People who have been exposed to overwhelming, violent experiences often develop symptoms that prevent them from living a satisfactory life of interpersonal relationships or even withdraw from life in such a way that whole areas of life remain closed to them.
Traumatic experiences can be not only one-off violent events, such as physical or sexual abuse in childhood or adulthood, accidents, natural disasters, flight or political imprisonment and torture, traffic accidents, deaths of close relatives, but also long-lasting cumulative traumatic experiences. This can also be, for example, the story of a continuous contempt, neglect, conflict tension, etc.
Tormenting feelings of guilt and shame are just as much a part of the psychological consequences of psychological trauma as feelings of helplessness and the compulsion to go into situations similar to the traumatising one. To build trust, so that it becomes possible to express the trauma suffered in all its details in words, to communicate, to free oneself and to be no longer alone with the overwhelming, paralyzing painful feelings caused by the trauma or the traumatizing atmosphere. We know from many studies that the ability to put into words what has been experienced after a trauma prevents the development of further psychological disorders.
Trauma psychotherapy is also about supporting the traumatised to regain power over their own feelings, to be able to shape interpersonal relationships themselves. A therapy can only lead to success if it is carried out as a partnership and if it is respected that each person has his or her own way of coping with his or her traumatic experience.
Behind this is the experience of psychological and physical border violation, which the traumatised person will often compulsively visit again in his life, but which must be avoided at all costs in a therapeutic relationship.
A traumatized person, even if he succeeds in integrating his traumatic experiences, doing the necessary mourning work and regaining his dignity and strength, will always remain a particularly sensitive person, for whom the questions of meaning in life are often more important than for others. This is normal and understandable. A man who had to experience that relationships were destroyed, trust was abused and everything that was considered safe for him to go under will always go back and seek the meaning of life. A psychotherapist cannot be a mediator of meaning, but he can become a sincere companion in the search for the meaning of life. In this context it also makes sense that the survivors of traumata create actions, symbols and memorials that symbolize triumph over helplessness and despair.
A distinction must be made between long-term trauma therapy and acute psychological assistance following a traumatising event (accident, crime, technical disaster, natural disaster, etc.). This psychological acute coping aid has a preventive effect and can prevent a pathological development from occurring. This assistance should be provided if possible within the first 36 hours after the traumatic event. “Critical incidence debrieving” enables the victim to become aware of his feelings in a protected interpersonal space and to classify his reactions as strange or strange. In short, to come to terms with oneself and one’s feelings.
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