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The Happy Family Game…

As usual my therapy session last Friday was very illuminating.

The session begins when I brought up some of the issues that came up over the week: (read this & this).  I then shared with him my “major light bulb moment”:  The most painful thing about my childhood was the consistent failure of all involved to acknowledge that I was hurting.   At home as well as school, all involved, I am the problem, and it’s solution.  Context didn’t matter and the role others played in the perpetuation of my own misery were irrelevant.  I was the problem, it was my fault.  Healing and moving forward has involved examining the context of the problem and that the issues were much bigger than me.

As I progress in therapy, I’m beginning to understand the depth of the unresolved crap that I carry inside me from my childhood.  There was never an opportunity for me to express how I felt, or share with someone what was  happening at home, at school, or with the extended family.  My misery was an all encompassing thing 24 hours a day that defined the reality of my existence.   I struggle, at times, with a doubt in the reality of my experiences, since all involved refuse to hear or acknowledge what I’ve been through….

Something happened at work that really disturbed me quite a bit….

I find myself, in a knee-jerk, matter complying with this bullshit idea that I must protect others from what they don’t want to see.  This habit is so automated that I can tend to do it quite a bit.  I hold within myself the reality of my emotional experiences, in order to get through my day.  I present a pleasant demeanor the majority of the time and appear pretty “even-headed” with such adeptness that it scares me at times.  In fact, a patient I cared for complemented on my pleasant and patient attitude.  He’s actually a very sweet individual & I enjoy caring for him.  However, the floor he’s on is always short-staffed and the nurses are clearly all “on edge”.  The lights are blinking like a Christmas tree and I’m trying to keep up with patient’s demands while getting vitals.  He calls often asking for small things and I know he’s lonely and needs to talk.  I become stressed & overwhelmed inside but try not to let it show.  At some point in the evening he states his sincere appreciation for me and how I always made time for him when nobody else did.  I smiled and responded with a quick thank you.

On the way out the door, I recall feeling dumbfounded and perplexed.  My mind was jostled by this complement & I instantaneously “snapped out of it”.

Until this moment, I was just feeling annoyed that I had to be on this particular floor.  It was a very heavy floor that was always short-staffed.  As the float pool tech, I felt I was being shit on and seething inside.  I began my shift with an internal piss-n-moan rant running in the back of my mind.  It wasn’t until I received a bit of acknowledgment from a patient that I started to reflect on my own thought processes that evening.  These thoughts had been acting as an internal narrator of the events of the evening:

“I can’t believe I’m dealing with the same person’s crap again for the fourth day in a row.   Why is it they have to shit on me & assign me to the stuff nobody wants to do?  If only they knew what I have on my plate,  I just don’t have the patience.”  My eyes began to well up with tears as I began to realize how good I was at “smiling and taking it like a man”.

By about 1:00 a.m. things start to quiet down & I’m able to sit down and have something to eat.

I found a quiet place so I could process what I learned from the meeting with my psychiatrist yesterday.  This pervasive tendency to suppress my emotions into the subconscious level of awareness was truly all-encompassing.  This just happens to be yet another consequence of the happy family game crap that I participate in.  This desire to create a certain public image involved hiding certain things and accentuating others things.  When my parents tell me they remember a happy girl, I believe they are sincere in this assertion, (however incorrect).  I came to realize, they were the beneficiaries of my coping mechanisms.  I protected them, and the family, at a huge expense to my own well-being.

The fact is, denying my truth was unhealthy.  Today, I’m so good at keeping things inside that it is almost a knee-jerk action.

This is why today, when I talk about my childhood with the family, they have such a very different memory of things.  I kept the reality of my day-to-day life out of their view.  I protected them from what I knew they were incapable of handling.    I would like, at some point, to tell the truth of my experiences as an act of defiance.  It would be a useful and essential opportunity to state publicly the reality of my life experiences.  However, before doing so, I need to prepare myself with the frustrating reality that some people might react very negatively to my story.  I would need to carefully weigh my options and consider my true motives for doing so….

My biggest struggle today is with a slow grieving process.  Neglect is a painful, yet frequently overlooked experience, in some respects just as painful as abuse…

Underlying everything that I’ve gone through is just the idea that I was alone.

There was no one there for me at home or in school.  The consistent message that I received is that context was irrelevant.  My own perspective wasn’t as important as is the idea that the problem is me and I need to fix it myself.   And the funny thing about this assertion, are how I react to it differently at varied levels of awareness….

