The “Four F’s” of C-PTSD

This article was originally posted in April, 2016.

I also wrote a review of Pete Walker’s wonderful self help guide for survivors of complex PTSD, which you can read here:

Book Review: Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker 

Lucky Otters Haven

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I just began reading “Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving” by Pete Walker. I can already tell I won’t be able to put it down (I will write a book review when I’m finished, which shouldn’t take long). I’m also going to bring this book to my next therapy session because I want my therapist to see it.

Walker, who is a therapist and also a survivor of narcissistic abuse and sufferer of C-PTSD, is an engaging writer and definitely knows his subject matter. In one of the first chapters, he discusses the “Four F’s”–which are four different “styles” of coping that people with C-PTSD develop to cope with their abusive caregivers and avoid the abandonment depression. Whatever style one adopts may be based on several factors–natural temperament, the role in the family the child was given (scapegoat, golden child, “lost” or ignored child), birth order, and other factors.

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Available…

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Thanks to Neurofeedback, I’m not just getting older, I’m getting happier and healthier!

This is just begging to be reblogged. I’m so happy for your progress, Lynda Lee!

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A Blog About Living With Complex PTSD

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The lyrics to an old Beatles song have been dancing around in my head lately:
– – –
When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four
– – –

Sixty-four! That sounds OLD, doesn’t it? Especially for someone whose generational mantra was “Never trust anyone over thirty”!

Like everyone else on this planet, I started out as a very young person. I was little, and I could not wait to be big. The years passed slowly by, and I slowly grew, and then YAY!! I was all grown up, a bona fide adult. I had finally ARRIVED!!

But the years did not stop going by. Indeed, they started…

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Emotional Literacy as a Gateway for Healing C-PTSD (Richard Grannon)

Another great video to help sufferers of C-PTSD heal from Richard Grannon (SpartanLifeCoach).

The 5 stages of narcissistic abuse recovery.

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I went No Contact with my sociopathic NPD/ASPD ex in February, 2014 — almost three years ago. Enough time has elapsed that I’ve seen that there are several stages one goes through on the way to recovery and healing. There does seem to be a clear pattern that I’ve seen in both myself and in others. The order of these stages never varies, though the circumstances may vary. Unfortunately, many people get “stuck” at a particular stage and can’t seem to move to the next one.

1.  Numbness/codependency.
A person at this stage is still living with or involved with their abuser(s). They are in a state not unlike a victim of brainwashing or an active cult member. They have been led to believe (through the manipulations of the abuser — gaslighting, projection, isolation, and all the rest) that they are worthless, crazy, stupid, and the one at fault for all that has gone wrong. They question their own sanity because they have been told by the abuser that everything they believe is not true. They may even identify with their abuser (codependency) or look to them as their only reason for living. At this stage, they will do anything for the abuser, and can’t figure out why they feel so depressed and why their lives (and possibly even their health) is falling apart and everyone seems to have turned against them, sometimes even their own families.  They blame themselves, and have no idea that this is something being done to them by their abuser. A person at this stage may have shut off their ability to feel any emotions, and tell themselves (and may even believe) that this is normal.  Suicide is a real possibility.

2. Righteous anger and No Contact.
If an abuse victim is lucky, they will reach a point where they realize they have been abused, and that they are not the one at fault. Usually, this leads to righteous anger, and the victim may begin to express this. Because you can’t reason with an abuser, and they will not tolerate your honing in on the truth, in most cases the victim will realize they need to break away from the abuser. The anger the victim feels overrides the fear, depression, and numbness they felt previously, and gives them the motivation to do what they need to do to get away. In some cases, such as when there are children, going No Contact may be more complicated and it may be only possible to go very low contact.

The rage the victim feels may remain for a time (some longer than others). This is the stage that many narcissistic abuse bloggers are at when they begin to write about what happened to them. While unremitting rage will eventually poison the soul if the danger has passed and it has nowhere left to go, it’s still a lot healthier than remaining stuck in an abusive relationship and slowly dying a soul-death.

Unfortunately, many survivors seem to remain stuck at this stage. It almost seems as if the anger becomes a sort of addiction.  But I won’t write about that here;  I have other posts about that.

3. Asking questions, seeking answers.
At some point (for most people), the rage (which served its purpose) burns itself out. Some survivors grow weary of the unremitting hatred toward the personality-disordered and seek to understand the behaviors of those who caused them so much pain instead, while still remaining No Contact with abusers. They may spend time reading about the disorders of their abusers, and otherwise educating themselves. In time, this gives them a more balanced perspective, while they still acknowledge how dangerous such people can be. During this time, the survivor also learns how to navigate the world and relationships with better boundaries, practice being mindful, and also is better able to detect red flags to avoid being abused again (this may have begun during Stage 2).

