Re-enactment of Trauma

Self harm Yesterday a comment had been posted asking whether it is OK to discuss self-abuse on this site. I had a look through my postings so far and did not find any specifically addressing self-harming issues. I thought it’s a very important issue for many survivors and will start off with some excerpts from the book ‘Traumatic Stress’ by B.v.d.Kolk et all.:

“One set of behaviour that is not mentioned in diagnostic criteria for PTSD is the compulsive re-exposure of some traumatised individuals to situations reminiscent of the trauma. This phenomenon can be seen in a wider range of taumatised populations.For example combat soldiers may become mercenaries, abused women may be attracted to men who mistreat them, sexually molested children may grow up to become prostitutes.

Understanding this seemingly paradoxical phenomenon is of critical importance, because it could help to clarify many forms of social deviance and interpersonal misery. Freud thought that the aim of such repetition is to gain mastery (about the hurtful past) but clinical experience shows that this rarely happens; instead, repetition causes further suffering for the victims and for people around them. In these reenactments an individual may play the role of either perpetrator or victim.

Self destructive acts are common in abused children. Studies consistently find a highly significant relationship between childhood sexual abuse and various forms of self-harm later in life, particulrly suicide attempts, cutting, and self-starving. Clinical reports show that most self-mutilators have childhood histories of physical or sexual abuse or repeated surgery.

Some conclude that self destructive activities were not primarily related to conflict, guIlt, and superego pressure, but to more primitive behaviour patterns originating in painful encounters with hostile caretakers during the first years of life.”

17 thoughts on “Re-enactment of Trauma

  1. gudrunfrerichs says:

    Hi ., I had to think about your comment to find a good, common sense response. It sounds as if you have been working really hard on getting ahead in your recovery. I am convinced that you therapist will also acknowledge that. The importance about a good working therapeutic relationship is that you trust your therapist to have your best wellbeing in mind. Tell him/her about what happend and how you got to that point. Only that way the both of you can figure out what needs to happen to prevent similar occurences in the future. You and your therapist are a team with the goal to get the best outcome for you. That requires honesty and trust. You don’t have to ‘tell everything’ and you don’t have to trust 100%, but tell enough so that s/he and your are not tripping around in the dark. All the best for you next step 🙂 G.

    • . says:

      the therapist di d get told about it and not hing bad hapened therapist says that to that she is on ower team we are all still trying to watch out for it this week end so that nobaody gets hurt we are just saying to waiit for therapy time not everybody wants tto wait theirs fighting on the insidd e so were jsut saying that we d id do the nxt step so that was good trying to be honest ok

  2. . says:

    i just wanted to ask some one if any on e is here any more how do you nknow if when you let youre therapist know that a part has hurt your slef that it will be ok and that she wont be really serious and make you go to hospital i know that its ok on the inside now and i ffeel bad that it happened it just got really angry on in the in inside ijust dont want her to be dissapointed and i also dont want to lie to her again because we have been working really hard on trust i jsut dont want any thing serious to happen and i dont think any one meant for it to be like this and i have been doing alot of talking on the in side so i dont think any thing seriou s has to happen we know how to get the body fixed o our own even will go to doctor if really really have to juwst dont know if the therapist will make us go somewhere like a nut hospital or give up on us now

  3. sophie says:

    Hi Shyme – its not dumb that you are in such an extreme situation that you self- harm. whatever drives/drove us to hurt ourselves – it helped us at the time. Maybe looking back for me not a helpful coping way – but it certainly appeared to help release some of the unbearable emotional pain and proved i was real – but i felt such a fool – at the same time my kids were talking about all the ’emos’ at school who self- harm. Unless someone has been in that amount of emotional pain – that it feels better to physically hurt , that it takes your mind off the emotional pain – i dont think they would ever really understand. Good on you for writing about it here – you are brave – and i hope you find the courage to give speak about it – i use to think – what the heck will my therapist think if i say some of the things that were in my mind – but i have learnt – by speaking about the pain and torment – it helps so much. or keep writing on here if it helps – the thing i love about this site is the knowing that others can understand some of the hurt and pain we have/are experiencing and they care.

