Put Your Whole Self In

Statue, Three Servicemen, Vietnam Veterans Mem...

Image via Wikipedia

Severe trauma can

split you in pieces

NOT like the stereotype of what schizophrenia is, NOT like the stereotype of split personality. (Tell me about your splits, about your whole self)




As a matter of fact, the common wisdom among survivors and helpers is that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation (trauma).

The trauma split(s) are:

for constant exposure to evil:

that the nice person inside, has to go away.

for assaults, often repeated:

this body has to go away in order to survive. Many feel as if they were on the ceiling or in the sky as the trauma happens

for constant danger:

pulling away, to a place inside or away

for constant danger to loved ones

pulling away from emotion s to  numbness

Severe trauma can

magnify every way you cope

The photo above is of  Viet Nam veterans.

(for World War II in the Pacific veterans) Louis Zamperini,  in (Laura Hillenbrand’s ) his  biography Unbroken, and fellow survivors, experienced magnified coping in this manner:

  • memory of life events prior to assaults
  • ability to concentrate and focus
  • focus on nature and wonder of surroundings, during reprieves of suffering
  • acts of courage
  • team work and communication
  • spiritual connectedness and prayer

In my practice experience as a psychotherapist, with friends, and thinking back on my own loss, I have experienced and witnessed the same. These “gifts” of trauma are not constant, and we can have such gifts without trauma….Let’s insist upon having such gifts without the trauma.

Having the gift of life, the gift of magnified coping, and the gift of spirituality in recovery is so richly deserved for each survivor. But the splits, those necessary splits, those “normal reactions to an abnormal situation” from before are hard to give up. Because of the protection they provided, because each survivor has witnessed the worst, starting to put your Whole Self into recover is tough. Beyond tough.

Why love again, why come out of emotional numbness, why live back in your body, why be in the moment (not just on hyper-alert, but  in the moment)?

Because when you put your whole self in, take the risk, recovery happens.

My cyberspace friends and I used to belong to a teen twelve step program all about sobriety and recovery. For fun, we ended many meetings standing in a circle, singing and dancing the Hokey Poky.

This had many benefits:

  • a bunch of “cool teens” got silly, got over themselves, had fun
  • we moved, we were in our bodies, straight, sober, aware
  • we learned then, and now:

You gotta put your

Whole Self In

How do you put your whole self in? For whatever you have survived, what is it like to feel again, trust, be your “whole self?”  Tell me.

“Oh! Tis a fearful thing to love what death can touch” — inscribed on the tombstone of Edna M. Spink (1845c-1870)

Center Cemetery, East Hartford, Hartford County, Connecticut


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