4.  Looking inward, self awareness.
It’s not until a survivor can forgive their abusers (while never forgetting the harm they caused) that the healing can truly begin. Survivors continue to practice having good (or at least better) boundaries, and practice being mindful.

At the same time they may begin to look inside themselves to see what their own role(s) might have been in the abuse they endured. They may realize they tend to be codependent, or didn’t set good boundaries (usually because they were never trained to have good boundaries by their own abusive parents) or in some cases, may even be personality-disordered themselves (this kind of self-awareness can come as a huge shock but isn’t possible as long as a person is stuck in anger and hatred).

Though the survivor might have played some role in the abuse they endured, this doesn’t mean what happened was their fault or that they could have stopped it. The self-defeating behaviors and/or codependency that led to a person becoming a victim are almost always unconscious and programmed into the person during early childhood by abusive parents.

It’s during this stage that a survivor will often decide to enter therapy or some other type of psychological or spiritual counseling (this can happen as early as Stage 3).

5.  Coming together.
This last stage is when an abuse survivor begins to put all the pieces together, begins to understand the complicated dynamics between abusers and victims, and in some cases, becomes able to to use their own experience to consciously help others heal, even seeing what happened to them as a kind of blessing.   It’s at this stage that real freedom and happiness can finally be achieved  because the person has developed a sufficiently strong sense of self that is no longer attracted to (or attractive to) abusers.

I believe I’m somewhere between stages 4 and 5, though I have frequent relapses.  Remember: relapse is part of recovery!  Don’t beat yourself up.

So excited!

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In my last post I talked about an answer to my prayers, that came in the form of an email offering to pay my expenses for 4-day Christian healing program (HeartSync) that runs seminars and helps many people suffering from trauma and PTSD, many who were not helped by anything else, including traditional psychotherapy.   HeartSync is a spiritual therapy based on biblical principles.   I talked to the woman who is funding this (Kate Miller) at length on the phone last night, and we found out a little more about each other, but I’m not really a phone person and I get a terrible signal anyway (probably because of all the mountains here), so the conversation was a little disjointed.    I did get some of my questions answered though, and found out a bit more about how this program works.    I also Googled HeartSync to read some testimonies, but I was tired and didn’t do an in-depth search last night.   I didn’t see anything negative, though.  It appeared to be a legitimate Christian healing program.

Kate and one other person have also kindly donated the money I will need, and it looks like the request I put in at work will also be approved (even though I didn’t get to talk to the boss yet).  So it looked like God was moving a few obstacles for me and that this experience was really going to happen!   But it all seemed so fast!  It was too easy! What if it wasn’t God moving the obstacles? What if something else was doing it?   It all seemed too good to be true–and I don’t trust anything that seems “too good.”   I needed to have faith, but–how does one tell the difference between faith and foolishness?  

Kate had suggested that I put in a request for an entire week off from work rather than just four days.  I was told that the experience would  likely be so intense that I’d probably need a couple extra days (plus the weekend) to process everything.  Hearing that raised my shackles.  Uh-oh!  I felt a little afraid!  What on earth was I REALLY getting into?       Could I get out of it if I needed to?   I was already booked though!    I had to talk to Kate some more and also do some more digging on my own.

I found quite a bit of information, but this one, from a private blog called On A Mission in SF, blew my mind:

HeartSync and Wholeness

By Elise Albert

http://elisealbert.blogspot.com/2016/04/heart-sync-and-wholeness.html

We recently worked with a woman named Bri (who gave me permission to share this story:)),  who had been cut off from feeling emotions because of childhood wounding. From early on, she discovered that if she shut off emotion and prevented it from having a voice, it would keep pain from being experienced. When she felt an emotion coming up due to heartbreak, pain, etc, she would shove it back down and become numb to the presenting situation. When she began receiving Heart Sync prayer, the Lord revealed that this began when her parents had gotten divorced and brought to light a decision she had made as a child to not feel in order to protect herself from more pain(something she was unaware of until He revealed it consciously). The pain was beyond her capacity to bear at the time, so a part of her had come up with a solution to keep her safe, the only way she knew how— to completely shut off to all emotion forever. But by cutting this off, she was also prevented from experiencing joy and love. But now, God was offering her protection in Himself, healing for the part of her that was wounded in the divorce, and an invitation for her to be able to fully feel again under the protection and safety of the person of Jesus. Since then, Bri is able to fully access and use her emotion in a way that is healthy. She began to experience emotions again, and not just for herself but also for others. As a missionary, she has found her heart has become tender and compassionate toward those she serves, “I feel more pain, but it feels so worth it because I am able to enter into those places of pain with people and really sympathize, where as before, my heart felt calloused. This is compassion!” 

