Complex Trauma

This is the single-most compassionate description of complex trauma I have heard.

Complex trauma

I disagree with a few of her points, one of them being about shame, which I think comes from both the idea that most of us have had many years of experience in which people who were not part of our traumatic pasts explicitly or implicitly tell us that our experiences are overwhelming to hear about and we should not tell them as well as from how we felt at the time: shame is the emotion of submissive behaviour, and it’s a reasonable strategy for a child being faced with aggressive behaviour to stop.

My other addition, which she does not really address, is that for the caregiver, abuse is usually understood as discipline for misbehaviour. It may be recognized as inappropriate discipline if the abuser has some degree of conscience or self-awareness, but the abuser’s narrative to the child who is trying to understand what is happening to her is usually, “You have done something bad and this is the consequence for it.” I have realized a part of what I feel in situations where I am overwhelmed by negative feelings that are obviously (to me) trauma-based, is remorse. My parents taught me asserting myself or revealing myself, my needs, my personality, or my inner world was bad and wrong, and so when I do it, I feel remorse, and sometimes i feel guilty.

I have started to realize that my “mammal” brain does not learn by being told the same thing over and over again. It does not learn by being shouted at, argued with, or invalidated either–because this is really about the mind trying to see patterns in life. What is it that seems to make my parents so angry? Well, me. My existence.

So I go around, in some cases, being apologetic that I exist. This pattern in my mind does not change by numbing myself against yet more feelings, and silencing the remorse or guilt I feel. It changes by making these situations in which I automatically feel remorse ones where I am comforted.


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