In fact, I believe there are different levels of knowing.

I can take in the logic of what someone says and filter it against my own experience.  Yet emotionally, my feelings betray me.  When re-experiencing old trauma, I don’t care about logic, all I know I feel shame, hurt, and invalidation.   I ask myself about the purpose of this secrecy and why I’m not supposed to say anything.  Why are they so insistent on not seeing certain things?  There is fear, pain, and simply a desire to avoid those things that hurt to much to look at too long…

…So the frustrating thing is I’m left to figure things out on my own.  Like the serenity prayer, I focus on what I can change and let go of the rest.  It feels so lonely simply because there is no one in my life who was there that the way things went down. Instead, when the past comes up, it was me and my problems.

My mind is like a safety bubble within which I reside reside in order to avoid the body’s messages of the unresolved emotions I’m not ready to deal with…

I have a pervasive and f-d up tendency to separate the goings on in my body from an awareness in my mind

I am starting to appreciate the real consequences of this coping mechanism. It has repeatedly slapped me in the face over the last several weeks.  I am going through stuff throughout the week that impacts me.  The emotions and thoughts don’t present themselves until I am at my final straw.  Emotions bubble over & become too much to handle.  The cycle has been repetitive over the last several months…

I spend too much of my life with this happy smile on my face that allows everyone to believe that Kathleen’s doing just fine.  The happy game I play is now my own.  My outer presentation never fully justifies the reality of what I’m feeling in the moment.  I know that the reality of my childhood was a perfectly crafted performance.  They acted like they were fine and I had to act like I was fine not so we could seem like the perfect happy little girl & everybody we were okay…

HOWEVER, below the surface my dad had checked out, my mom was stressed, my sister felt alone, and I was depressed….

Image: 1


Van Der Kolk, B. (2014). The body keeps the score. New York, NY: Viking.

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What would they say?

 How am I supposed to respond????

To my immediate family:

Please know my intention is not to hurt anybody.  I just cannot abide by the rules of this happy family game anymore.  The price this comes at is just too high.  I simply wish to heal and move forward…  This demand for an apology at a time of healing & growth has been both painful and perplexing.  I just hope you can appreciate that I’m not trying to hold onto the past.

To my high school classmates:

I struggle to find a valid reason for your extreme dislike of me.  I was that quiet girl in school who never talked to anybody. You don’t really know me at all but treated me like the bubonic plague. You’ve been blinded by a pluralistic ignorance that defines high school social politics.  You main goal is to come out on top, or at the very least survive unscathed.  I was just an unimportant casualty.

To my cousin:

I suspect you have no idea how much I have been hurt by your treatment of me.  My differentness truly offended you and made you ashamed.  It left me feeling like a scarlet letter was tattooed indelibly in my forehead 24:7.  Thank’s so much for that.

Last but not least, to “IT”:

I was a means to an end & nothing more.  Your actions were driven by purely narcissistic motives.  I was your ego boost you were my band-aid.  It was all part of your grand plan to break me down & build me up to your own specifications. Your abusive behavior left its mark on me.

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PART TWO: Understanding “Unseen Things”

This post is part two of a series: It continues with a line of thinking that began in a previous post: 

So how is it that things which seem so obvious are easily ignored in our day-to-day existence?

This is a question that has burned in my brain since I was a kid.  I recall as a kid marveling at how adept everybody was at colluding with one another to perpetuate the most idiotic bullshit ideas for the sake of some abstract social rules that made no sense to me.  It was as if, I was living in a world which is unseen to others and I was forced to pretend bullshit is truth.  It  starts with personal fears, needs, beliefs and insecurities. It continues with a desire to deny certain unpleasant aspects of ourselves.  It ends as we collude with one another to create an idealized self in an idealized life situation that edits out critical aspects of reality.

As a social outsider, I didn’t understand the random logic of the social politics of high school.

For example, I recall overhearing a conversation my sister had with some friends at our house one evening.  I was in high school and she was about 12-13 at the time.  As the dorkus, I butted heads with her popular-girl ways, (although I’m happy to report we’re doing well today).  At one point, everyone started to give this one girl a hard time for being in band commenting at how dorky it was.  I recall everyone asking her “how could you hang out with that crowd of people?!?”  I marveled at the idiocy of that logic and wondered silently why band people were dorks and according to whom?  I became angry at the fact that nobody called “BULLSHIT” on that thinking.  Why were they so scared?

