There is a conflict between the desire to deny trauma and the desire to proclaim it. This conflict is the central dialectic of trauma. Far too often, abuse is kept verbally secret, only to surface later as an undeniable symptom. The human response to trauma is a complex system of reactions involving both the body and the mind. Trauma occurs as the result of involvement in a situation in which action is of no use. In other words, trauma occurs when both resistance and escape are impossible.
Many people do not understand that exposure to trauma does not simply affect the intangible aspect of a person's mental processes. Trauma also affects biological systems within the body. It can even affect the body to the extent of causing long term alterations in the autonomic system, endocrine system and central nervous system. When the usual mechanisms of self preservation have lost all utility, the human system continues (long after the actual danger is no longer present) to alternate between states of hyper-arousal, intrusion and constriction. Though these states are in and of themselves much more comprehensive, it is of benefit to understand at least the concept of these classic states that come about in a victim as the result of abuse.
Hyper arousal is the constant and exaggerated expectation of danger. Intrusion is the enduring imprint of the traumatic moments which occurred. Constriction is the dissociative response to inevitable, forced surrender. No matter how hard a person who has experienced trauma may wish to hide and deny these extreme events… It is impossible. It is impossible because it runs counter to the way life is wired to heal. The natural state of the human mind and body is one of well being and so, as the body and mind attempts to heal itself, repressed ideas, feelings, thoughts and memories no matter how deeply buried will surface into consciousness.
Individuals who come out with the truth about the abusive atrocities they have suffered run the risk of being discredited by a waiting society, who does not want to admit such things go on. They also run the risk of inviting upon themselves the stigma that is associated with victims of abuse. The abuse itself devalues the victim and then as if to add insult to injury, the abuse often serves as a vehicle of condemnation to a life in which the victim is exiled from society because they can not fit into our socially validated reality.
Abuse calls human relationships into question. It often severs attachments between friends, lovers and communities. Abuse can shatter belief systems and faith. It can destroy the pillar of "the self" in relation to others. It can invade and corrode the personality. Abuse affects both the self concept and the attachment between an individual to the rest of society. This is a tragedy. The reason it is such a tragedy is because next to reaching a point of actual physical and mental safety as well as being able to openly reconstruct and proclaim the story of the trauma, integration back into society is the most important part of healing for a person who has experienced abuse.
When a victim suffers from a traumatic event at the hands of another person, the only real way for the victim to truly heal is through connection with other people. Survivors should never be placed in a situation in which they must choose between expression and connection with others.
Unfortunately, this is often the position in which society places victims of abuse. Support from society for a victim of abuse alleviates much of the impact of the abuse where as opposition in the form of discouragement, judgment, hostility or disbelief can compound the damage of the impact of the abuse catastrophically.
The fundamental experiences which are central to abuse are powerlessness and disconnection from others. Therefore recovery depends on the empowerment of the survivor in order to bring them out of the state of victimhood as well as the creation of new, supportive and lasting social connections. Trauma which occurred (as abuse always does) in the context of human relationships can only be healed within the context of human relationships. The victim must be welcomed into an environment where they are enabled and helped to re build the damaged faculties of trust, identity, intimacy, capability, faith, autonomy and love. Though it is true that a survivor of abuse must be the initiator of his or her own recovery, it is up to society to provide the support, love, affection, advice and care which enable that recovery.
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