You might have heard the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in regard to a person who has witnessed or been involved in an emotionally disturbing, horrific event, which they have not managed to properly process internally, and they are left experiencing it mentally, emotionally, and physically as a result some time after it, with the horrific memory replaying in their mind over and over.
One of the causes of this can be shock. When the painful experience or danger has passed, and you’re in a non-threatening, safe situation some time after it, the smallest memories can be activated like an alarm as stress hormones spike.
Then the amygdala, a part of the brain which plays a primary role in forming and storing memories related to emotional events, sends a signal to your body to falsely suggest that you’re still in danger.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be diagnosed if a person has been experiencing persistent distress and fear for some time after a traumatic event.
Oftentimes, certain experiences can spring up these strong feelings of terror. Sounds, smells, and even feelings which aren’t related to the painful event can trigger a traumatic memory, causing the person to relive the negative feelings and fear.
Oftentimes, a person will manage to properly process an upsetting or painful event in time, rationalizing any unresolved feelings and irrational fear and allowing the brain to check the emotions, thus leaving the painful memory in their past and making peace with it.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there that aren’t able to process and free themselves from traumatic memories. This inability can leave people unable to handle everyday life as well as struggling with their inner self.
A person can suffer from PTSD as a result of witnessing or being involved in a car accident, witnessing death, being attacked, undergoing a medical procedure, experiencing difficult labor, and there’re many more reasons. But, what the sufferer, those who are close to them, and everyone else needs to remember is that each incident is personal to each individual and should always be respected.
So, if there’s a traumatic experience in your past which appears to be niggling you or upsetting you to the point it prevents you from living a happy, rich, and fulfilling life, first think about whether you’re ready to address it. And if you are, know that there are various ways in which you can manage to process the event and make peace with the trauma.
If you find talking with a friend or family member the most difficult thing to muster up the energy to do, you can try ‘Facing the fear’ activity.
To successfully do this activity, first you need to think about what the event was which caused these feelings of distress and fear. Take yourself back to that moment in your mind from a disassociated position. Try to notice the feelings and emotions slightly. You might also like to close your eyes.
After you’ve taken yourself to the beginning of the emotionally disturbing or traumatic memory, try to take yourself back only a little bit further to the moment before this occurred – the moment you were feeling relaxed and peaceful.
Now imagine that you are in your sitting room and watching TV. A video of your ‘memory’ is on the TV, on pause at the point when you are feeling relaxed. Now, try to imagine taking the remote control, walking out of the room, and closing the door imagining that there’s a window in it so that you can look in.
Finally, in your ‘mind’s eye,’ press ‘play’ and let your memory play out from the moment before the event occurred to the end. Repeat the same five times from that disassociated position behind the door. Each time should come easier and easier and make you be more in control of your emotions and memories.
This activity shows us that the brain does what we tell it and show it, which means that the more you experience the good ‘before’ feelings, the better you can feel about anything that causes you to feel upset or afraid.
In addition, know that talking about your traumatic memory to a friend or family member that you trust and you can fully rely on can greatly help you process your trauma and make sense of your experience.
And in case this kind of help is not what you need to make peace with the traumatic event, make sure you seek professional help.