Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New Insights Continued

As I mentioned in my last post, I have just returned from the International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma in San Diego, California. I presented the Restorative Approach at this conference as well as attending sessions. This post continues the subject of new insight on familiar concepts.

Dr. John Seasock from Renaissance Psychogical and Counseling Corporation in Kingston, PA spoke also about some of the risks of healing. He mentioned that some emotional difficulties such as ADHD may be in a sense protective against PTSD, because the capacity to think and ruminate is diminished. How can you feel bad about what happened to you if you can’t even concentrate on a thought? Therefore, when we medicate these disorders the child may actually feel much worse- her increased capability to think just makes it clearer to her how awful her life has been or often still is. We should pay attention to this possibility.

Dr. Seasock also cautioned that ritalin can increase biological hyper-vigilance and thus worsen PTSD symptoms. It can also worsen already disturbed sleep patterns, and lack of sleep can lead to other behavioral difficulties.

In Risking Connection we speak of symptoms as being ways to escape intolerable feelings. One further elaboration of this point is that if a person relies on dissociation to manage their distress, she may need anger, chaos and confusion to help produce that dissociation. This may be one part of the apparent “addiction to chaos and drama” we see in some clients.

Some of Dr. John Seasock descriptions of “trauma thinking” give further rationale for the Restorative Approach. He defines “trauma thinking” (he credits this term to Nancy Cole) as concrete, black and white, timeless and irreversible. Language is not effective when someone is in the grip of trauma thinking. It is almost a trance-like state, and logic and reality testing are suspended. Hence, logical statements from adults about the future, consequences, etc. have no meaning what so ever.

One of the main goals of therapy according to Dr. Seasock (crediting here Pat Ogden of Colorado; Trauma and the Body, WW Norton; 1 edition (Sep 19 2006) (http://www.amazon.ca/Trauma-Body-Pat-Ogden/dp/0393704 572) is to increase communication. Our children grow up in families that explicitly forbid communication with the outside world- don’t talk about this family’s business out side the family. The children learn to fear the response of outside helpers if they tell what is going on. But there are even more profound prohibitions on communication. There is no permission or practice in discussing even within the family what is going on. If the child tries to comment, her feelings are often denied and dismissed. In fact, the child does not even communicate with himself about what is happening. Dissociation provides away to even cut off your own knowing and believing. All of this may result in a condition called alexethymia, the condition of being without words- unable to describe your own experience. So any way we can teach and encourage communication is valuable to the child.

Many presenters, including some consumers, spoke about the effect of trauma on parenting. This is an area that needs more concentrated work and specific interventions.

I appreciate the opportunity to join others in thinking through the experiences of trauma and their lasting effects.

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