William Tollefson Values Blog provides information on many topics and issues pertaining to survivors of childhood and/or adulthood abuse, trauma, or combat situations.
Written by Dr. Bill Tollefson, Ph.D. Certified Master Life, Post Trauma and Holistic Addiction Recovery Coach.
Redefining healing and recovering from addiction and PTSD through a new perspective Is time to revisit and redefine traditional addiction and trauma treatment? Yes, I believe it is time.
For decades addiction treatment and trauma recovery have been conducted separately. Through research studies, it has been found that 95% of all individuals who have addictions experienced abuse, neglect or trauma growing up. Addicts tend to utilize substances (legal and illegal), negative thoughts or self-sabotaging behaviors in an attempt to numb out associated feelings or negative thoughts, self-judgment or flashbacks that surface from past experiences once he or she enters into sobriety.
Yet addiction programs do not address abuse or trauma
Conversely, trauma studies discovered that 97% of all abuse, combat and trauma survivors have one or more addictions. Survivors use addictions for the same reason. Survivors engage in addictions to suppress and numb out Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms such as vivid images, body memories, flashbacks or surfacing painful emotions as well as negative self-defeating and self-sabotaging thoughts.
Likewise, trauma programs do not address addictions
I have come to find out that the plight of an addict seeking sobriety and a survivor of abuse, combat or trauma seeking recovery is almost identical. Both are seeking or forced into unknown a culture, normal society that he or she did not learn to live within. Both learned to adapt, function and survive within another world and when expected to reintegrate into the “regular” world found it extremely hard and did not possess the skills to do so.
What has been revealed through clinical studies shows that abusive, combat or traumatic experiences are the cause and addiction is the symptom. Many reports from individuals with addictions who enter into the sobriety experience unexplained flashbacks, intense painful emotions or body memories, and intense self-defeating thoughts as well as stronger PTSD symptoms. Increased trauma-related symptoms cause him or her to relapse into increased addictive use.
Many survivors report that once in the process of healing from abuse, combat or trauma and stop using to numb out post-trauma symptoms, his or her PTSD symptoms surface more intensely and more regularly. Therefore he or she returns to and increases use of substances, looping negative thoughts, self-sabotaging behaviors, dissociative episodes, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors to numb out his or her reactions mentally, physically and emotionally. Numbing out with addictions will cause him or her to get stuck and halt in the healing process.
Treating both conditions separately has not proved to be successful. Recovery rates in both specialty fields, addiction, and trauma are at the lowest in decades. Something is not working. The struggle between of the two fields has to stop because it is the clients who are still suffering.
I challenge all helping professionals in both professions, Addictions and Post Trauma, to join together in order to revisit ideas and standards used in both treatment approaches. Both fields should put down their differences and link together to redefine methods of how clients with both conditions are treated.
Develop new approaches, standards, and programs to help wounded and addicted souls to heal.
Now is the time to unite Addiction and Post Trauma professionals in redefining how clients are helped. Visit my website and click here to download free eBook
There is an old proverb “curiosity killed the cat.” The meaning of this idiom is that being inquisitive about other people's affairs can often get you into trouble.
Is that really what gets you in trouble? In reality, the answer is no. What really “killed the cat” are theexpectations that are important to others in your life and are put on you. Expectations unrealistically formed, you assumed you thought others wanted you to do, expectations you won't let go of even though they don't serve you as well as expectations others forced upon you. Do you really know what old excepted expectations that are driving your life?
What are expectations?
Merely an expectation is what is expected of you by others or yourself. They are driven by strong beliefs that something will happen in the future, is likely to happen or won't happen. An expectation might include an emotional attachment to a prediction of how responsive, successful, or right you or someone else might be in a situation which has not happened yet.
Expectations are future projections you form, requirements taught to you. or future outcomes placed upon you, by others who you have an emotional attachment to. Expectations are desired, looking forward to, projected or wished accomplishments, behaviors, beliefs, loyalties, performance or worth related to future outcomes. Expectations can motivate intentions or rob you of your self-determination.
