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PTSD -  Traumatic Stress


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD), or just, Traumatic Stress; relates to how our brain and nervous system responds to a traumatic event, danger, or a distressing situation. It is called "post" because the symptoms are not necessarily apparent right after the stress or event. They show up later. This overwhelm happened because the person can not escape a situation and the most instinctual part of their brain interprets the event as a danger.


IFS Therapy, with a Therapist who has had IFS Training, will understands that PTSD can be repaired and the reasons for the overwhelm, can be resolved. 


As much as we think of trauma as difficult emotions, it is also a brain and nervous system event. And in the case of PTSD, it is a nervous system hi-jack, whereby this instinctual part of the hi-jacks the person with biological and physiological responses, that indeed do cause an emotional response. However, the instinctual part of the brain, acts way faster than you can think about the issue that triggers you. You can't think your way out of it, as the primary intervention. In other words, in our culture that strongly values thinking and solving problems, that does not quite work the same with PTSD. Usually, just trying to think about it differently will not change the body's interpretation of a trigger, as safe, and even if you try to think about it differently, your body takes over and produces the physiological anxiety anyways. 

IFS Therapy is an effective mental health treatment for PTSD. Using the inner parts model, we can find the part that keeps interpreting the person's life as some sort of danger. 


The instinctual part of our brain is much faster than our "thinking" part of the brain. The survival instinct kicks in to deal with the situation by putting the whole system on alert. The instinctual brain does that without the permission of the thinking brain. This actually is why we survive. If we had to think about it ahead of time, we maybe would not respond fast enough to save ourselves from danger.  And because this is a survival response, the body has to preserve the essential body systems, even at the detriment to other systems, such as your mental health. 

This nervous system hi-jack (Traumatic Stress) can show up in several responses.  A subtle freeze response due to the overwhelm, and that sometimes looks like the traditional "shock" you hear about.  Or it could be a "fight response," being angry or irritable, or possibly running away from things in one's life like avoiding, escaping with substances, or not dealing with the issues at hand in one's life.


Sometimes it is a "fawn" response where the person works to appease the perpetrator as a way to try and stay safe, in an obviously violent or dangerous situation.  But it can also be a wide range of other responses, when the trauma was not such an obvious perpetration, such as early childhood neglect, or feeling unsafe in some elusive way in childhood due to do the adult caregivers not quite allowing you to attach fully, feel seen and heard, or not being properly cared for emotionally, or psychologically.   


The symptoms of PTSD, many times are due to the hyper-arousal anxiety still being activated in the person, even after the traumatic event is over. The person's amygdale (the instinctual part of the brain) keeps interpreting people, places, and things as a life threat when it ordinarily would not. That is why so many things can trigger a person with PTSD. The instinctual response in their nervous system is stuck on "overdrive" and the person feels survival terror even in situations that are not really all that life threatening. 

Many times clients report that regular "talk therapy" was not being able to reach or, access to the real issue.  Internal Family Systems Therapy, and the expertise of an IFS Therapist, can access what was not reachable before.  

Because with PTSD the person can not use their reasoning and thinking brain in therapy to heal the issue, the deep brain needs to be involved at the same time. A therapist with specialized training, being aware of this trauma-informed perspective, and also the IFS Model, can then dialogue with the client's inner parts, to access nervous system repair. 

Internal Family Systems is a body-based psychotherapy method that uses body mindfulness to access the nervous system, and then with a trained guide we can "dialogue" with the nervous system, viewing it as an inner part.  In this way, the words spoken are more of a somewhat hypnogogic experience and not just our usual thinking brain. This is how the deep access occurs. 


It can calm the hyper-arousal anxiety enough so that the traumatic material can be processed out and repaired. Clients quite literally are calm as they observe, from the Observer Self Energy (their adult center) the difficult emotional trauma in the session. If they become flooded, IFS Therapy and Patti's expertise, are able to bring the person back to their center, offering more space. The person learns a whole new level of cooping and distress tolerance in regard to the hyper-arousal anxiety of the "fight or flight" response. And the brain is able to rewire where the traumatic memories live in the brain. Once this happens the person can then respond to life in a much more healthy and adaptive way, as they used to, before the trauma. 






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