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Although some of us have the tools we need there is no guarantee, that we can successfully navigate the paradigms in our relationships. There is only love and fear - we act from a place of love or a place of fear. We seek to operate in the love mode, but the lines between love and fear can be blurred. Love allows us to create the relationships we need, fear impedes us in a multitude of ways.
Anger is the most common result of fear. Acknowledging and knowing the place you are in is a vital component to building and maintaining a healthy, functional relationship. One of the keys to having a successful relationship is strong, active communication. We can talk to each other, but are we truly conveying and understanding the context of the conversation?
Are we more intent on expressing our thoughts instead of truly listening to what the other person is saying? How can we improve our ability to talk to each other and establish practices that empower us to convey our message? Some Native Americans have a method of communication, which consists of the speaker holding a stone. This effectively honors the speaker and creates a respectful atmosphere for the listener. That is the first step to building a strong relationship.
Throughout this book Alexis provides insight, stories, examples, and exercises to strengthen our relationships. She focuses more on the most intimate and coveted relationship of all, that of partner or spouse. Yet many of the processes can be used in other relationships as well. Keeping true to her admitted geekish nature, she lays out a methodical approach to working on our relationships in ways that we often overlook, forget, or simply do not know.
Take in her stories. They share real world examples of how a variety of people built powerful, working relationships. Heartfelt appreciation goes to LeeAnna Waldrop for the countless hours spent editing this book. Many authors carry great emotional attachment to each written word. Thoughtful consideration is given to every aspect of the message we attempt to convey. It is not an easy task to hand over our work for critique.
However, each modification was suggested by LeeAnna in a kind and careful way that showed great respect for the creative process. It was a sincere pleasure to work with her.
Without a strong foundation, you cannot even begin to build the structure required for you to be your best self. There are a few people that greatly contributed to my foundation which will always live in a special place in my heart. In loving memory. In loving memory of Landis.
The following artists, authors and publishers graciously granted permission to include their previously published work in this book. It is with great appreciation that I acknowledge their contribution to my life during my exploration and thus wanted to share their impactful lessons with you, the readers. Gifts painting 70 x40 oil on canvas.
Copyright by Christopher J. The painting was reprinted with written permission provided by the artist and the explanation was written by the artist exclusively for this book.
Copyright by Peter B. Myers and Katharine D. All rights reserved. The concept of love languages in this chapter was adapted with written permission from Moody Publishers. The Evaluations Masquerading As Feelings list Lasater, in this chapter and appendix was reprinted with written permission from Ike Lasater. Text from pp. Reprinted by written permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Katie, It was reprinted with written permission from Byron Katie. The concept for the appendix was adapted from the Feelings Inventory by Dr.
Marshall B. Rosenberg with written permission from CNVC. This book is dedicated to my two daughters, Erika and Cheyanna. They are the reason I try so hard and why I never gave up. They are my inspiration to reach deep down and pull out my extraordinary self. Anything worthwhile I have ever done was a direct result of my undying love for them. Relationships prior to implementing this approach to communication and overall framework for an extraordinary relationship looked very different than what I experience now.
Previously, the overarching theme of the relationship was that it always started out great and fantastic, only to crash and burn in the end. Before, disagreements were arguments that escalated over time without any kind of resolution. Both parties were left hurt and wounded with no hope in sight. The result was a slow chipping away at the relationship. This created cracks in the foundation that eventually crumbled and resulted in the relationship ending with both of us looking around wondering what had happened. Now, disagreements inside the realm of an extraordinary relationship without guilt, shame, or fear leaves us actually feeling closer to each other than before the issue arose.
Sieff: Popular culture tends to define trauma as being the victim of harm, and it portrays trauma as being located in the harmful experiences themselves. This is a problematic misunderstanding that hinders healing. Thus, trauma cannot be defined only by the negative experiences we suffer. Equally important is the impact of these experiences upon us. A painful and frightening experience might overwhelm one person and leave them with lasting emotional wounds, but not cause as much damage to another. It will depend on their age, innate sensitivity, unique personal history, and whether they have support.
When we experience pain and fear that overwhelms us, we develop an unconscious conviction that our life is at risk. As a result, survival systems are activated in our minds and in our bodies. These systems have evolved to protect us against dangers that arise both externally — from other people and the world in which we live — and internally: from within ourselves.
