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Surviving Trauma


A musician friend of mine posted this video from SurvivorsUK which highlighted sexual violence towards men. My first thoughts and feelings were 'How Brave' and as I caught myself thinking this it reminded me of times when people had said the same to me when they heard some of my story. Rather than feeling better at the offering of sympathy I somehow felt 'less than'. Surviving trauma is not about being brave and I struggle to find the word or words to describe it. I ask myself if male sexual violence is somehow worse than what women experience and I am left thinking that the intention of sexual violence is to disempower and shame. The impact of this on either gender will manifest itself in different ways but the feelings of shame and annihilation are shared.

I have been working with the cause and effect of sexual violence for over almost twenty years and the word and feelings which keep coming up is Shame. Shame is toxic. It gets into our bones, it's rage pumps through our blood, it manifests itself in other ways which reinforces the shame - violence towards ourself, others, possessions.

It is the injustice of the perpetration - something not agreed to, unwanted, no choice, a betrayal, a headfuck.

It damages the innocence of existence. Trust. More anger that our perception of the world has been skewed.

This damage of pure experience prohibits being able to explain to others why we are how we are. Shame. Yet this shame does not belong with us.

As an addiction therapist I see presenting problems such as self-harm, drug addiction - prescription, over the counter and illicits, sex and love addiction, chronic codependency, deteriorated mental health, suicide,homocide,gambling, work..all sorts of avoidance.. and yet these are often symptoms of something deeper.

It is not uncommon for people to come to therapy and residential treatment for addiction and mental health problems to have no memory of the abuse, lost in amongst the other traumatic experiences incurred, repressed, dissociated from, denied.

Getting clean and abstaining from the problematic behaviours is just the beginning, the tip of the ice-berg.

Recovering from the trauma associated with sexual and physical violence is possible, to be free from the shame which prevents coexisting on an equal pegging with others.

When we are able to look at the wreckage abuse and violence has left in its wake we are able to unpick where our tangled emotions, thoughts, feelings, lack of trust, chronic low self-esteem and self worth have sabotaged our chances of finding peace and happiness.

There are many ways to help reprocess trauma and regain our true selves and working with a therapist is one of the best ways I know of as well as having others who have had shared experiences.

Dealing with both the addictive and damaging behaviours in conjunction with reprocessing trauma is necessary as one feeds the other. If the trauma is not worked with the chances of remaining abstinent from the other behaviours is almost impossible and certainly the thoughts and feelings will stay present.

Recovery is about freedom and everyone deserves to be at peace, to have meaningful intimate relationships.

Trauma reprocessing means taking the sting out of the events, dissipating the residual emotions from those experiences - not just the main incidents but all of the other traumas ( complex/multiple traumas ) incurred and one by one they are worked through, in your own time, with you in control and non-intrusive.

It is possible to reprocess through talking therapies and I use a skill I learned from Richard Rose who has worked extensively with children and adults who have experienced trauma through Life Storybook Work. Richard is one of the therapists who train at the Centre for Childrens Mental Health in Islington, London where I have been privileged to train in all aspects of repairing damaged emotions.

I have recently been working as a freelance therapist and also honoured to work at Sanctuary Lodge, a clinic treating addiction and trauma in Essex.

Hilary Thomson-Betts is the Clinical Director and I have known Hilary since we went to University together in 2000. She is leading the Sanctuary Lodge team in working in an approach pioneered at The Meadows Clinic in Arizona which works with the addiction, the trauma resolution and in finding and healing the inner child. I have never seen anything like it apart from some Psychodrama work with my old boss and mentor Robert Lefever from Promis Recovery Centre ( now in private practice in London).

I am even more honoured to be asked to train with Sanctuary Lodge in the PIT trauma training, which is a dream come true.

I had been planning on going to The States next year to do this training at The Meadows so you can imagine my delight.

The prospect of helping others using this therapy to obtain further healing, deeper peace and to find freedom fills my heart with gratitute for having had the chance to use my own experiences for the greater good but I am aware that the training will require a deep dive into my own inner world as I can only really be of use as long as I have thoroughly worked on my own stuff.


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