Thursday, April 30, 2009
Sounds at times in our lives, influence how we think, act and feel. Sounds are a normal part of life. So what we hear daily shapes our perceptions, attitudes, and emotional responses. But for survivors of trauma, sounds take on a whole new meaning. During a trauma, all sounds, noises and voices/statements get recorded in the victims’ mind. This can be seen clearly seen if you have ever had a car accident. The sounds during the accident like the impact, breaking glass, and crunching metal stay with an individual for a long time, if they go away at all.
All humans’ posses an innate gift that helps in the survival process of overwhelming experiences. That innate gift is dissociation. If the act of dissociation was successful, then the victim is will not remember anything for that event. Yet the intense focus needed to save themselves from dying, leaves the mind wide open without any mental filters. Without filters to help discriminate which sounds, noises and voice(s)/statement(s) to accept or reject. All sounds, noises and spoken words during the trauma are recorded and stored without question. Traumatic content seems to be held in abeyance but sound circumvents efforts to repress.
Therefore everyday sounds can trigger remembrances of past embedded sounds in the survivor’s mind. These embedded sounds are a common symptom reported by survivors of trauma and/or abuse. The triggers open the mind to connecting with the stored traumatic audio files. I term this general category of traumatic sound(s), noise(s) or statement(s) as “audio flashbacks”. These audio flashbacks can be commanding, controlling, directing, nagging, belittling, judging, invalidating or threatening in nature, depending on the content of the original event.
Audio flashbacks can be a temporary symptom or a long-term condition. Audio flashbacks may be just a noise, a word, a comment, or a mix of confusing noises, but traumatic audio flashbacks have an objective. The objective is to keep a survivor connected with his or her past. No matter how much the survivor fights it, audio flashbacks [traumatic sound(s) or voice(s)] play in their minds.
As any survivor knows all too painfully that audio flashbacks do return to consciousness at some point. Audio flashbacks may not return to consciousness for some time after the trauma, may be not even for months or even years and sometimes right after the shock wears off. But understand that once audio flashbacks begin to replay in the survivor’s head, they do not stop. Even with all the attempts by a survivor to suppress them any fashion, audio flashbacks do not stop.
If the trauma was at the hands of another human, the audio flashbacks are more likely to be cognitive distortions, criticisms, vicious and/or degrading languages which at times feels self generated. This type of audio flashbacks, I call “abuser values”. Abuser values are the replaying of the abuser’s voice(s)/statement(s) in his/her head. Abuser values can be negative thoughts of self, criticisms, distorted values and/or unattainable expectations. Also abuser values mentally traps and controls a survivor in streams of negative, frightening, demeaning, dark comments. These abuser values become controlling and/or commanding to insure adherence and loyalty to keeping the secret(s). Abuser values create fear, anxiety, and confusion in the survivor’s mind. These types of flashbacks seem to increase in strength and control the longer they play. Though abuser values are just a recording, survivors experience them as “real”. Abuser values shape the perceptions of survivors therefore distorting or altering how the survivor’s will feel and behave.
Even the sanest human, on earth, experiences negative and critical thoughts about self. Critical and judgmental thoughts are unavoidable and normal in this fast paced performance driven world we live in. Yet in healthy humans the normal critical and judgmental thoughts remain just that, “thoughts” and don’t develop into self-destructive or self-sabotaging behavior to the degree abuser values are able to accomplish.
Abuser values are part of an abuser’s tools to control a victim and to make sure the victim will always keep the secret. These tools help the abuser tear down and/or remove the victim’s ability to recognize their own emotions, as well reducing ability to resist, adherence to negative values, destruction to worth and elimination of self-esteem. The tools help the abuser turn the focus and fault away from their own “sick behavior”. Statements like, “You made me do this to you.” clearly place the blame firmly on the victim. This process allows the abuser to objectify the victim through distorted statements in order to “sanction or legalize” their own behavior and the future replay serves as a reminder forever.