With the activation of these systems, we move onto a different developmental path to the one we would have followed, had we not been traumatized. Once on this pathway, we live our lives from inside an altered biological and psychological reality. Sieff: That varies from person to person, again depending on our individual experiences and unique disposition. However, 3 systems form the core of all trauma-worlds:. Fear, disconnection, and shame distort both our inner and outer reality.
They distort inner reality by compromising our relationship with ourselves, and they distort outer reality by compromising our relationships with others. Then, we have little choice but to behave in ways that create repetitive and self-perpetuating cycles of trauma, both in ourselves and others.
Entering a trauma-world does not happen as a result of a conscious decision. It is what human brains and bodies have evolved to do in the face of overwhelming pain or fear.
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What is more, a trauma-world is not created in the relatively accessible cognitive systems of the brain. Sieff: The most obvious are those that cause acute pain or fear, such as overt abuse or neglect, [as well as] growing up amongst violence, experiencing war, or witnessing atrocities. Less obvious, but equally damaging is the insidious, chronic, and ongoing pain and fear of growing up feeling unloved, unvalued, or inadequate. From the perspective of attachment theory, this can be seen as growing up with an insecure attachment pattern.
Attachment research also shows us that trauma is triggered in infants and young children when parents or caregivers are unable to attune to them sensitively — perhaps because the caregivers are themselves stressed, depressed, ill, or carrying trauma. Sometimes, trauma comes to us across generations. When our parents and grandparents carried unresolved trauma, we inherited their fears and distorted perceptions and our trauma-world is built around their experiences.
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Research is revealing that it is not pain and fear alone that constellate trauma. Rather, trauma is constellated when we experience pain and fear, and there is nobody present to help us process these emotions. An evolutionary perspective suggests why this might be the case. For our ancestors, being part of a social network was crucial to survival. In the environment in which we evolved, children and adults who had no social support were likely to die.
Consequently, we feel safe when accompanied, but in very real danger when alone. Suffering trauma, and having no support, will heighten our fear and contribute to the sense that our life is at risk. Sieff : In response to experiencing overwhelming pain or fear, biological changes occur that leave our minds and bodies extremely sensitive to potential danger.
There are many harmful consequences to having a sensitized fear system. However, if we live in a dangerous environment, suffering these consequences is the lesser of two evils, because without being alert to danger, we are likely to die young. In fact, the ability of minds and bodies to become more fearful in dangerous environments is the product of evolution, and exists in many different animal species.
We are particularly alert to danger around the original traumatizing experiences. At the center of a trauma-world is the imperative to avoid retraumatization. All the same, it impacts our lives in ways that can cause as much, if not more, pain than the original wounding. Sometimes, it is impossible to avoid situations that appear similar to the one that traumatized us.
When this happens, our old trauma comes back to life — not as a memory of the past, but as a fear-driven, knee-jerk reaction. Trauma-reactions are generally built around the mammalian responses to danger: freeze, flight, fight, and submission — though in each of us they will take a unique form. Trauma-reactions seem to come out of nowhere. That is because of the way that traumatizing events are recorded in our memories.
Normally, when we commit an event to memory, a tag is added to the event recording when and where it occurred. When these memories are activated, the tags inform us that the experience happened at a particular moment in our past. In contrast, overwhelming painful and frightening experiences are committed to memory without being tagged with a time and place. Instead, we relive the visceral feelings and reactions of earlier experiences as if they were present reality.
The advantage of implicit memory is that it enables us to react almost instantaneously, and it is easy to see how that is valuable with a skill like bicycle-riding. Similarly, growing up in a dangerous environment, the ability to react virtually instantaneously can save our lives. However, with trauma-reactions this instantaneous response can also be problematic, because the implicit memory will sometimes be activated when there is no danger. As a result, we are likely to behave in ways that recreate the very situation we are trying to avoid. It could be that the mother already had a nursing child, or she might be lacking in social support, or there could be a famine.
