Trauma and Abuse

Solutions (do’s and don’ts)

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Trauma and Abuse | 0 comments

Ten Do’s

  • Examine your attitudes about body shape, dieting and fat prejudice. You may have unknowingly internalized ideas which exacerbate a desire for thinness.
  • Nourish yourself and your relationships with those you care about.
  • Challenge old stories about who you are as a person, daughter, friend, worker etc. that don’t fit with who you believe you are and where your life is going.
  • Be sure that images of successful females are included in school curriculum and other sources – without such images, girls are left with predominant media definitions of thinness as a primary means of success for females.
  • Be aware that there are many societal pressures which support the notion that females and, to a lesser degree males, are valued more for how they look above any other quality.
  • Beware of unrealistic standards which are impossible to achieve.
  • Be aware that perfection is an unachievable goal and will always leave you feeling less than.
  • Know that dieting can appear as if it is a good way to “get in control” of one’s life but dieting is never, ever successful and can set the stage for an eating disorder.
  • Make a commitment to educating boys about the various forms of violence against women, including weightism, and their responsibilities for preventing it.
  • Examine the ways in which your beliefs, attitudes and behaviors about your body and the bodies of others have been shaped by the forces of weightism and sexism.

Ten Don’ts

  • Don’t let exercise becoming “torturcize”
  • Don’t let the ways of dieting and regimented exercise can sneak into your life.
  • Don’t put your child on a diet or exercise program.
  • Don’t let your child’s school, your home, cottage, office become sites for promoting items (posters, books, contests) that endorse the cultural ideal of thinness.
  • Don’t allow discussions regarding food, calories, fatness, shape be dominant in your conversations.
  • Don’t get into thinking about food as “good” or “bad”. Food has no moral value – people are neither good nor bad based on their food choices
  • Don’t let numbers rule your life – stop counting and measuring calories, fat grams, weight, and stop worrying about your dress, pant size, and breast size, and stop counting how many sit ups/push ups and miles you have walked.
  • Don’t let trauma and bulimia isolate you.
  • Don’t negatively compare yourself.
  • Don’t believe you are trauma and bulimia’s special subject – eating disorders treat everyone with the same brutality.
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Fresh Perspectives on Trauma and Abuse

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Trauma and Abuse | 0 comments

In the battle against trauma, people, the community and societies institutions, are either trauma supporting or fighting against trauma – there is no middle ground.

To treat trauma as a problem merely about food, to believe in a genetic basis of behavior, to simply locate the problem as a pathology of the individual, or to treat the problem only through pharmaceuticals is extremely pro-anorexic. These treatment strategies help to maintain the problem by denying the scope of the problem.

Pro-Anorexic ideas would have us believe that trauma exists in a vacuum – that it just is, that it is a freak of nature, that it is merely a case of bad genes or being a spoiled little rich girl.

To take up a stance against the problem – to be anti-anorexic – is to realize that there is a definite and necessary place for medicine in the treatment of trauma. It is also important to realize that there are a multitude of social factors living at the very heart of the problem.

  • What if we began to imagine the problem of trauma as a cultural by-product, a dysfunctional western theme, a living reproduction of the social order?
  • What if we were to begin to realize that each of us, in our own way, support and maintain the ideas of trauma.
  • What if we began to locate this problem within a persuasive set of rules for living as dictated by a very persuasive society of rules for living?
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Questions for Couples When There Has Been Trauma and Abuse

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Trauma and Abuse | 0 comments

“I am your partner, not your parent.”

Many couples who are caught in the grip trauma reenactment find themselves acting more like parent and child. The partner may feel like the parent of the traumatized woman who has been rendered helpless as a child.

Therapeutically, it is important to involve both people, but first they have to change the balance in the relationship, so that the partner is treated as a partner, not as a parent.

Couples (see Questions for Trauma and Abuse) must find ways to do more physical activities together. Although sex is an obvious couple activity, it may be the hardest place to begin a safe, satisfying non-verbal way to connect, especially if the woman has suffered earlier physical violations. Something as easy as walking together may be a beginning, or going to a peaceful place outdoors, looking at nature in silence.

Talking is often not the most helpful healing for many women who self-harm, because their traumas of the past have generally taken place at the physical level.

Questions for couples:

  • Do either of you believe that the woman’s self-harm/addictions could be connected to her childhood trauma?
  • Is it possible to make the connection between the self-harm and the early trauma, but still believe that she is capable of being in charge of her self-harming behaviors/addictions – instead of a slave to them?
  • Do you both believe that the woman, until now, has found the best way she can to show to tell the story of her childhood abuse by harming herself?
  • Could you imagine what life would be like if you could unite against this trauma (vs. her drinking, or other abusive behavior)?
  • Who else could help you in this battle?
  • What else holds you together as a couple besides your mutual enslavement to past abuses?
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Teenagers and Self Harm: Some Questions to Ask Adults

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Trauma and Abuse | 0 comments

Something like an epidemic seems to be happening among young women (ages 12-19) and young men as well. Youth from all segments of society are engaging in self injury in record numbers. They seem to be telling the story of trauma inside the family as well as beyond it.