At school the next day, I usually received more of the same.  There was this “Breakfast-Club-Ish” mentality at the time (it was the 80’s), in which everybody was in the clique.  By the time you hit high school the reputations begin to stick, you are your label and nothing more.  I walked through the school with the intention of remaining unseen.  As the bullied kid, this was my safest strategy.  I spent my days, watching individuals, (who I interacted with on a personal level), transform themselves into a fictional and socially-acceptable version..  These airs were put forth for the sake of “fitting in”.  The rules that guided these fictitious selves were abstract social rules that were also random I saw no logic to it.   These rules dictated who to hang out with, what to be interested in and how to dress.  As I look back on this experience today, the concept of pluralistic ignorance immediately comes to mind:

PLURALISTIC IGNORANCE – “a socio-psychological phenomenon that involves a systematic discrepancy between people’s private beliefs and public behavior in certain societal contexts” (Bjerring, et al, 2014, p. 2445).

At home, there was this strange and stifling culture based on my parent’s preferred defense mechanism: “intellectualization” …

They are college professors who met in medical school.  My father, a quiet nerdy type, was an INTP personality type who lived in a world of logical analysis.  He was passionate about his work as a neurphysiologist who related to emotions as byproducts of neurochemical actions in the amygdala.  My mother, is from the Philippines, and grew up during WW2.  In her culture daily life centered around the family.  Concepts such as harmony and duty took precedence over individuality, pride, or our personal values.  Her way of being was quiet and stoic.  She held herself in this way as a matter of survival, putting outside her awareness those things that were difficult.  Overall, this tendency toward intellectualization in my parents, developed into what (Goleman, 1996, p. 129) describes as character armor:

CHARACTER ARMOR: “Defensive style is a character armor. In therapy, it leads to a typical mode of resistance…Defenses are…attentional ploys…The person’s entire mental apparatus…is shaped in part by his defense strategy….Character armor is the face the self turns to the world.” (Goleman, 1996, p. 132).

Together, they built a familial culture based on personal idiosyncrasies such as these.  My home life was one in which emotions were not expressed.  The goal was to present yourself as intelligent, logical, and pragmatic.  Emotions were managed quietly and we dealt with them by “trying our best to hold it together”.  If you ask them about how they feel, they would say, “doing well”, in their formal and polite manner.  Ask them to describe emotions they get technical and describe how it begins with the intake of sensory information when the limbic system works to assess its emotive relevance.  It continues in the hippocampus which stores memories of emotional events that trigger the amygdala to initiate the fight-or-flight system.  The moral of this story is to utilize your prefrontal cortex….

Hearing explanations like this leaves me saddened by their inability to understand that emotions have an intelligence all their own.  They are what make us truly human and add color to our life experiences.     In his book “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Goleman (1996) notes that “The family constructs a reality through the joint schemas members come to share.  The family’s self-image is one subset of shared schemas, the some total constitute the family’s paradigm.  The topography of the family’s private universe is implicit in routines…in how members take in, interpret and share…information” (p. 173).    As I look back on this familial reality construction, I am reminded of R.D. Laing’s  (1978) Happy Family Game in which he describes the rules which guide our efforts to deny certain aspects of shared experiences:  

  1. RULE #1:  Don’t do it! Don’t Say it! Don’t Acknowledge it!
  2. RULE #2:  Don’t Acknowledge Rule #1!!!
  3. Rule #3:  Do Not discuss existence of Rules #1 & #2!!

 Bullshit is infectious & needs to be treated as a dangerous contagion

In the previous section, I provide examples of unseen aspects of social experience. When you examine these unseen things closely you find that self-deception can become shared.  Others’ bullshit ideas, when unexamined, can become our bullshit ideas.  Bullshit is infectious and needs to be treated as a dangerous contagion.  What do I mean by this?  Here’s my personal theory on how we inherit the bullshit of those around us and consume it blindly….

It starts when we bullshit ourselves.