  4. yana says:

    Yes it is ok to practice and write on here. What you say makes perfect sense as I have a part of me that struggles with this to, she dos’nt self harm but finds it hard to speak and when she does, she spends along time after checking and re checking all those around her are ok, the ritual of this can be very stressful and tiring and I have to continueally reasure this part of me, that time has moved on, and that she has spoken now many times and nothing has happened and the things that are happening around her are normal things that happen, The more I give the chance for this part to talk and feel. weather thats getting a sentence out in one hour or a whole conversation it dosnt matter it makes it more and more ok. By saying hi and someone saying hi back with a caring smile
    warms up your tummy and the nights grow shorter

  5. shyme says:

    Thanks Yana for writing that. I read and read again and again your reply and it has a lot and is good. I am meaning self harm its just hard saying that because it sounds dum doing it to your own self. Its not really a big deal because its always been happening. It just gets worse sometimes and then just gets out of control and then makes me worry because I dont want to ever have to go to a doctor so I have to keep it under control and it has to heal then its ok. You said about talking about it and that it couldnt get any worse but I think thats whats scary because I dont want to get it wrong and have anything worse and have everything fall in on me. I did read for you it made things better to have things out and I just worry if its going to be ok out. But I think really you are probably right. I just have to keep trying because I think it takes a lot of trys to get it out. But doing this helps to because its like practising having it out. Its ok writing this on here?

  6. yana says:

    Hi Shyme, I think when you talk about the hurting your talking about self harming. Self harm in most cases is to release the pressure or feel real or just to feel something. If you can get the courage up to talk to your therapist it will help. If just one other person that you trust knows then the pressure is shared an you can let go of the reins a bit.
    For me I think there was a few reasons but I no one of them was to release the noise and pressure with in my head kind of self soothing in a harmful way but it helped and that was all that mattered at the time. When I started to voice it in therapy it became less because those parts of me could get out what they needed to, it wasnt all ours to hold and the part of me that used to do most of the self harming didnt feel physical pain and also thought they was helping. If you can start to understand why these things happenen then you can start to find other ways to get relief from the continual kaos and fear. I no how hard it is but you have to take a chance I dont think there can be anything worse that can happen cause it sounds like its way to much to handel as it is. I keep hearing you say on your other posts that “Im to much for people” I think maybe you need to check that out to with someone,give them a chance to make up there own mind ,I no that is really hard because of the fear of rejection but you might be suprised, From what I read on here you seem to have a very big caring heart with a lot of insight to how others feel. Yana

  7. shyme says:

    thanks for your good reply. I have had so much loudness inside and I cant turn it down.And its not nice stuff too. I think I know why but I cant change that. I cant txt or get another appt I dont think I can cal either and I dont think I could do that anyway. But i am thnking of telling the therapist about this but its hard to do that. And telling about the hurting thats getting more and more. But its hard to tell i dont know if it will work. I will have to build my own phone with a cord that somehow that goes from my place and travels outside and into the therapy room. But it would be invisible.

  8. sophie says:

    Hi shyme – im really sorry that the yelling effected you – i didnt mean it to hurt anyone. I was just venting – something i havent really been able to do – but there is a time for just anger but probably not here. I have found this site really helpful and supportive and never envisaged comments of such a negative nature – but hey we are all humans and no bodies perfect. we all make mistakes eh?
    you seem to be really hurting at the moment – sometimes the pain can seem really intolerable , but hang in there it does get better. i could not see this when i am in that space – the pain seems too much – and i have to totally agree the nights for me were always the most hard – if only there was something magical that would take all the pain away. Just keep going – and sorry for this safe space been tainted with yelling.