Maybe this generation of teens is using self-harm (see our section on Depression under Problems), to let adults know that there is so much violence, so much invasion of the body, so much lack of protection in the culture, that there is no other way to signal the level of danger they perceive around them.

Self-injury among teens is more than a fashion statement or a way to be cool; it is very dangerous. Young women and young men die from substance misuse, starvation (see our detailed information on Anorexia in Problems), and self-injury all too often. Sometimes they intend to die, but more often they do not. If the trauma reenactment does not prove deadly, it can create permanent injury, permanent criminal records, and permanent loss of freedom and happiness.

Questions youth could ask the adults (therapists, counselors, teachers, relatives) in their lives who are trying to help:

  • Can you trust that I will stop harming myself when I have become part of a community of my peers where I feel safe?
  • Can you help me explore the idea that they were wrong to harm me at a pace I am comfortable with?
  • Can you help me tell my story even when I don’t have words for it?
  • How could you do this?
  • Can you help me find new ways to relate to my body?
  • If we have different ideas about my problem, can you validate my ideas about why I do this ?
  • Can you support my primary need to be in community with my peers?
  • Can you support my healing in primary connection with my peers?
  • Can you work with me as a team to fight the self-harm?
  • Can you trust that I will stop cutting, burning, or other self-harm when I have learned to trust other ways to tell my story?
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Questions About Trauma and Abuse for Single Women

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Trauma and Abuse | 0 comments

Many of those who struggle with the reenactment of trauma are single women, of all ages. Because they find themselves in a primary relationship with their self-harming activities, single women often feel unable to make space for other people in their lives. Or it might be a case of others abandoning them because the self-harming behaviors take up too much space and are upsetting. (The exception to this is the group of girls and women who are reenacting earlier abuse by remaining in an abusive relationship.) Read more on the topic for couples in the Circle of Life.

Jane misuses alcohol and prescription drugs. She reenacts the trauma of being verbally abused and emotionally abandoned by her parents. Trauma reenactment traps her into an endless repetition of that story. Her drinking and drugging patterns reenact being victimized by neglect or non-protective relationships, and so she remains in a relationship with her self-harmful activities instead of a relationship with a person.

Nancy experiences chronic pain, although many doctors who have examined her see no physical basis for the pain. She, like other women imprisoned by trauma, is often mistreated by professionals who think she should be able to overcome her pain. Nancy was raised primarily by her grandmother (her wealthy parents were unavailable for the daily demands of parenting) who intruded on her body through a pattern of excessive caretaking. She is in a primary relationship with her pain. She also sometimes feels she is in primary relationships with the many doctors and health care professionals who unsuccessfully treat her.

Questions for single women:

  • Do you believe your own hands that harm you are “innocent hands”?
  • Is it possible to make the connection between the self-harm and the early trauma, but still believe that you are capable of being in charge of stopping those activities that harm you?
  • Do you believe that, until now, you have found the best way you know how to tell the story of your childhood abuse by harming yourself?
  • How can members of your support network (maybe including your family) get involved in fighting against this self-harm? Can you coordinate these efforts?
  • If you were not so busy dealing with trauma, what else would you be doing? Or like to be doing?
  • Do you think it’s fair that you have to reexperience the injustice of abuse over and over again?
  • Why do so many women end up suffering through their lives at the expense of the people who have abused them?
  • Do you not feel that you have already suffered enough?
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Questions for Parents and Families When Facing Trauma

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Trauma and Abuse | 0 comments

Families often alternate between:

  • blaming the woman who is harming herself by bingeing / drugging / cutting / engaging in abusive relationships, and
  • trying unsuccessfully to rescue her

Even when they acknowledge that the origins of her self-harm come from her childhood trauma, they are often angry because she seems to reject all levels of well-intentioned help.

It is important to help the family to stop asking “Why” questions like “Why does X continue to binge? or “Why does she keep on talking about the past?” Or “Why can’t she just get on with her life?”

Families should be reminded that non-verbal activities are particularly useful. Walking together is something most people in families can do, either in two’s or groups; hugging is often more helpful than trying to talk through the problem in the same old way. Singing, dancing, meditating, cooking, painting, gardening are other ways.

Questions for families:

  • What is it that X is trying to tell us?
  • What has each family member already tried to do to change the impact of this self-harm?
  • How can each member of the family get involved in fighting against the reenactment of the trauma in a way that is supportive of the woman?
  • Is their any trauma being reenacted in your own lives?
  • What would help you to understand that the woman reenacting trauma is doing the best she can do at the moment?
  • What might help each member of this family understand that letting go of self-harming behaviors takes more than the “just say no” approach.
  • Based on your experience, are their specific ways this family interacts that have been proven to be helpful?
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