API: Disconnection is the second system that you include in a trauma-world. Can you tell us more about disconnection and trauma? Sieff: Disconnection involves cutting off from some aspect of ourselves. There are different forms that disconnection can take. All provide us with some kind of protection, but all are ultimately harmful, because they leave us cut off from our own internal reality and from the reality of the external situation. Disconnection first occurs during the original traumatizing experience. In the midst of a terrible situation, the release of opiates from within us blocks the pain and fear coursing through our bodies, and we are numbed to the feelings.
This is an adaptive response, because it means that if we get a chance to escape, we can take it — whereas escape would be impossible if we were incapacitated by pain and fear. Once we are out of danger, and if we have enough support, we may be able to reconnect to our pain and fear, and process them. However, without support, our unprocessed emotions remain locked away in our unconscious minds and bodies.
First, we are compelled to avoid anything that might bring our unprocessed emotions into awareness. This compulsion to protect ourselves from what was once overwhelming poison in our relationships, creates a desperate need for control and prevents us from taking new opportunities. It can also lead to attempts to sabotage the healing process. Second, having locked the overwhelming pain and fear in our bodies, we must disconnect from our bodies to prevent these feelings from surfacing. This creates new layers of suffering and difficulties:.
Third, in its most extreme form, the drive to separate from the pain and fear of the original trauma can result in a dissociative identity disorder. There is another kind of disconnection, too — one which is underlain by fear of being attacked or abandoned in the present. This typically occurs when certain parts of ourselves are unacceptable to our family, teachers, or society. Under these circumstances, we cut off or bury the unacceptable parts in an attempt to protect ourselves from the possibility of being retraumatized.
We might also disconnect from our need for love and connection, or from our need for independence and self-expression. Sometimes, we try to bury the unacceptable parts of ourselves using self-control and willpower. Other times, critical inner voices try to shame these parts into submission. But often this kind of disconnection occurs unconsciously — we are unaware of what we have lost. Being cut off from parts of ourselves contributes to the underlying sense of loneliness that is inherent to trauma, because we are abandoning aspects of who we are. It also exacerbates the sense of danger that is built into a trauma-world, because we are not rooted in the fullness our own reality.
API: Shame is the third system that you say is intrinsic to a trauma-world. Can you expand on this? Sieff: Shame is a visceral and pervasive feeling of being fundamentally flawed and inadequate as a human being. Shame is primarily relational: Although shame leaves us feeling absolutely alone, its roots lie in an implicit conviction that we are somehow unworthy of having meaningful relationships with other people.
Shame is often confused with guilt, but with guilt, we feel bad about things we have done. With shame, we feel bad about who we are. Shame is a product of evolution, and it is experienced as a passing emotion in almost everybody. It exists to tell us that we are at risk of losing important social relationships, or that we might be thrown out of our group.
Thus, we see ourselves through a distorted lens. As a result, we are likely to experience ourselves as contemptible and feel a victim to our own believed inadequacy. In this state, we get sucked into a downward spiral of shame. We can become even more desperate to obliterate the parts of ourselves that we believe make us inadequate, redoubling our efforts to shame those parts into submission. However, when we use shame against ourselves, we retraumatize ourselves. Then, instead of fostering change, we reinforce the status quo and fortify the walls of our trauma-world.
What Makes Emotional Trauma? Fear, Disconnect & Shame | The Attached Family
At the same time, we try to cajole ourselves into success, believing that if we can force ourselves to become more than we are — or ideally perfect — then the gnawing pain of being shame-based will abate. However, if we are shame-based, then no amount of success will be enough. No matter what we do, we are never enough. When we are shame-based, we will be terrified that if others get to know us, they will see us as the inadequate person we believe ourselves to be, and in an unconscious attempt to prevent that from happening, we may put up barriers, push people away, and sabotage relationships.
Alternatively, we may try to control others, hoping that we can prevent them from doing anything that might bring our shame to the surface. We are generally not conscious of what we are doing, or indeed why we are doing it.
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However, we are left with a murky feeling that our relationships lack authenticity, trust, and intimacy. As a result, we feel increasingly isolated. In short, shame creates more shame. Shame also generates isolation and fear. And shame reinforces the need to disconnect. Ultimately, shame keeps us locked in our trauma-worlds. Sieff: One of the challenges for healing is that although trauma-worlds are created in response to external events, once established, they form rigid and closed internal systems.