Tag Archives: control and mastery

Trauma, bonding and grounding: what your diagnosis really means, and how to free yourself from past Trauma.

Through life we all experience trauma, and each of us is shaped by the things we experience – but what happens when we are faced with significant trauma, and find it impossible to move past it? How does it shape our future choices, our relationships, and can it ever really leave us?

What is PTSD?

PTSD means Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This means that experiencing a very traumatic event – and anything you find traumatic counts – leaves you with life altering stress and anxiety.

This isn’t just ‘being anxious’ and it isn’t just ‘having some bad memories’ – it’s far more significant. PTSD actually alters the brain, physically. There are marked and well known physical differences in areas of the brain which process memories, anxiety and emotional stimuli and responses.

Symptoms of PTSD include a high level of stress or anxiety – again, a physical change – with higher levels of cortisone, which can lead to heart problems, among other issues. Other symptoms are flashbacks, night terrors and audio or visual illusions. Any trigger which sparks a trauma response takes the sufferer straight back to the initial trauma event, reliving and re-traumatising. The brain cannot differentiate between the traumatic event and the trigger, so the physical and emotional response is the same.

Complex PTSD – or CPTSD – is when someone has suffered multiple traumatic events, and is more challenging to live with and to treat, as those who suffer struggle to differentiate between trauma and triggers, and to maintain emotional balance or form healthy relationships and routines.

What is Trauma Bonding?

Trauma bonding is a very complex issue – and is something we most commonly see in victims of abuse. Any emotional bond is influenced by kindness and intimacy. These become unhealthy, trauma bonds when that same source of intimacy is the person who abuses you.

Most abusive relationships – whether they are between romantic couples, children and their abusive caregivers, Cult leaders and their followers or even kidnappers and their victims – tend to follow the same patterns.

Initially there is intense attention, affection and interest – love bombing – where the abuser, or person with the most power in the dynamic, showers their victim with overwhelming attention, and makes them feel special.

When the victim is feeling happy, vulnerable and adoring, seeing their abuser in a wonderful, loving light, the painful treatment begins. It could be a withdrawal and rejection, a physical attack, a verbal assault. The abuse itself takes many forms – but the pattern is the same. This is a shock, and incredibly painful for the victim, but it’s often brief – and the abuser quickly says something like ‘look what you made me do’ and is very apologetic. The love bombing re-starts, and affection – usually extreme affection – makes the victim feel secure again.

This cycle repeats – and a trauma bond is formed where the abuser is the person most capable of hurting you, be it physically or psychological, but they are also the  person you most desperately want and need comfort from, and who any scrap of kindness from has the greatest impact.

This makes it very difficult to leave abusive relationships or situations, or to break that cycle and avoid repeating the pattern in new relationships (be it friendships, romantic relationships or even employment) because the familiarity makes it feel secure, even when it is incredibly painful.

Over time the bad days outweigh the good ones, but the victim – the person with the trauma bond – can’t leave because they still believe that if they can just love someone right, if they can just stop making mistakes, or upsetting their abuser, or stepping out of line, it will be as wonderful as it was in the beginning. They are chasing the reward of attention and love bombing, and will excuse and allow an enormous amount of cruelty to chase that feeling.

All of this is shaped by biological responses and the physical makeup of our brains, and as with PTSD it can literally alter the development of your brain – as well as forming the behaviours you exhibit.

Those who have never experienced it question why someone stays in an abusive relationship, but it’s an incredibly difficult thing to break, and to truly move away from and avoid repeating.

In that process, one of the most powerful therapeutic devices taught by psychotherapists and counsellors is grounding.

What is Grounding?

Grounding is when someone who is experiencing anxiety, fear, panic or heightened senses can reduce their stimulus and calm their body and mind. Some think specifically of just ‘calming down’ and focus on the exact moment and location that you are in – others link it to nature, and the individual connects to the physical world by taking off their shoes and standing on grass, or similar.

There are many different techniques, and I will include some links below to explore more, but the method I often teach first is the ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1’ technique, shown below.

Download a copy of this technique by clicking here – 5 4 3 2 1

This method distracts your thoughts from the traumatic event, the flashbacks or the worries which have heightened your body and mind, and re-focusses those energies on the immediate here and now of where you are and what you can sense.

This allows you to leave the trauma memory, and to re-enter your body right now, right here, focussed on your senses. This allows you to calm your racing thoughts and gain control over your emotional and physical being.