Self-deception involves the acquisition and maintenance of a belief despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, (, 2016).  The goal is to create a self-perceived reality that we wish to uphold.  Goleman, (1996) states:  “There are, it seems, vital parts of our lives which are, in a sense, missing – blanks in experience….our failure to experience these aspects of our lives…results in an incapacity to bring attention to bear on certain crucial aspects of our reality” (p. 15). In a post titled “Twisted Self-Deception” I make the following comments on the nature of unseen things:

It continues when bullshit creates unseen things in our lives…

Self-deception, is defined by those things that produce anxiety.  Various aspects of who we are and what we experience are too painful to face, so we create a zone of blocked attention.  For example, my sister and her friends were motivated by desire for acceptance.  By focusing only on wanting to fit in, my sister’s friends failed to question the logic or morality of these random social rules that guided their efforts.  In their desire to present a specific image to the world, my parents failed to develop emotionally.  As is the case with all of us, the reality they experience is based on what they attend to.  “Perception is selection” (Goleman, 1996, p. 21)….

We pay a price for repression with a self-fulling prophecy based on this bullshit.

So its clear, based on this description that self-deception is an emotional hot potatoes.  We find unseen things unpleasant and try to pretend they aren’t there.    In a post titled “stages of change” I provide an excellent example of what emotional hot potatoes look like.   If (hopefully) you read this link, you can see that my emotional hot potato was a desire to avoid re-experiencing the ostracism and bullying from my childhood.  Rather than experience this again, I entered a relationship with promises of more in the midst of more of the same.  I was so overwhelmed by unresolved trauma that it became a missing piece in my understand the world.  I became what others said I was and developed relationships with others based on this skewed self-perception.    You can’t solve a problem with the same mindset you had when entering into it.

Finally, blind spots in our thinking infect the relationships we have with others…

There’s definitely more than a grain of truth to the whole idea that like attracts like.   The key to being a bullshit magnet is failing to sort through your own crap.  Its impossible to see and perceive others with any sense of clarity if you’re wearing shit-stained lenses.  The following quote comes from a book “Secrets in the Family”:

“I will attempt to be some of the many important things you want of me, even though some of them are impossible, contradictory, and crazy, if you will be for me some of the important, impossible, contradictory, and crazy things I want of you.  We don’t have to let each other know what these things are, but we will be cross, sulk, become depressed or difficult if we do not keep up with the bargain” (Pincus & Dare, 1978).


Bjerring, J. C., Hansen, J. U., Pedersen, Nikolaj Jang Lee (2014). On the rationality of pluralistic ignorance. Synthese, 191(11), 2445-2470. doi:10.1007/s11229-014-0434-1, (n.d.) Suspension of disbelief. Retrieved from:
Dostoevsky, F. (2014). Notes from the Underground. Broadview Press.
Epstein, L. (1982, October 10).  Roundup of the Usual Suspects.  Retrieved from:
Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Anchor Books.
Goleman, D. (1996). Vital lies, simple truths: The psychology of self deception. Simon and Schuster.
Pincus, L., & Dare, C. (1978). Secrets in the Family. Pantheon. (2016, November, 7).  Self-Deception. Retrieved from:
Laing, R. D. (1971). The politics of the family, and other essays (Vol. 5). Psychology Press.
Schreber, D. P. (1955). Memoirs of my nervous illness. New York Review of Books.
Shapiro, D. (1996). On the Psychology of Self-Deception.  Social Research, 63(3). Retrieved from:
Images: 1, 2,

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Post Archive of My Favorite Subjects….

imageIts funny, I was never a good student growing up.   The bullying was tough, & focusing on my education was impossible.  As an adult, I find myself back in school pursuing a graduate degree.  I have to admit I’m a bit of a “geek”, I really enjoy education as an end goal in itself.  This page contains an alphabetical list of favorite subjects (As well as a miscellaneous array of fun stuff).


What is the WHODAS???
The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale
An ACE’s Study Assignment
Treatment Plan
Biopsychosocial Assessment
Mental Status Exam
Suicide Assessment
Understanding & Handling Resistance

A Review of Basic Counseling SKills

Confrontation, reflecting, focusing & influencing
Questioning & Listening Responses 
Active Listening Skills
Basic Attending Skills
Empathy, what is it? 
Feeling the Incompetence
Validation: what is it exactly?

Blast from the Past

The Story of an Almost Suicide
The Happy Family Game
Raggedy Ann & The China Dolls
A Recovering Schlumpadinka
“Why couldn’t I be what they want?”
“I’m sort of like a social plague. Why do I have to be me?”
In my Own Defense
I Suffer From Pathological Naviete
The Girl Who Refused to Speak
In my an “other”
An Interview with my Mother
I am a parental child and scapegoat
OMG he’s leaving us!