The cognitive distortions, criticisms, vicious and degrading language become an abused human’s audio flashbacks. Survivors hear the audio flashbacks each time as if it was being spoken then, as real. 1. This occurs by full audio playback and/or audio flashbacks from past trauma. 2. Abuser values consist of negative thoughts of self, criticisms, distorted values and unattainable expectations. 3. The abuser values mentally traps and controls a survivor in a streams of negative, frightening, demeaning, dark comments.
In the beginning, the abuser values were not accepted by the victim as their own thoughts. Understand that abuser values are implanted without the conscious knowledge and by force. Once the abuser values become active, a survivor thinks that the abuser values are their own thoughts. Survivors think that they just naturally hate themselves. The ability to filter thoughts about self, the world or reality correctly becomes increasing difficult. This difficulty breeds feelings of powerlessness, which increases the possibility for the survivor to acceptance of the negative perceptions in their head. Then the feeling of powerlessness causes the survivor to view self as different, incomplete, bad, broken, damaged, defective or dirty. At that point the true disowning of self or self-hate occurred.
Abuser values turn out to be one of the most troubling symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD). Abuser values set a standard for how the survivor will think, feel, behave, relate, interact or interpret self (intelligence and body image) with self, other humans, the world and reality. The intensity of the abuser values determine to what degree of loyalty the survivor will demonstrate. Once the abuser values become activated, the mind controls the survivor rather than the survivor controlling and using the mind as a positive tool. With time the survivor becomes unable to have an emotional relationship with self, other people or the world. The survivors eventually become totally “cut off” from self and reality.
One way to view abuser values is to say that every human sees himself/herself through binoculars. If the binocular are positioned correctly for use and are operated properly, he/she sees self as whole, valued, complete, competent, and acceptable. Unfortunately, few people have perfect binoculars. As a result of trauma the binoculars become flipped around and positioned the wrong way for correct operation. The binoculars become smudged with external cognitive distortions, criticisms, lies, vicious verbal attacks and degrading perceptions of self. The person then gets a distorted image of self as small, incomplete, damaged, defective, insignificant, different, helpless, hopeless and/or powerless. The distorted image produces a negative picture of self or a “false self”. Over time the “false self” develops into an intense self-distrust and self-hate.
“Abuser values’ thinking” is hard to diagnosis because it becomes tightly intertwined with normal critical and judgmental thoughts they see other humans have. Accepted negative thoughts such as, “I have a evil/dark side”, “I will never amount to anything”, “I am someone that no one will ever love because I am so damaged”, or “I cannot succeed a anything”, “I am so stupid” are examples of abuser’s values heard in the minds of survivors. What is strange is about these statements are that all originally started with “You”, but are repeated to the outside world as “I”.
Is there hope for survivors? Of course there is but it takes hard work. Survivors do not have to exist in a negative life controlled by their abuser values such as I have described in this article. First, make a formal decision to stop reacting to and/or following the abuser’s values commands. Second, commit to the decision, no matter what. Third, be proactive and learn a skill that will help reduce the intensity and frequency of the abuser’s values.
Survivors have the power to stop being controlled by negative thoughts. Survivors can take charge of their minds. Take control of the power of the mind use as a positive tool. If survivors institute proactive changes, starting today, their chance for a successful recovery from being controlled by their negative thoughts increases significantly.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Everyone is affected by depression at one time or another in their life. Dealing emotionally with depression is hard and creates problems in one's life and relationships. The quote "Depression is anger turned inward" has been pasted around for years as a way of understanding the process of this deep emotional experience. I always felt that there was an ending to this quote but never could figure it out. Finally the end of the quote came to mind. "Depression is anger turned inward towards one's inability to perform" according to a self, family or society standards. This now the statement has closure. For example, when our country or any other country, performs poorly economically it goes into a "period of depression" by national and global economic standards. Humans respond in the same manner. If we lose a job, a relationship or a sports contest we experience feelings of depression. So next time you have depressed feeling as the result of a life event, look at what you are judging your performance against and at what or who's standard. Recognize those feelings, what you have learned from the experience and make an action plan to improve your situation and life.