You create expectations for yourself (“I expect to lose 20 pounds this month.”), others (‘She should know how much I am hurting.”), and situations (“I expect to get that job.”). If they are not fulfilled, expectations can create very deep disappointment. The degree of disappointment or hurt corresponds to the amount of emotional attachment you formed to your expectations or others connected to those expectations.
3 tips on how to fix it
Get in touch with your expectations.
You are not always aware of the expectations you carry. Sometimes, you are aware of expectations you recently created, but others have been in your subconscious for ages and you are no longer aware of them.
Make a list, best you can, of all the expectations you either want to accomplish or have lived by. By making a list, you accomplish two things: 1) recognition makes them real, and 2) this helps you to organize them.
Declutter your expectations.
Now that you have a real list, study it. Determine which ones are yours, which ones came from other people whom you felt you had to obey and complete. Determine which ones you want or could realistically accomplish, and identify which ones are not what you want or were forced upon you (parent’s expectations) from long ago. Decluttering or cutting down your list will help you gain space in your mind. Cross out the expectations you don’t want, do not need to hold onto any longer, have no emotional investment in, or are simply not yours.
Take your whittled down list and figure out what level of emotional involvement or attachment you have to each one. It is best to put a numerical value on each, 1 to five or 1 to 10. Actually seeing the numerical values will help you to rank them in order to see the ones you want to accomplish first.
While you are figuring out your involvement in each, determine which expectations have made you disappointed in yourself or someone else. Disappointment can consume a lot of our emotional energy and turn into depression or severe anxiety.
Answer these questions honestly:
Is it because you disappointed someone else?
Is it because someone disappointed you?
Is it because you could not control someone else or a situation?
Is it because you didn't reach an intended goal you set for yourself now or long ago?
Are you taking things too personally that you're attempting to accomplish?
Do you create goals out of the emotion of the moment and then procrastinate?
Did you over commit yourself?
Did you say yes to an expectation when you really meant no?
Are you a poor manager of your expectations?
What are the barriers that stop you from success and how have they contributed to you falling short of your of each expectation?
Stop holding on to the old expectations which don't serve you.
The best way to achieve this part is to forgive you. Wipe your mind clean of past expectations by letting go of all your disappointments, self-doubts and resentments toward yourself, someone else or long past situations. Do not use old disappointments or resentments as ammunition to keep yourself down. If you have been carrying tons of unfulfilled expectations, then recognize that there is no need to hold onto them. Create new expectations or reconfigure your old ones to better suit your current state of being.
4 Tips on developing an action plan for the future
Now it is time to make an action plan. So go over your finished expectations list.
1. Make sure each are what you desire, want, need, or desire and how much emotional sweat you are willing to put into each.
2. Make sure each expectation is specific and realistic.
3. Make sure each expectation is measurable
4. Make sure each one has a timeline or date for completion.
At the associated completion time of each expectation, go back to your #3 and check your measurements to determine:
Have I reached completion of what I wanted?
Do I want to drop this expectation?
Should I extend the time of completion?
Afterthoughts Remember, it is not curiosity that killed the cat … it was the expectations the cat had on itself that crushed, disappointed or sabotaged its chances for a happy and productive life. Coach Bill
Ijust wrote a HUB Pages article on “Being triggered is confused with Panic Attacks” and blog on "Does being triggered impersonate a panic attack" discussing how panic attacks are misdiagnosed, misinterpreted or mistaken for the result of being mentally triggered resulting in the surfacing of memory or flashback.
