By Howard Peiper
Psychic damage is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter our sense of security, making us feel helpless and vulnerable in a dangerous world. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves us feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but our subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless we feel, the more likely we are to be traumatized.
Causes of psychic damage:
- It happened unexpectedly.
- We were unprepared for it.
- We felt powerless to prevent it.
- It happened repeatedly.
- Someone was intentionally cruel.
- It happened in childhood.
Not all potentially traumatic events lead to lasting psychic damage. Some people rebound quickly from even the most tragic and shocking experiences. Others are devastated by experiences that, on the surface, appear to be less upsetting.
A number of risk factors make us susceptible to psychic damage. We are more likely to be traumatized by a stressful experience if we are already under a heavy stress load or have recently suffered a series of losses. We are also more likely to be traumatized by a new situation if we have been traumatized before—especially if the earlier trauma occurred in childhood.
Experiencing trauma in childhood can have a severe and long-lasting effect. Children who have been traumatized see the world as a frightening and dangerous place. When childhood trauma is not resolved, this fundamental sense of fear and helplessness carries over into adulthood, setting the stage for further psychic damage.
Childhood trauma results from anything that disrupts a child’s sense of safety and security, including:
- An unstable or unsafe environment.
- Separation from a parent.
- Serious illness.
- Intrusive medical procedures.
- Sexual, physical, or verbal abuse.
- Domestic violence.
Whether or not a traumatic event involves death, we must cope with the loss, at least temporarily, of our sense of safety and security. The natural reaction to this loss is grief. Like people who have lost a loved one, trauma survivors go through a grieving process.
This process, while inherently painful, is easier if we turn to others for support, take care of ourselves, and talk about how we feel. Recovering from a traumatic event takes time, and everyone heals at his or her own pace. But if months have passed and our symptoms aren’t letting up, we may need professional help from a therapist.
Finding the right therapist may take some time. It’s very important that the therapist we choose has experience treating childhood traumas, even their own. But the quality of the relationship with our therapist is equally important. Choose a therapist that we are comfortable with. We need to trust our instincts. If we don’t feel safe, respected, or understood, find another therapist. There needs to be a sense of trust and warmth between our therapist and us.
In order to heal from psychic damage, we must face and resolve the unbearable feelings and memories we have long avoided. Otherwise they will return again and again, unbidden and uncontrollable.
Dr. Howard Peiper, N.D., nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, has written several best-selling books on nutrition and natural health. His blog is: drhowardpeiper.wordpress.com.
From There to Love
By Meg Cassell
I am on no small journey.
Memories hidden and remembered;
Psychic damage worms its way into all that I am and do.
There is longing in my heart
And I’m missing the glorious expression of the universe.
I have felt ground down as a rock under
The heel of some iron-toed, black, heavy boot.
I crave to burst forth as
That precious flower,
Out from under the concrete
And declare my sovereignty.
I long to sing my Truth
As a participant in Creation.
But how to I get to that song?
I declare myself
How do I believe it?
I get help to
Honor and grieve my past.
I start with myself.
The journey of healing is a sacred path.
It is the journey