This kind of grounding is simple, powerful and effective, and can help you to divert or avoid panic attacks, to maintain equilibrium and avoid anger or aggression, and gives you time and opportunity to focus on where you are and what you need right now.

For more information on PTSD and how it causes physical changes in the brain

For more information on Trauma Bonds 

For other Grounding techniques 

If you are struggling with any of the issues I’ve discussed in this article, and are looking for someone to speak to, to process and overcome your own traumatic events, you can contact me through this website, through FacebookLinkedIn or email on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com, or call me on 07849 037095 – you can also message or call via WhatsApp on the same number, and I offer video sessions for those who are still unable to meet in person. I can help – you don’t have to struggle alone, and our work together is completely confidential.

Shame; how to process it, move past it and use it to your advantage

As an individual you experience a wide range of feelings, emotions, reactions and responses day to day – even minute by minute – and riding the rollercoaster of these emotions is something that I help people to cope with in my work as a counsellor.

One of the most maligned and misunderstood emotions that most of us face is shame; shame is a response to things we have done or said, or those done or said to or around us, which our innermost self regrets or has been hurt by.

Shame is our innermost self, informing us that something is ‘not quite right’ or that it is going against our instinctive moral code. Without shame, without that sense of disquiet, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to avoid, change or repair whatever has happened that ‘feels wrong’ – which is why I argue that shame isn’t always a negative response or experience.

Though it is often linked to a feeling, deep within, of not being good enough, or of letting ourselves or others down, shame is simply an alarm system – and one which we can work with to move past negative experiences and create healthier boundaries.

Often the first response to feeling shame is withdrawal; withdrawing into ourselves, diminishing our voice, gaze and stature, shrinking to avoid being witnessed and responded to by others who may witness our shame. Perhaps this is familiar to you? Perhaps you’ve noticed this behaviour in others? There is a commonality in shame; the dropping of our head, avoiding eye contact, embarrassment and shame giving rise to the ‘flight’ response which makes us want to leave the room or situation and avoid it.

This is a natural – and important – response, and one which we can use to form healthier coping mechanisms; rather than complete withdrawal, a quite time of introspection and reflection can help us to identify why we feel this shame or embarrassment, and address what changes we can make to avoid repeating the experience.

When we feel shame in the presence of others the impact – and damage – of these big emotions can be profound, and can have long-lasting repercussions on the way we feel and function. The good news, however, is that shame – whilst thriving on the presence of others – can also be healed by interacting with others.

You are in control of your emotional responses and behaviour – these aren’t dependent on others, though we can measure our own responses by theirs, and we can moderate ours by communicating and sharing with the people around us.

One of the best and healthiest ways to understand, and thus to overcome, feelings of shame is to find a safe place to discuss and challenge the situations and experiences which the shame is linked to, and to find balance in how we view those experiences, and our own behaviours.

Though shame can be a useful tool, it can also be a heavy burden – and it’s only in examining and processing those feelings that we can move past them, and leave that burden behind.

Talking therapies and counselling are not just a way to understand events which have happened to us but also to understand things we have done ourselves, and the behaviours which may have protected us or defended us in challenging times, or been coping mechanisms, but which ultimately haven’t served us well, or have left us carrying shame.

When you examine and understand these behaviours as part of a bigger picture, working hand in hand with someone who can help you to move through, discuss and challenge those experiences, it is easier to understand – and to forgive – the person we once were.

Shame, when understood, can then shrink, can be left in the past, and can stop being such a burden in your current situation, and you can, with the help of a counsellor or therapist, truly forgive the self you were, and accept the self that you now are, free of that burden of shame.

The best way to diminish the power that shame holds over us is to engage with it. To explore the origin and myth of shame. Working together with you I can support you and collaborate with you to move through and beyond your shame, and to gain mastery over the destructive emotions and feelings which it brings.

Patience, support and self-acceptance are vital when mastering both your conscious and your subconscious feelings and responses to any shame that you’ve experienced – and the more that you are able to talk about those experiences, the more power you harness over them – and the less power they have over you.

 If you are ready to extinguish the shame you carry, and wishing to embrace a happier, freer contented self, I can help. You don’t need to carry this burden alone. Contact me through this website, on my Facebook page,  email me on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com or call/WhatsApp me on 07849 037095 today and let’s start your first steps to freedom.

