fisher teaches newer trauma treatment paradigms in traditional therapeutic approaches. She stresses the concept that trauma’s imprint is both psychological and somatic: Long after the events are over, the body continues to respond as if danger were ever-present.
Learn about Trauma-Informed Stabilization Treatment, learn more and register here
Fisher use a treatment model known as TIST or Trauma-Informed Stabilization Treatment, which integrates modalities such as structural dissociation theory, sensorimotor psychotherapy and internal family systems. She views the fragmenting of survival defenses organized around fight, flight, and freeze as parts of the self. Fisher also suggests that each part of the personality contributes a defensive strategy. For example, the fight part can be seen as the protector while the flight part would use avoidance to run from perceived danger.. Developing an awareness that each part of the personality contributes a defensive strategy can be highly effective for treating conditions such as PTSD, DID or borderline personality.
Explore how to decode internal conflict to identify specific ego state parts linked to past survival defenses, learn more and register here
Given that we have roles both as authority figures and attachment figures in a therapeutic relationship, survival-based conflicts between therapist and client can be inevitable because therapy triggers the survival response system. We can educate our clients when they first come to us, particularly those who may have had difficulties in past therapy.
Offering Clients a Roadmap
Beyond the idea of fight, flight or freeze is perceiving how trauma is experienced in the body and the purpose of the symptoms that our clients suffer. Using ego state therapies, we can help them view different parts of the self as both normal and an adaptive strategy. As we begin to make sense out of what we’re seeing and what they’re feeling, we can begin to give the client a roadmap. We want to help them get to a place where they can eventually choose their actions and reactions rather than having them triggered automatically. We also want to teach them the concept of “inner teamwork” so that fragmented selves can begin to work together in present time life.
According to Fisher, the more strengthening and stabilization we can do initially, the less the work will have to focus on the trauma itself. She believes “the key to healing is not just knowing what happened but transforming how the mind, body and soul still remember it.”
Don’t miss the webinar “Healing the Fragmented Selves of Complex Trauma Survivors” with Janina Fisher, learn more and register here