I just finished reading Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. It’s an absolutely brilliant book, but since I don’t have a tremendous amount of free time to leisure read with all of my classwork, it’s taken me months to get through it. Still, I tried to open the e-book on my iPad during longer train rides to sneak a quick read and give my brain a break from school-related reading. I came across this passage recently, which seems incredibly relevant to the current struggles I’m having in therapy:
While human contact and attunement are the wellspring of physiological self-regulation, the promise of closeness often evokes fear of getting hurt, betrayed, and abandoned. Shame plays an important role in this: “You will find out how rotten and disgusting I am and dump me as soon as you really get to know me.” Unresolved trauma can take a terrible toll on relationships. If your heart is still broken because you were assaulted by someone you loved, you are likely to be preoccupied with not getting hurt again and fear opening up to someone new. In fact, you may unwittingly try to hurt them before they have a chance to hurt you.
This poses a real challenge for recovery. Once you recognize that posttraumatic reactions started off as efforts to save your life, you may gather the courage to face your inner music (or cacophony), but you will need help to do so. You have to find someone you can trust enough to accompany you, someone who can safely hold your feelings and help you listen to the painful messages from your emotional brain. You need a guide who is not afraid of your terror and who can contain your darkest rage, someone who can safeguard the wholeness of you while you explore the fragmented experiences that you had to keep a secret from yourself for so long. Most traumatized individuals need an anchor and a great deal of coaching to do this work.