  9. sophie says:

    Im sorry about the amount of ! marks. I didnt set out to write anything filled with so much anger – my initial reaction was to go numb well actually be filled with fear. but the comments triggered in me a sense that my pain, and my feelings and my actions werent for real or didnt matter. this is what i suppose i was responding too – in hind sight it seemed very much like that. Ive obviously got to address the anger issues i feel towards my sister. I couldnt do that to her face – as she believes violence is a good solution to deal with anyone who doesnt see her view! She also suffered abuse – but while for me i retreated into myself and couldnt get angry – she was always angry and couldnt care less who she took it out on. I couldnt ever believe how when one has ecperience major abuse – how one could then go on and use violence to another person. but i guess – similiar experiences effect each differently. it makes me think of 5 year old kids, many of the kids who initially appeared nasty, mean and unkind – were those kids who when someone took time to get to know them – they were hurting – real bad.
    hope you are ok.

  10. yana says:

    Hi Shyme, I guess it does look a bit like people are yelling at each other but really I think people are responding with anger to things that have hurt them through past and maybe present times. Its really hard sometimes just to hold it all in. I think when we read,see,hear or feel something that relates to past hurts or beliefs we respond from that time, reasoning dos’nt come into it, the anger, and hurt just spills out everywhere, much like holding a lid on a boiling pot, its impossible to stop the water from spilling over untill you take the lid off,
    There is nothing to fix or do its ok, and its ok for you to say how it is for you, which sounds really hard. maybe your therapist has an earlier appointment so you dont have to wait to long and if thats to hard you could write or txt just to let her no whats happening and how you are feeling.

  11. shyme says:

    awch. sounds like that people are yelling at each other. I had people yelling to day and now i dont want to be anywhere anymore. I just want to get away. I come home to this site and theres yelling to about who said stuff about parts. My head is yelling to. Keep thinking bad things. And my hour of therapy is really a long time away and by the time I get there it will be a whole other time. I dont know any other way to keep myslef together. I hate nights hate them hate them a million times more than the day. I been waking up with burns. I can hear it in my head already now and in a way I am releived that it will happen ?? it must just work. I dont want to die but I keep thinking about it. its good seeing the hurting ?? why do I bother trying anyway??. its to much to tell anyone in real life about the hurting its to much for them even in therapy. I did try to with people but i am to much. Just delete this out if its not ok to have here. I dont no whats ok to write sorry.

  12. sophie says:

    Meegs, oh meeg Just hang in there – 1 minute at a time if thats what it takes. You are really really hurting. i wish i could say something helpful and make this journey easier – IT IS SO UNFAIR _ YOU ARE SO, SO VERY SPECIAL – I AM GLAD YOU ARE AROUND. Hold on and ride it out . This sounds so bloody trite i wish there was more i could do for you. aroha

  13. meegs says:

    I should be thinking about the light at the end of the tunnel, but all I see is the tunnel.
    It’s not just the abuse or dealing with it, but it’s dealing with how I feel about myself on a daily basis. How painful things stick and dig, they have places to land and hold. I feel unequipped to deal with the amount of pain I feel and the onslaught of it.
    I feel worthless, useless and wrong. Made wrong, grown wrong, all wrong. A waste of breath and energy and life. I wish I could disappear as if I never even existed. I wish I had never been born.