Safer Internet Day

The internet is a wonder – a tool which has been in our lives for such a brief period, by many measures, but which has so quickly become absolutely vital to so many areas of our lives.

It connects people globally, meaning that we can build relationships and friendships, that we can explore other cultures, experience events on other continents, share news and current events. The internet has allowed isolated people to reach out, has made it easy for us to shop for our groceries without leaving the comfort of our homes, to build businesses with lower overheads – there are so many ways in which it enriches our lives.

But – because it has grown so quickly – the internet has also grown more rapidly than the security measures and safety provisions could match. And, whilst so many of us simply benefit from the entertainment, networking and opportunities that a global network can offer, it also gives the darker underworld that human life has always come with an untouchable place to pedal their wares.

For every fun forum where like-minded people can talk about their favourite author, there’s a dark web listing for illegal weapons or drugs, for every dating site where we can seek a soulmate there’s a hidden world where innocent lives are traded like a commodity.

For lots of us the internet still feels quite new and modern – and our learning has been gradual, embracing it in some parts of our lives but ignoring the parts that mean nothing to us. We still remember the world pre-world wide web, and the ways we experienced the world (and coped with being out of touch with people!) but for the younger generation, the internet has been an every day part of their lives the way that TVs have been a part of mine, but were new to the recent generations before me!

This means that navigating raising our next generations safely, with this untameable beast, can be quite the challenge – and that parents often don’t know a great deal about what their children can access online – either knowingly or not. It’s astonishing how much of the very extreme content on the internet can be found with just a couple of clicks – and that it’s deliberately designed to be that way, so that people can accidentally happen across it and be sucked in.

Though many people might be embarrassed to speak about it, looking for porn is very, very common – particularly with the curiosity of youth, and the accessibility of a handheld device in a quiet bedroom – and though there’s nothing damaging or dangerous about a healthy sexual curiosity, these free sites are also host to a terrifying number of ads and links to the dark web, where it’s frighteningly easy to get sucked down a web of increasingly extreme content. Addiction to these forms of content is a growing issue, and it isn’t just the younger generation being exposed to it – those who once would have struggled to find a source for their darkest thoughts to be fed are now just the tap of a screen away from like-minded people.

With Safer Internet Day the campaign to educate and protect people from this dark underbelly sees Governments worldwide being petitioned to have better controls and regulations, better policing and response to online crime. The biggest social networks are currently not held accountable for the actions of their users, absolving themselves of any responsibility or refusing to cooperate with criminal investigations in a timely manner, meaning that more people escape justice, more victims suffer, and more innocents are exposed to content which can cause lifelong difficulties or damage.

As a tool, as a way to communicate, as a wealth of experiences, the internet can be a wonderland, and has truly changed the way the world works in just a few short decades – but more must be done to protect users, and those shaping the way that it is used, from harm – whether it’s intentional or as a result of blundering into the wrong corners of the web.

Today, think about the content that you consume – and the information about your private life that you so confidently share with a world full of strangers, not all of whom will want to be your friend.

Limit the amount of information you share, be careful about updating your location in real time, or telling the internet at large that you’ll be away from home when your address hasn’t been well protected. Protect your children and their private lives by limiting how much you show of them and remember that, without their consent, you may even be breaking laws in sharing too much about them. In particular, remember that there may be some people looking who don’t have your own innocent view of your children, and who may have ulterior motives for wanting images or information about them – or about you. Don’t share your financial information, don’t agree to meet with strangers without building trust and letting friends and family know what your plans are, and please do be wary of letting your young people explore the internet unsupervised; though they may be making good choices, there are still others who may expose them to inappropriate material. Secure your settings, and if you’re unsure how to do this, visit the safer internet day website for some great resources and information.

If you have found your life impacted by the darker side of the internet, or perhaps you’re worried that you or someone you love have travelled further than you ever planned to down the rabbit hole of dark web content, please do give me a call; my services offer you a safe place to talk honestly, without judgement, and to find ways to control your own impulses, to process your experiences, and to heal from the hurt of being exposed to traumatic experiences.

Call me now on 07849 037095 or email me on cnslng@outlook.com and I can help you.

Calm your breathing – and your mind

This moving graphic is a fabulous little tool I’ve found recently, and which is a great help in controlling your breathing and focusing your mind – which is very helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think, and if it has helped you to calm your breathing – and your thoughts.