What is a Trigger? A trigger is a sensory stimulus from the outside such as an emotion, a physical pain, a visual cue, a sound, a smell, a location or a touch which produces a recollection from the experience of the outside stimuli. The trigger can be a full memory or portion of memory a flashback and results in the surfacing of that memory. The surfacing memory or flashback may have been held in the subconscious at a dissociated memory storage area in the brain. A trigger can be connected to a good or positive experience as well as a severe, harmful or life-threatening experience. New Perspective on Triggers A trigger is a part of the formation of non-integrated memory. A trigger is formed when a memory of an overwhelming painful event is not integrated by the conscious mind at the time of the situation into long-term memory storage. A trigger is a connection between where a negative, painful memory is stored in a subconscious dissociative storage area and the conscious mind for retrieval in at a future time. A trigger is activated by an outside stimulus and evokes a surfacing of a dissociated memory which in turn produces unexplained emotions, images, sounds and physical symptoms associated with the memory triggered. Since the memory is separated from regular storage and not in long-term memory, the feelings, sounds, and vivid images seem to originate from nowhere and unconnected to the person’s life. In its most straightforward term, a trigger is a monitor connected to the conscious mind that gets activated by the PTSD symptom of hypersensitivity and vigilance. What is a Panic Attack? A panic attack is a brief episode of intense anxiety, foreboding, and fear. Often these people who experience a panic attack seem to feel that they are going to lose control of themselves. These attacks generally are not attached to a specific event or object but instead seem to come from nowhere for no apparent reason. The onset of a panic attack is sudden and repeated episodes of intense unexplained fear from within accompanied by physical symptoms. New Perspective on Panic Attacks A panic attack is the realization of a projected thought originating from within toward the consequences of a future event or situation that may happen which produces the fear. A panic attack is an expected thought or idea based on a foreboding or overwhelming core belief that takes hold and ruminates in the conscious mind. As a result, ruminating thoughts and overthinking intensify the onset of overwhelming fear that is unconnected or unexplained to anything present in the moment.
Jane a 28-year-old survivor who had a history of abuse as a child reported, “My life was a living hell. The experiences I was going through I was told were panic attacks and severe anxiety. I tried everything: psychologists, psychiatrists, all kinds of pills and drugs. Nothing helped or stopped my overwhelming experiences. I then discovered that I was experiencing surfacing negative beliefs which triggered memories and flashbacks of my past abuse by people, place, and thing around me. What a relief. Once I addressed negative beliefs and my traumatic experiences which occurred in my childhood, I was able to make peace with my episodes and myself. When I was able to change my core beliefs, I began to have a more fulfilled life and surfacing material from my past no longer intruded into my life.”
Panic Attack seems to have become one of those catch-all diagnoses. Accurate recognition depends on what and how the symptoms are reported to a professional. What is known is that a panic attack can be neutralized by medication, but triggers are not neutralized by medicines at all. A panic attack makes a person want to withdraw, isolate and hide from life. A trigger causes a person to be emotionally reactive, increased hypersensitivity and hyper-awareness of their surroundings.
Tip As a survivor, it is imperative to know whether you are experiencing a panic attack or a flashback that has been triggered in your mind. The main difference between a panic attack and triggered memory is not the symptoms themselves but the perception of what is happening due to inaccurate information. Coach Bill
Have you ever asked yourself questions like: "Is what I remember real or did I make it up? Is my memory a false memory?"
If you have asked yourself would a tool be really a benefit? The would a test help? Yes, it would. A test to help you determine if a memory you're experiencing is the truth or really happened?
As a survivor myself I asked myself these questions all the time. I had suffered abuse and trauma my whole childhood and did not start having memories or flashbacks of the experiences until I was my 20th birthday. When they started, I thought I was crazy. When I asked professionals, no one could tell me if my memories were real or not. I thought I must be making them up. Now I know I was not.
Professionally as a trauma coach, I have been asked this question regularly by survivors with flashbacks they were experiencing. The problem is always, “How do I know that my abuse or trauma really happened?” And before I can give them an answer, they would say, “Because I think or feel that I made all of it up in my head. Does that makes me a bad and horrible person?” No, it does not.
So how do you know any of your non-traumatic or traumatic memories are accurate or actually happened? Below is a test I developed that will allow you to figure out if your memories are made up or actual truth.
Traumatic Memory Test
You know that memory is real by the following;
1) A flashback does not stop surfacing no matter what you try to do to stop it.
2) The intensity of the flashback increases with every episode.
3) You experience triggers everywhere you turn which causes flashbacks to surface again.
4) You find yourself thinking how you can fix those past situations.