  14. Jessica says:

    I seem to have had a lot to say lately, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and this seems a good way of crystalizing some of that thinking. Forgive me if some of it sounds a bit mixed up because I do fire off from left field at times!! Anyway, thank you for the comments and thoughts from everyone, they do help and give me some connection,(and other things to think about.) So here are some of my thoughts on Self harm.
    For me it is often an urgent need or desire, to ‘let it out’. What is ‘IT’? I think it’s the build up of something undefinable inside of myself that threatenes to get too big to contain/ hold/ keep safe inside.Possibly it could also be an imediate and unconsidered response to a trigger or unexpected situation. I see it as a release, expressed by cutting, to get a flow of blood, I don’t need much, it’s more of a reassurance that my body can unlock,open, pour forth. blood is the purest way. There is also bulimia and masterbation and alcohol. Each is different. Bullimia gets out the filth, masterbation, the pain of sexual confusion, and alcohol.. well it relaxes then numbs, and on occasion, drugs are for floating and forgetting. I suppose these are all ways of expressing feelimgs and emotions inappropriatly. I think perhaps that I am in a dissociated state when I am doing these behaviours. At least self-harm is something I do to myself and not something someone does to me. It’s easier to monitor but it also gives a feeling of power -I cannot be hurt, i can endure pain, I am in charge. For me it is not a cry for help, not like ending my life. It is a hidden private thing and not life threatening. Perhaps there is a fine line between pain and pleasure, a blurring of those boundaries. Another thing, it’s a chance to make the body better – to treat the wound, hide the scar, heal the body, a self-care follow up. There is a part of me who does this and it gives her a caring role. Dangerous places are the only worrying thing and fortunately I don’t often put myself at risk now. In fact I don’t often do any of this stuff any more… but I don’t trust myself fully either, anything may still happen at any time!! I’m on edge, and I’m afraid of falling back on those old beliefs and patterns that used to sort of help but , well… not any more, but sometimes the desire to is still very strong. It’s in these situations that I struggle and can’t seem to come up with an alternative, or even want to. So, there you have it. That was scary writing all that!!

  15. vicki says:

    I have been doing some navel gazing as I approach another decade of my life and I find it hard to believe I am still struggling with the same self destructive behaviours I struggled with when I was a young teenager. Ten years ago I had thought I had ‘turned myself around’ yet I would still reach these ‘crisis points’ where my bulimia was so out of control I would have to have treatment. I didn’t usually look ‘sick’ and then when I did, something I was always able to hide would become ‘visible’ to people. Similarly my self harm would be so intense I would need to visit the hospital, which would be incredibly humiliating for me as I would have no way of explaining myself. I also found it difficult to accept that all this was still going on as the rest of ‘me’ had got it together. I had a job where I didn’t have to take my clothes off, I lived in a proper house, I wasn’t drunk or out of it, so what was the deal?? I read every book I could on self -harm and bulimia, I tried OA, different therapists and therapies but nothing lasted. It wasn’t until something big unsettled me again that I sought out therapy again. This time I was so bewildered and freaked that I surrendered and tried to be honest with myself. I am holding on to the hope that ‘this time it will be different’ and that there is hope and there is some healing I can do.

  16. Shen says:

    For me, I did not see it as re-enacting anything or even as self-destructive. I have done “cutting” – especially during my teen years, but a few times as an adult, too. It was a way of letting the overwhelming anger and sadness out. I litereally felt as if the emotions could drain out of me, at times. The self-starving I didn’t see at all. It was pointed out to me only two years ago that this is what I would do. For me, it just felt like I would forget to eat… I never ate unless others were around – my husband or my children or someone else. I just didnt think of it. It was more as if I didn’t feel I was important enough to bother with. (Since i have been eating “normally” I have gained fifteen pounds. I suppose most people would think I am normal now, but it feel so odd to me – I have never been anything but very thin, in the past.)
    The sexual reenactment was something I always blamed myself for. Since I was molested by someone other than my father, after he had stopped coming to my room, and was raped by at least two men in my early teens, I thought it had to be my fault. It did not seem possible that so many separate people could have come to me unless I did something to cause it.
    The incident when I was four – with the other molestor – was not my fault. I was put in his care by my mother and I was too little to have done anything to bring it on myself.
    The rapes, both when I was fourteen, are harder to push off. I put myself in danger. I allowed myself to be alone with men much too often and although i did not want what happened and I did say no, the fact that I went with them says something, right?
    Its very complicated, but the conclusion I have come to is that I have allowed and sometimes created self-destructive situations because i didn’t believe I was worth anything better. I thought this is what I was suppose to get out of life, my lot, my burden… and each incident reinforced that feeling of worthlessness.

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