Saturday, July 4, 2015

Childhood trauma revisited

I had an alcoholic father and was jealous of my older brother who was favored as the oldest son.

Childhood trauma revisited

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Dear Dr. Dan,

I had an alcoholic father and was jealous of my older brother who was favored as the oldest son. On many nights I had sobbed at bed until at some point in middle school. At college age, I remember a hysterical crying day took place once or twice a year. I came to the states at 25 to go to a graduate school. The physical distance from my family seemed to have calmed me down.  In recent months, with my newly revived focus on religion, I discovered that I have a rather serious emotional issue, though. I tend to burst out tears at any moment with some thoughts dwelling on the past. I also tend to see me as a victim in most cases and to think that I suffered or endured.

I have no intention in dwelling on my past. I would like to get my problems fixed and move on. Look forward to hearing from you.

Many, many thanks,

In a poem Maya Angelou read at Bill Clinton's first inauguration, she said: "history, despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived. But if faced with courage, need not be lived again." Certainly if you are having these symptoms again, you will need professional help in facing this. And I strongly suggest you see someone who is specifically trained in trauma. That's because you are right not to want to dwell on the past and traditional psychotherapies ask people to examine their histories closely in order to release the emotions and move past them. But newer psychotherapies assist people in looking at the past with a different lens. And then the emotions dissipate so sad ones history simply becomes ones history without bleeding into one's day to day life.

With an appropriate perspective, we can all look back and see our stories as simply stories we tell ourselves. All those effects might be true in these stories, we have incorporated them into our identity. Victim is who you were, not who you are. But there is a part of your brain that doesn't know this yet. The therapy involves training your brain to experience what is happening now in this present moment rather than reexperiencing what happened before.

There are many descriptions for these newer therapies including: "mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy" and "acceptance and commitment therapy". But whoever you see, make sure they have had specific training in trauma treatment.

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Dan Gottlieb
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