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Recovering "Subconscious Trauma"? Damaging or beneficial?

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Posted (edited)

Starting with a new therapist who does psychoanalytic-type therapy. She is focused on tuning into the subconscious mind, because our conscious mind apparently only accounts for like 5% lived experience. We spend entire session in unstructured conversations and she questions my associations in detail.

I spent decades on behavioral-focused therapies (CBT, DBT) thinking that it's "my fault" (or fault of my genes) that i cannot regulate my moods, crying spells, negative ruminations. I've failed those sorts of therapies, always trying to "force change" my conscious thought patterns & behaviors.  I'm beginning to believe that maybe I have repressed & unprocessed trauma, much of which I cannot remember. I spend a lot of time dissociated, trying to go about my day.

I've been reading about the effect of subconscious trauma, and the symptoms of it. Having large memory gaps... Chronic fatigue...Always plagued with irrational feelings that come out of nowhere... they say that  in order to access the memories is to return the brain to the same state of consciousness as when the memory was encoded...but what if you were under the influence or in an unsafe situation? What if you were 4 years old? How do you even access the actual experience, if you don't remember the specific event?

I am afraid to go down this road and open a Pandora's box of feelings, random associations, and impressions that I won't be able to make sense of. Consciously, I do not think about any specific events or trauma from the past....Some doctors say that efforts to uncover potential memories stand a strong chance of creating false recollections and narratives that could harm, distress, and destabilize.

Can recovering repressed trauma actually be psychologically damaging? Memory itself is not reliable, and extremely malleable; no matter how strong and vivid memory may be, the human mind is desperately prone to fallibility.

Edited by Blahblah

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Posted (edited)

Depends on the therapist and their expertise. Unfortunately trauma work is some of the most difficult of all therapies, and all kinds of it come with the risk of making things worse, in the hands of an inadequate therapist. Fortunately, however, in the right hands, it can literally save a life. So there's no simple answer. Additional to therapist's level of expertise is the kind of expertise they have. If they aren't expertised in your specific trauma symptoms, the risk of it going wrong is larger. 

Edited by Hopelessly Broken

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Posted (edited)

@Hopelessly Broken This makes sense. do you have particular questions or a good way to "screen" a therapist to assess whether they are skilled enough to help you? I typically ask about their background etc, and start with more mundane topics, takes time to develop trust...but I'm never sure how to figure out whether they are going to be worth investing in. I've had so many therapists (several whom I did like on a personal level) but I did not really progress or benefit from them.

Edited by Blahblah

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Posted (edited)

As have I (had many therapists) and unfortunately for me it was made rather obvious that none of them could help with my own trauma, simply due to the fact none of them had anywhere near enough experience with hypoarousal, if they even acknowledged it at all, and that none of them had experience treating a person with as long a history as mine to the point I missed out on developing things that a lot of trauma work is dependent on/my lack of experience with certain things/my brain's incapacity to do certain things that a lot of trauma therapies rely on. 

None of them were able to manage that or my gross incapacity to get myself out of hypoarousal. Simply put, one cannot do trauma work until they are able to bring themselves into their window of tolerance that permits them to exist in a regulated state of nervous system arousal, and are able to sustain their window of tolerance and build upon it. I cannot and none of them have been able to understand that, never mind help me with it. 

So for me, it is fairly easy to know if they are expertised enough or not. A lot of the time I don't even have to ask them any specific questions, it is how they treat me because of my symptoms and history/react to my symptoms and long history that does the job of pointing it out for me. 

 

Edited by Hopelessly Broken

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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, Hopelessly Broken said:

None of them were able to manage that or my gross incapacity to get myself out of hypoarousal. Simply put, one cannot do trauma work until they are able to bring themselves into their window of tolerance that permits them to exist in a regulated state of nervous system arousal, and are able to sustain their window of tolerance and build upon it. I cannot and none of them have been able to understand that, never mind help me with it. 

So for me, it is fairly easy to know if they are expertised enough or not. A lot of the time I don't even have to ask them any specific questions, it is how they treat me because of my symptoms and history/react to my symptoms and long history that does the job of pointing it out for me. 

 

Interesting. so instead of hyperarousal you experience the opposite (sort of like a numb response?) Particularly complicated when the trauma was experienced from a very young age in development. Do you know if hypnotism or regression therapy is BS? Many people mention EDMR also, but I'd think that you would need to consciously remember the trauma & get into the right emotional state to be able to benefit from EDMR?

I've also read articles that mention emotional trauma being trapped in the body, and they use somatic type therapies (such as integration massage) to release, but I don't know if that would help someone that doesn't have physical symptoms. Maybe you'd get some sort of emotional release, but then how do you process it?

There's also a lot of research happening with MDMA-assisted therapy offering benefit for CPTSD and treatment-resistant people, but I assume it's difficult to get into a study & it's not FDA approved yet. There must be another way to surpass the conscious rational mind (and it's coping mechanisms) and get into the subconscious "emotional body" to clear out the trauma?

Just doing years of talk-therapy and taking anxiety meds seem like band-aids.

Edited by Blahblah

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Posted (edited)

Yep. But that's what I've always had to put up with. I'm used to it. Dissociative symptoms are part of hypoarousal, by the way. So is sleeping too much and most of what I have to deal with. Its just another term for the freeze response. Anyways, it is what it is. I'm yet to find anything that isn't a bandaid, and a very shitty one at that. I know people don't like it when I talk about it though, so I'll shut up. 

Edited by Hopelessly Broken

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