5) You attempt to rationalize those horrible times even though they were not rational.
6) Every time you have a flashback, it hurts emotionally, and you feel like you are "reliving" the situation all over again.
I believe that #6 is the most vital telling sign. Think about this ... memory is made up of three subfiles: audio, emotion, and content. The most crucial subfile of each recorded memory is the emotion associated with each situation recorded and when the memory replays you feel the first emotions all over again because it has not been processed.
1 Tip: Emotions are the Truth Indicator of Truth in Memory
Why you might ask? Do lies, false statements, or made up excuses have no emotion connected to them? No, they do not. Go ahead and make up a lie in your head and then say it out loud. Does your statement arouse any feelings? I bet your answer is no. So if you make up a lie and say it, the first thing you will openly recognize is that there is no emotion or feeling attached to it. Lies, false statements or excuses are something you create, you form on purpose, or makeup to get you out of a situation. You know the comment you are uttering is false.
Memory is an actual recording of a situation you experienced. The content may degrade over time, but the emotion charge never does. All your real or true experiences evoke emotions manifesting actual true feelings. A real experience converted into a memory always evokes emotion. Excuses, fraudulent statements or lies never have feelings associated with them.
When memory is replayed in your conscious mind, all subfiles should play together. When all subfiles replay together, audio, (sound, what you heard), content (what you saw) and the most critical subfile of all is emotion (what feeling was aroused). If no emotion is part of the replay, then it is not real. It is the emotional charge in a memory that hurts and makes the "reliving experience" but also validates it is real.
No emotion, no truth
Hope this test has helped you to relax some of your worries and uncertainties about your memories. If you need more help at eliminating the emotional charge in memory and keep it from destroying your ability to have a happy life then visit my website. While you are there download my free eBook gift to you. Coach Bill
Difficulty knowing if you are really having a real panic attack? Is it all in your perception?
Do you experience what you think (or have been told) as a panic attacks?
Are you a survivor of abuse, bullying, catastrophic, combat, domestic violence,
harassment, rape, trauma, or indoctrination situations in your life? If you
have, you are probably feeling some degree of Post-traumatic Stress from your
experience. Then knowingly or unknowingly, you’re carrying buried memory or
known as dissociative memorythat have active conscious triggers.
Many times a panic attack is not an actual panic attack. Sometimes a panic attack is a mislabeled trigger response. So it appears that the symptoms are almost identical. Therefore the only difference between a panic attack and a PTSD trigger response isperception.
What is a trigger?
A trigger is a sensory stimuli such
as an emotion, a physical pain, a visual cue, a sound, a smell, a touch or
thought resulting from an experience that connects any complete memory or
portion of a memory to your conscious awareness. This memory may have been held
in long-term memory storage or dissociate memory storage. A trigger can be
connected to a good or positive experience as well as a bad, negative or life
The trigger experience
Every time you go through the
following experiences rapid heartbeat, your heart beating out of your chest, sweating
in every part of your body, cold hands and feet but hot body core, unusual
smells for no reason, tightening of your throat, dry mouth and unable to say
anything, physically frozen unable and unable to do anything, constriction of
the your visual field, quick onset of fear or terror for no apparent reason,
emotional numbness, confusion, loss of the ability to focus, loss of the
ability to concentrate, dissociating in and out, intense anxiety as though something is going to happen, hypervigilant, hyper aware and hypersensitive as
well as a rapid onset of irritability it may not be symptoms of a panic attack at
all but rather the triggering response signal of forthcoming flashback.
If you are honest with yourself
and review all the aforementioned reactions, you will see that you are really
experiencing a subconscious trigger response of a flashback rather than going through a
Unfortunately the diagnosis of a "panic attack" seems to have become a knee jerk catch-all diagnosis made by professionals that are unknowledgeable of Post Traumatic Stress symptoms and how PTSD mirrors many other diagnoses.
Types of Triggers
Take Away Overall, recognition of the true difference between the two willdeflatethe influence and intensity of the trigger response. Take your personal authority back and master your life. Coach Bill Visit my website and click here for a gift of free eBook