Blog Post – 13th October 2021
By Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling
How to resolve childhood developmental trauma and other undigested traumas: A low-cost, self-help approach
Two days ago, I published a low cost eBook about my system of self-help therapy for childhood developmental trauma, which can also be used with later-developing traumas. This books represents the culmination of many years of research, application, and writing.
I have spent almost twenty-five years working with counselling clients with some degree of trauma, from childhood or later periods of their lives. Some of those traumas were mild to moderate, bout some were much more serious.
I also had to resolve my own developmental trauma, resulting from my highly dysfunctional family of origin.
Here is a quick insight into the approach I have developed:
Trauma does not just affect our consciousness; our memories; our minds. Modern neuroscience, since the 1990’s, has revealed to us just how much the brains of traumatized individuals are changed (for the worst) by their horrible experiences. Trauma leaves its imprint on our brain, our mind and our body. And these imprints affect how we think, feel and behave in later life, even decades after the traumatic experience. Trauma changes our perceptions, and our capacity to think/feel. But even when we begin to think/ feel about our traumatic experience – and to create a helpful story of what happened – we are still left with the imprints in our bodies: the automatic physical and hormonal responses to present-time reminders of the trauma inflicted on us back there; back then. The ‘there and then’ is always with us, in our bodies, here and now: unless and until we process those physical and hormonal responses. To quote Van der Kolk again: “For real change to take place, the body needs to learn that the danger has passed, and to live in the reality of the present”. (Page 21).
The insights and techniques that this book reveals
Out of all of my experience, research and clinical application, I gradually evolved three processes for resolving problems of undigested traumatic experiences:
Here are some insights into the range of subjects addressed in this low-cost eBook:
Chapter 2 defines and describes the kinds of ‘emotional dragons’ produced by childhood trauma.
Chapter 3 contains six case studies of individuals who were traumatized, and how they began to tackle their recovery.
Chapter 4(A) explores the science of sleep, and what that tells us about how to support your own mental and physical health; and how to process traumatic memories.
Chapter 4(B) introduces you to some helpful ideas about the use of physical exercise for the reduction of emotional hyper- or hypo-arousal. (Hyper arousal [or over-arousal] includes anger and anxiety; while hypo-arousal [or under-arousal] includes depression, inappropriate guilt and inappropriate shame; plus shut-down, dissociation, fainting/freezing, etc. [We also acknowledge that the more intense forms of hypo-arousal are best helped by interpersonal contact with a reassuring person!])
Chapter 5 presents some educational guidelines on the subject of the kinds of foods to eat, and the kinds of foods to avoid, for good physical and mental health.
Chapter 6 shows you how to ‘re-frame’ (or re-think and re-feel) your less-than-traumatic emotional disturbances, so they can be digested and have their ‘sting’ removed. This is a form of preparation, or self-training, for the more difficult later stages of facing up to medium range traumatic memories; and then, and only then, to your worst traumatic dragons.
Chapter 7 teaches you how to breathe in order to calm your overly-aroused autonomic (or automatic) nervous system; to switch on, or increase the power of, your rest-and-digest response (which switches off, or reduces, your fight-or-flight response).
Chapter 8 is a gentle introduction to the habit of keeping a daily journal – (or at least three times weekly journal). You will need this habit and skill when you get to the Interoceptive Windows Model, in Chapter 12.
Chapter 9 introduces you to a very powerful process – which is simple and easy to do – which will teach you how to remove tension from your muscles, and that will reduce some aspects of your body-memory of trauma.
Chapter 10 explores a useful concept, which is how to ‘complete’ an undigested experience from the past; why you should do that in order to make it ‘disappear’; and it also includes ten exercises to help you to complete some of your old, less-intense traumatic experiences.
Chapter 11 shows you how to do Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which has been shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of trauma.
Chapter 12 deals with your most intense traumatic memories. Here we begin with the problem that many of our childhood traumas are not available to our conscious mind. Amnesia is a common problem with trauma survivors. So we have to try to ‘surface them’ (or ‘dig them up’) – over a prolonged period of time; between months and years – using forms of association of ideas, images, and physical sensations. This process is tackled in your journal, and combined with therapeutic breathing exercises and physical movement.
Chapter 13 introduces you to:
– Some helpful ideas about how to write therapeutic stories about various aspects of your childhood, which are likely to surface;
– Or how to access some additional traumatic memories.
– And this is combined with some processes that will help you to digest those memories.
Chapter 14 introduces you to Mindful Meditation, which has also been shown to help to reduce the symptoms of trauma.
In Chapter 15 we pull all of the ideas in this book into a brief conclusion.
Then there is a series of appendices, as follows:
Appendix A provides you with a scale for assessing just how bad any particular problem is; which will help you when you are working through Chapter 6, in which you will be introduced to the process of reframing surface level problems, (which are not particularly traumatic or overly-upsetting).
Appendix B will help you to deepen your understanding of the nature of human emotions in general; and how to better manage your own emotions, using a whole body-brain-mind approach.
Appendix C deals with how to communicate assertively – and to maintain reasonable personal boundaries – which is designed to help to correct some developmental deficits.
Appendix D aims to help you to learn how to reduce and control one of your depowering ‘sub-personalities’: your Bad Inner Critic.
Appendix E is an introduction to the Polyvagal theory, which helps us to improve our understanding of how the ‘freeze response’, or dissociation, or shutting down, is related to the fight-or-flight response; and how the social-engagement system can bring us out of shut-down.
This book could save you the hard labour of reading all of those books and papers that I have studied over a 25-year period!
To see the book on Amazon, please go to Amazon eBook on Trauma.***
But for more information about this book, please go to ABC Bookstore: Traumatic Dragons book.***
I hope you find this information interesting and helpful.
Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling
Email: Dr Jim Byrne.***
Principal Director of the E-CENT Institute