I remember the first day I sat in a training for the HeartSync approach- it felt like the Holy Spirit ran into my inner world and called every part of me to attention, even the parts I didn’t realize existed or had worked endlessly to shove down, and said,

“Hey. I see you. And I’m coming to heal and love every part of your heart that hurts. You were made to be whole and to know the love of God in the deepest parts of your heart.”I’ve come to believe that we are desperately in need of a Doctor for our hearts. Yes, even us Christians who love the Lord and have given our lives to Him. There are always new depths of intimacy and healing with the Lord–it is who He is! We have all experienced our fair share of pain and suffering, and have battle wounds and scars hidden deep within to prove it. We’ve come up with our own ways of self protection to guard against more pain. 

But the most glorious of news, because of the price Jesus paid for us on the cross, those wounds and scars do not have to stay buried deep within us. There is a Healer who wants nothing more than to heal and restore that which was lost! 

The HeartSync approach, the primary heart healing method we use at Linden Tree Outreach, was developed by a man named Father Andrew Miller and it focuses on synchronizing broken and divided hearts first to God and then to each other. With my counseling background, I have often wondered if there is a connection between psychology and Christ-centered inner healing, as I see the value and purpose in both. Wonderfully, there is a substantial amount of brain science correlations that not only support Father Miller’s findings but fuel it (more on this at a later point). 

So how this works: each of us have Core Parts.  Father Andrew has given names to them, to help identify and distinguish these parts. These consist of:

the Function Part helps us function daily (brush our teeth, write, drive, etc.) and believes that knowing certain information about one’s history is incompatible with survival and/or function
the Emotion Part is most closely connected to the pain, depression and trauma we have experienced
the Guardian Part that believes the Emotion and Function parts must be kept apart or the Function will be too overwhelmed to do daily functioning, so is devoted to keep them seperated. 

These Core Parts are universal and part of our creative design, but they were not designed to live in opposition, but instead work together as a team. And they were also created to all be in relationship with Jesus. But because of the fall, we have all experienced varying degrees of trauma and pain which have created desynchronization between our parts and the Lord (meaning they are no longer working in unity), and we are all in need of God to bring restoration to each area of our heart and restore them to their design and function. He does this healing places of hurt and trauma and correcting incorrect beliefs about God and ourselves. 

I don’t know about you, but I am desperately in need of this kind of healing. Our world is full of people who are living in disconnection from God and parts of themselves–just trying to get by–not realizing there is so much freedom and restoration available for them. 

*****

OMG!  THIS WAS EXACTLY WHAT I HAVE BEEN PRAYING FOR!  And now it was here, and all the obstacles that seemed so insurmountable were being moved.  After finishing reading this post,  I just sat there reeling in near-shock but also feeling this anticipation like I’d never felt before, anticipation so intense my eyes filled with tears. THIS…was the next step of my journey.

I immediately banged out an email to Kate.   Here is part of it:

 

All day my mind kept bringing up these potential horror-movie scenarios (maybe because it’s Halloween?)  — being hypnotized, being drugged, being brainwashed, being taken alone into a little room and feeling scared to death, completely OUT OF CONTROL!  Being re-traumatized in some unknown manner, or getting there and finding out that  HeartSync is something other than what it says it is.    It’s probably just my hypervigilance due to PTSD but it just all seemed too good to be true and that scared me. 

So I knew I needed to do some more digging.    I found quite a bit of information on Google and some testimonials.    Wow, it does sound like exactly what I’ve been searching for.  Sometimes during mass I get a bit teary eyed and definitely feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, but then it’s all over.  It doesn’t really last for any length of time.    For a year, I’ve been in therapy to reconnect with my emotions (many of which I had shut off because they were too painful or I was shamed out of feeling them — as I already described to you on the phone).   It’s helping but it’s a long slow process.   It can be frustrating and of course, it doesn’t address my relationship with God/Jesus, which is shaky at best.  

