Understanding and Working with Persons who are Experiencing Post-Traumatic-Stress

Understanding and Working with Persons who are Experiencing Post-Traumatic-Stress

Post-Traumatic-Stress is subjective. That means that it isn’t for anyone to decide what constitutes trauma except the person who has experienced it. An event that one person experiences as traumatic, another person might only experience as a tough time.

Post-Traumatic-Stress is often more acutely painful and much more difficult to recover from when the pain or suffering or loss has come about due to another human being’s choices or actions. There can be many reasons for this:

When your house is destroyed by an earthquake or a flood, it is sufficiently devastating and life-changing to leave a person traumatized. But if your house was burned down by another person, it is often even more disruptive to a person’s ability to heal because their ability to trust people has been greatly impaired. What causes this?

When there is an earthquake, we don’t usually believe that someone is out to do us harm. The earthquake isn’t attacking us personally, privately, invisibly. The earthquake isn’t still lurking just around the corner looking for another opportunity to try and hurt us again. When it comes to hurt resulting from another person’s choices and actions, we can’t quickly return to feeling the safety of predictability afterwards. This resulting fearful apprehension and distrust of others frequently interferes with one’s ability to seek and accept “help” from human beings afterward.

Even though a person might know that another earthquake could happen again, they don’t usually get trapped in the nightmare of thinking that maybe they did something to deserve the suffering they experienced. When it comes to suffering at the hands of another, not only does the “victim” naturally worry about the concept of deserve, but the perpetrator often exploits this ideation. Worse than that, untrained, insensitive, misguided, yet well-intended comments from non-involved persons often imply that the victim experienced their suffering due to some sort of negligence, fault or deficiency within them. This is often referred to as victim blaming. Even a well-intentioned and perhaps appropriate question that simply asks a victim what they’re going to do to protect themselves in the future can imply that they didn’t do sufficient to protect themselves in the past.

But we don’t usually blame victims of a flood for their suffering and loss. Yet we often unwittingly do this when suffering and loss come through human means. Perhaps that’s partly because we see an attack by another human being as somewhat preventable and frequently provoked, whereas we don’t typically see an earthquake or flood as either preventable or provokeable.

Moreover, when something like an earthquake or flood hits, you usually aren’t alone in your experience. When trauma comes from another human being, you’re often alone and isolated. The isolation often occurs partly because the painful experience is being visited upon a single individual or a select group of persons, and partly because the painfulness of the experience often goes unnoticed, unrecognized, or even outright denied after it’s been expressed. Secrecy and denial are often the very methods used by a perpetrator.

Lastly, while some suffering and loss occurs as a result of deliberate and malicious intent, it can equally as painful — or even far more painful — when the suffering or loss occurs as a result of innocent and noble intentions. Sometimes a hurting individual’s pain can be painted over by the justifications of the well-meaning inflicter. In instances like this, the rescuer, or hero steals the spotlight, so to speak, and their actions — for better or for worse — receive the most focus, and the impact upon the victim gets almost completely ignored. So sometimes a person sits and suffers in silence, either by choice, or by resignation, and never gets a chance to have either their initial hurt nor any subsequent hurts acknowledged. And when hurting isn’t acknowledged, well, it’s rather like saying there really isn’t any hurt that one needs to heal from. So the hurting never really stops. And because it’s still an open wound, it’s not likely the wound or the person will ever heal.

What can we do that’s really helpful? Two strategies I usually employ are:

1) Don’t just DO something; Stand There!

That means I compassionately care with all my heart about the individual that’s in pain. I look bravely at their pain, and give them my full attention, my full and total presence, my fullness of patience, and all the sensitive compassion I can. With all my heart and all my being I simply listen to everything they are saying, verbally or non-verbally. I listen and I care. I focus on caring about HOW my caring is being experienced by the individual.

2) Ask them what they might find helpful.

Sometimes a person doesn’t know what they need, nor what might help. I am sometimes then prompted to ask them if they think maybe A or B might be helpful. And then I go back to step 1 again. I keep returning to step 1 again and again, because this is how I communicate — often without words — that I care. Slowly, we work together to try to discern what they might find helpful, and then, if I am able, I try to provide it in a way that’s appreciated by them.


7 Responses to Man to Man with Greg

  1. Greg says:

    I really really really appreciate everyone’s expressions and contributions on our Testimony Meetings. Sometimes I can hardly keep up with all the wonderful things being shared and expressed. There are nights when I sit reflecting on all the missed opportunities, all those little gems that flew past so fast we didn’t even get to comment on them.

    I thank EVERYONE from the bottom of my heart for helping to make it such a beautiful time together.


  2. jacqueline says:

    Good morning Greg, what an encouraging faith strengthing breakout session last night on the Testimony meeting.
    I think you took us through every emotion as you moderated out different views on “second death”. Those that couldn’t speak had scriptures and comments moving fast on the sidebar.
    Then we began to turn on our cameras and the laughter broke out as we saw each other, some for the first time.
    Kent had a bit of fun, I noticed playing with the positioning of my image.

    Now They see what we do! That was a typical group healing session!! Emotions, crying, laughter. That’s how you heal.

    Ariella has moved on and formed a “Coffee Time” with Ariella. She is moving forward, not stuff crying over spilled milk. Hooray for her. I will join her and friends from around the world if I can get up early enough. lol

    Jeff is just faithful! We can depend on him being there, quietly but there. His Catholic church stepped right up when he left the witnesses and gave him comfort and a physical house to live in as he attends the grounds.

    Henry has moved on and called this morning excited about choosing a name for his “watching the world” (I just put stuff there until he got his together)

    CC is seriously thinking about buying a new computer to get a nice setup, her equipment doesn’t work, no camera etc.

    Ted was just a powerhouse of support with his fast posting of scriptures and comments as we talked. We need to thank him for that. He can’t speak but he sure can post some scriptures really fast.

    I need to find out how to keep the screen big so the scriptures don’t move up so fast before we read them.
    ALL IN ALL Greg, I think we had the LORD and the Lord’s blessing. Praise HIM!

  3. Greg says:

    OK, thanks for the informative suggestions and ideas!

  4. jacqueline says:

    Yes Greg your introduction Page should be the static page the one that never changes on man to man. Then all other articles will fall under man to man and they will be clickable. Or the meet the team page issupposed to have your bio on it below your photo. (1)So think about if you want to change your static page and let the article now be a clickable. (2)In addition or in place of insert a bio where your show is mentioned. I just put some stuff.

  5. Greg says:

    I had wondered about briefly introducing myself so individuals would know just a little bit about me and why I’m here. So I had hoped to move this article to a page by itself, and put my introduction here. I figured it might seem more natural, intuitive, and less cluttered that way. 🙂
    What are your thoughts?

  6. jacqueline says:

    Okay Greg so this is back up, now isn’t there another article you posted before?

  7. jacqueline says:

    Greg, I never thought about why one disaster will totally take you out emotionally and another one has minimal effect.
    It depends on how it happened and if it was personal or an act of “nature”.
    Thanks for this perspective.

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