People with PTSD may not even realize they have it. They often come across as “totally normal” while quietly dealing with their condition and trying to manage life as best they can.
There is confusion about what is happening beneath the surface i.e their somatic experience and emotional inner realm so it's not often visited or when it is, the emotions are overwhelming and sometimes re-trigger a shock response in the body (fight/flight/freeze).
As PTSD causes the hyper-activation of some brain structures while other areas become hypoactive it impacts:
-Emotional regulation and emotional depth, capacity to feel at deep levels your inner realm and make sense of it
-Formation and storage of emotional memories, the capacity to recall memories, often leading to memory loss leaving large blank spaces that feel like cliff edges if you dive into them
-Distorted negative self beliefs, mostly about yourself and the world, your sense of self worth, inability to embody your actual divine essence, constantly dragged back by shame, guilt, fear etc. which creates a feeling of going round in circles or never progressing.
-Missing memories, gaps in memory and distorted memories emerging
-Nightmares/ night paralysis / flashbacks of sudden images of moments that seem unconnected, unable to feel them but they appear, night terrors and recurring nightmares
-Regulating attention, mind fog, brain fog, inability to focus, organise thoughts in an efficient self serving way, overwhelmed when there are multiple tasks, inability to ground consistently [If you haven't already, take my online course: How to ground your client]
-Decision-making - usually this is a paralysis, you know what you need to do but you can't do it, it feels like there's something huge stopping you from just saying 'yes' or 'no' so you stay in between, when you do make decisions you are plagued with guilt and shame regardless of the decision so that nothing you do can ever be internally valid
-Interpreting emotions - you interpret emotions as dangerous, threatening, destructive and they feel risky to feel because you don't know where they'll take you, or it feels like you might never stop feeling it. Emotions are difficult to feel in the body and you don't recognise how they relate to your life experiences, beliefs about yourself or your own creation
-Emotional awareness (particularly empathy) - your capacity to feel your own emotions is blunted but because you exist in the frequency of shame, pain and fear you continue to feel that externally, so the world becomes a terrible place and you feel the surface layer of pain rather than the purpose of pain. You empathise with others as a way of staying safe and processing your own feelings, but it's harder to empathise with yourself, your inner child, your teenager within or who you currently are and why.
-Registering physical pain / numbing- you have various structural and physical conditions, pain, distortions in your fascia and skeletal system, pain comes and goes but you don't fully feel or process it, surface layers are met and treated but the swell of consciousness beneath is never unravelled fully, pain repeats, becomes chronic, lasts years, builds your identity and reinforces the belief that there is something wrong with you - which compounds your shame - Body disconnection / dissociation / inability to recognise what your tissues and structure is holding. Four specific neural networks responsible for neurological processes related to creativity all terminate in the frontal cortex. The frontal cortex is also a key region of the brain associated with traumatic stress. It is also home to M1, the primary motor cortex - this is one of the main areas related to motor function.
Image source: micheline.maalouf
In healing sessions, a client with PTSD may:
- often not be able to close their eyes in a session or will open them frequently. May fall asleep to avoid processing or deepening.
- can experience breathing as painful and as they breathe their system disregulates further and their field distorts
- not easily be able to recall relevant memories especially those that pertain to childhood or trauma events. Or else memories are distorted and incomplete.
- not be able to easily name (or feel) their own emotions. There will be long pauses when it comes to identifying and working with emotional states.
- not be able to get deeper than surface sensation into the somatic depths because there is so much charge in the system it feels scary to go deeper. They may not have a felt sense of what safety or 'their body being them' is.
- often experience even subtle arising sensation and emotion in the heart as a threat and dangerous and therefore shut down and prevent it from being processed.
- experience partial emotional releases at a surface level, but the roots will remain buried. There are blocks to feeling deeper that feel like heavy weights on the chest, keeping everything locked in or muffled.
- find it easier to talk and do their best to talk their pain away / rationalise it / pin it to specific narratives rather than feel it.
- create new traumatic stories from the therapeutic work to reinforce defence layers, shame and self hatred
- not fully integrate a trauma layer before another layer emerges and they rapidly end up confused and in a sea of fear without clarity on what they are scared on.
- resist anything positive that they could possibly feel about themselves even when it’s right there and they’re being shown their strength / resilience / power. It doesn't fit how they feel about themselves so it's immediately rejected.
- not easily be able to ground consistently because grounding will start to get them in touch with their body, nervous system, sensation and felt experience which contains the traumatic imprints.
- want to heal everyone around them but not themselves, or will unconsciously take on everyone else’s shadow as their own duty to heal and then become overwhelmed by what they are feeling and then reinforce the suffering cycle.
- agree with everything you say to stay safe when really they are not deeply living it or feeling it but they've developed a method of compliance that keeps them hidden and it's safer not to be seen, even though it maintains a deep sense of grief and injustice at not being seen.
- recreate traumatic situations whilst they’re in therapy with you and bring them in as examples of why they’re a terrible person, which reinforces their shame.
- stick to your field energetically because they’re terrified to be in their own space and they feel unsafe organising around their own midline.
- feel deeply threatened when an ego structure that creates pain begins to move during the healing process because they feel like their identity is being destroyed by that movement they've seeked to contain.
- struggle to experience higher frequencies or their higher self and spiritual connection or may do fleetingly and then temporarily elated, but cannot sustain them on their own for more than a few days.
- resist most, the areas they most need to heal and reclaim - particularly when it comes to power, choice, existence and certain areas of the body such as the womb and heart.
The core aspect of PTSD is avoidance, and people suffering from PTSD will go to any extent to ignore triggers or to get out of a triggering situation.
Rather than digging into the symptoms to find the root cause, people with PTSD often spend much of their time trying to escape or avoid them.
Getting inside the world of a client with PTSD takes time. Supporting them to get access to their body and heart in a meaningful way is the work. If you want help to reclaim your body, heal trauma and recover from PTSD please reach out to me. Read what my clients say here.