Although I’m closer to God than I ever was, I often feel disconnected or untrusting of Him too.   Why should I trust God when even my own family could not be trusted?   When He allowed me to spend 25 years with a cruel man who almost destroyed my soul?  Sometimes I feel like he doesn’t listen or doesn’t care.   I question my faith a lot.   Other times I feel God’s presence and love, but as if from a distance.  It’s as if my entire heart can’t handle it or is still partly closed off.    So when I read some of these testimonies — this seems like a somewhat charismatic healing process?–  I started to feel very excited!   A little scared, but scared in a good way and mostly excited.     I NEED to have that intense emotional spiritual experience!   I need to really feel myself being loved unconditionally by Jesus, held in his arms and allow His love to change me.     I think this is the answer I’ve been looking for. 
 

 

 

Self-pity and self-compassion: there’s a huge difference!

This somewhat older post of mine is in the same spirit as the Brene Brown videos I posted yesterday, so I decided it was time to reblog it.

Lucky Otters Haven

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I read a post yesterday on another blog that I agreed with, except there was one thing that didn’t quite sit right with me. The post said that self-pity is an important part of healing from Complex PTSD.

In his book (which I’m still reading), Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, Pete Walker says that self-compassion is an important part of healing, and I think this is what the blogger actually meant. But self-compassion isn’t the same thing as self-pity, an activity which I don’t find at all healing and in fact seems to make my problems worse. Of course we have the right to engage in self pity from time to time (and probably can’t help doing so), and no one should deny us the right to do so. But for me, it just doesn’t work. It’s an unpleasant, soul-sucking experience that seems to drive my negative programming…

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This…shifting.

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Since my trip to the Gulf Coast, I’ve been noticing this…shifting inside.  Other people have mentioned that they’ve noticed something in me has changed.  I think something has.

I don’t know exactly what it is, but I feel like more and more, I can see things as they actually are–and they almost always aren’t nearly so bad as I had feared.

I’m also starting to realize just how much I project ill will onto others where it doesn’t exist.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t have an emotionally toxic mother and a thoroughly evil husband, but it means that a lot of my paranoia, hypervigilance, suspicion and fear of others is often unfounded.   it’s nothing but a defensive mechanism, part of my disorder.

In a post from a few days ago, I talked about my mother in law. I thought she hated me for a long time, but during my trip I learned from my son that she doesn’t, not at all.   In fact she actually does care about me.  I projected ill will onto her because she isn’t a woman who is emotionally expressive and she’s very pragmatic in her dealings with others.    Being so hypervigilant and sensitive, I read that as “hate.”   I can think of several other examples of this too, where I realized it was me projecting things onto others in a negative way.

It’s like my vantage point has shifted.

At the same time these blinders to myself are being removed, I feel myself beginning to embrace the moment I’m in. Not just as a mindfulness practice, but as a real way of being and feeling. Maybe it’s due to trusting others–and the world–and God– more.  Maybe I’m slowly learning to trust again, the way I did when I was a child–and there’s awe and wonder there now mixed in with the tired old fear and shame. But it’s a new, more mindful kind of trust than the mindless gullibility I had as a young girl– a trust tempered with caution born of great pain.

Sometimes when I’m fully in the moment and allowing my heart to open to it, I feel this sort of melting…or shifting inside. It’s almost a physical feeling but not quite. It’s like the emotional equivalent of that warm, contented feeling that permeates through you like warm syrup  after a having a glass of wine.   It’s an expansive, almost loving feeling, toward life itself, and it’s delicious.

It’s not something I’m used to, and its fleetingness makes it almost hurt sometimes. I want this feeling. I want so much more of it. I miss it when it goes away again, and it always does.  It doesn’t last.   Right now, it’s such an elusive  thing and so fragile.   The fragility hurts, but it’s the kind of hurt that feels almost good, like the way a loose tooth hurt when you were a kid and you just had to keep pressing it with your tongue.  That doesn’t really accurately describe it, but it’s the closest analogy I can think of.

This feeling is better than any drug.   I need to feel it again…and again.   I need to internalize and make it a full-time part of me.

I know these are the real feelings of my inner child, who is no longer in such a deep slumber.

She’s beginning to wake up because someone–me–is learning to love and accept her for who she is and is no longer keeping her hidden away like some sort of shameful embarrassment.

One of my readers who is also a friend, described this exact same feeling to me in an email today. In some ways I think we’re at the same stage of our healing, although other details differ.

We talked a lot about that and about me as a child. I got this warmth in my chest, and acceptance of the child. Of me. I felt this softness inside, like something broke and became fluid. I felt warmth, maybe even love, to that child that was me. It was so nice to feel like that. Soft inside. Forgiving. No anger.
Now it has turned a bit cold again. But I wan’t to feel it again.

This nails the feeling exactly, and so beautifully expressed.