“sometimes people need to play out their horror stories before they can move on”
This is one of the most important things I’ve ever read on tumblr. Thank you.
CONTENT WARNING: PTSD, trauma
okay so i told ocassis i’d say more on this cuz there’s a lot behind that quote i guess that remains unsaid so far.
but there are a couple things i wanna talk about. first is trauma. there’s a theory in somatics that explains trauma as a particular somatic experience: at its basics, it discusses what was coined at one time the arousal cycle though may have a new name at this point. the theory goes that when an animal sense a threatening stimuli in the environment, they go into an aroused state. this includes hyperawareness of surrounding, hypervigilance to all stimuli, energy building within the body, and subsequent emotional reactions. when the threat is determined to be false, the energy is released and the sensory awareness returns to homeostasis.
at this point, this animal may twitch or shake or shiver a little, which is the release of that energy.
but if the threat is confirmed, the energy that was built up in the body is expelled in a different method: fight or flight. at this point, the animal through gauging the surroundings or through trained instinct will choose one of these paths. through doing this, that energy releases and when safe, the somatic state returns to homeostasis.
this is the arousal cycle. sense danger, tension builds, stimuli source is confirmed, energy is released, and body returns to normal.
there is, however, a third response: freeze. in this case, the danger is real and the animal, for whatever reason, is not able to fight or flee. when this happens, there is a freeze mechanism that occurs. this looks like dissociation between sensation and awareness, numbness to emotion, unawareness of environment, etc. its essentially what it sounds like: everything just stops. this stage helps in that it can allow for a longer survival. if the animal is caught, they may not feel pain or fear and will without struggle be taken - but if the one attacking them turns away for a moment, there is a possibility of snapping out of these freeze stage and escaping.
outside of modern or domestic life or whatever, when an animal enters freeze state, they will either a) find an opportunity to break away and survive or b) die.
with humans, and other domestic animals or animals in captivity, there is a possibility of remaining in that state post-danger without an opportunity to release the energy that was built up in the body. this is when traumatization occurs.
ptsd in this framework is a condition of fluctuating between these two states: hyperawareness, hypervigilance, on-guard and ready, and dissociated, unaware, numb. ptsd is the symptoms of being caught in the freeze vortex without resolution in the arousal cycle.
long-term traumatization is like taking this cycle and enduring it for years. when someone is in an abusive household long term, its a constant process of being retraumatized over and over without relief. that just builds and builds over time.
so how that relates to this is… there’s a theory that one of the ways we subconsciously attempt to break out of that cycle is place ourselves into situations similar to what we’ve been through before. it can be an intense drive to retraumatize without knowing that what we’re doing, is attempting to finish what was started. if you can push yourself into danger, you might be able to make a different choice and release all the energy trapped in your body through action.
in practice, this rarely works. a lot of somatic therapists do guided visualizations and roleplaying and body awareness to help people act out traumatic situations to reverse the outcome and release that energy as a way to release PTSD.
CONTENT WARNING: physical/sexual abuse after effects, PLEASE READ WITH CAUTION. this is really heavy shit for survivors of child abuse and physical/sexual abuse.
the second thing i want to talk about is the psychological affects of severe abuse: trauma bonding. trauma bonding is a condition that comes out of long-term abuse. its what people call “stockholm syndrome,” but more general and less severe. or rather it has a spectrum of intensity.
trauma bonding is the process that happens through living with an abuser. once a power dynamic is in place, or a victim is trapped emotionally or otherwise, victims, in order to survive, will often bond with their abuser and begin to emotionally and physically crave the abuse. its not because they want it of course, but because the abuse is often so strongly tied with approval, love, affection, and other things that in order to have those, they must endure the abuse. so it becomes somatically and psychologically linked.
one key feature to it is intensity. over time, the intensity of living through physical and sexual abuse in terms of physiological sensation becomes a part of the craving. when one have no choice on whether to experience violence in any capacity, and is constantly exposed to it, some people begin to form a desire around it in order to survive it.
so it forms into a positive way of relating to abusive dynamics. if you can find pleasure in it, you can survive. if you can engage with it, you can be worthy, loved, cherished - as an object, yes, but nonetheless.
but it becomes a powerful emotional and physical connection. its one of the other reasons survivors may find themselves in a lot of repeat abusive situations or returning to abusers. because this particular bonding becomes so powerful that people begin to see their worth as only relying on how well they take care of the other, or being an object of sexual desire, etc. etc. it becomes a subconscious pull, and is also deeply related to the above theory on ptsd. the physiological need really can feel like an addiction to a lot of people, a pull towards being hurt, abused, destroyed.
again, i emphasize that this does not mean it is actually what someone wants. it is just an after effect of severe abuse. a survivor’s body was trained to desire these things, and it is just a reaction to wanting to be loved, to be worth something, to feel. it’s just that the only way to feel these things was in such an intense state, a state of constant traumatization, that the body begins to crave intensity and retraumatization because they have become so powerfully connected with self-worth, etc.
an example might be: a survivor who feels like they are only worth anything to someone if they are the passive object during sex unto which their partner can do whatever. if they have a good relationship, they may not immediately connect with it because they aren’t accustomed to relationships where their needs and wants are also valued. they are expecting to be objectified to express love and to have love expressed to them. they may find it extremely hard to relate to good relationships. it may make more sense to be in abusive relationships because it feels normal, it feels like what is supposed to happen to them.
the ways that people often combat this is by unlearning the psychological trappings of worthiness or lovability, relearning trust in a loving way with themselves and others, and discovering self-confidence, self-power, and self-love. this often happens all together, and never has to be a perfect, completed process to stop the trauma bonding cycle.
Oh my god thank you.