Case Formulation

MCC 670 – Data Gathering Assignment
MCC 670 – Metamodal Questions
MCC 670 – Defining the Problem 
MCC 670 – Setting Outcome Goals
MCC 670 – Subjective vs Objective
MCC 670 – Treatment Plan
MCC 670 – Crisis & Trauma
MCC 670 – Clinical Hypothesis
MCC 670 – Attachment Interventions
MCC 670 – Body & Emotions
MCC 670 – Existential & Spiritual Models
MCC 670 – Social & Environmental Models
MCC 670 – Behavior & Learning Models
MCC 670 – Cognitive Models
MCC 670 – Psychodynamic Models

Counseling Ethics

Boundary Setting
Informed Consent…
Nature & Limits of Confidentiality

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

DBT Skills – Emotional Regulation
DBT Skills – Interpersonal Effectiveness
DBT Skills – Distress Tolerance
DBT Skills – Mindfulness
DBT Skills – Radical Acceptance
What is DBT?

Group Therapy Classes…

((During my very first internship, I was expected to run several therapy groups independently. No curriculum was provided, so I had to scramble to learn the subject.  What follows is a log of research-related information which chronicles this experience.)))

Codependency Class Research
Parents in Recovery Research 

Identity & Self-Perception

Identity Defined
Personal Identity – on being full of hot air
Ego vs Shadow
On Being Contrarian
The Nature of Belief Systems
The Go-It-Alone-Mentality
PART ONE: I am a “Seer of Unseeable Things”
PART TWO: Understanding “Unseen Things”

Life Lessons

The Art of Failure
psychology of the Trump supporter
Second Chances
Loving what is right or hating what is wrong?
Seeking answers: on my computer
Living in Oppositeland
Feeling the Gratitude….(& A Few Oprah Favorites)
A Genogram Assignment
An Emotional Hot Potato
A Quick Show-N-Tell
One Life. Live it!
Is there a cure for Intellectualizing???
A Final Creative Project
What Would They Say?

Misunderstanding & Forgiveness

Anatomy of a Misunderstanding
& Cancer Trumps PSTD
Transactional Analysis (A Move Beyond Understanding)
The Power of Forgiveness
What Forgiveness is & isn’t
Collateral Damage
“I message” vs. “you messages”
“And” Statements vs. “But” Statements 

Myers Briggs Typology (MBTI)

INFP: “A food log for the mind…”
Understanding Introverted Feeling
Understanding Extroverted Intuition

Motivational Inteviewing & The Stages of Change

Stages of Change
What is Motivational Interviewing?
Motivational Interviewing & Resistance
Motivational Interviewing & Ambivalence
“Git Er Done!!!” – Motivation & Change
Stages of Change: Treatment Needs & Strategies….
Stages of Change & Domestic Abuse Survivors
Dealing with Uncooperative Clients
Changes Talk

Nature of Love

Twisted Self-Deception
Codependency, what is it???
The Irony of Love
It’s Unspoken Rules

Sometimes I Feel Overwhelmed: here is me “pissing & moaning” about it

shit job
I hate my fucking job
Pulling my Head Out
OMG!!! I Really Need to Take a Frickin’ Chill-Pill…
Sofa-Surfing With My Husband…
When Will This Fuckin’ Hell End???

Parenting Experiences

and it only took one month!
My Shameful Parenting Story
Good-Enough Parenting
Happy Birthday Piglet!!!
My Mother’s Day
He Turns 16 Today!!!
Sofa-Time Snuggle
OMG He’s Leaving us!!!

Self-Help Junkie

Insights from Brene Brown
Understanding Shame

Stuckness & Resistance

“Getting Unstuck” & Why I Started this Blog
Defining Goals for This Blog
My Merry-Go-Round
An Underdog’s Credo: “Choking vs. Panic”
Arrested Development (Erikson Not the Show)
Dealing with Uncooperative Clients
Understanding & Handling Resistance
Coercion & Confrontation
Accepting Responsibility: shame, blame, guilt & Resentment

Studying The DSM-5

Antisocial Personality Disorder
Dexter Morgan
Psychopathology & DSM Diagnosis
Dexter Morgan
childhood onset schizophrenia
the accurate diagnosis of psychosis
Generalzied Anxiety Disorder
G.A.D. – “The Stress is Killing Me!!!”
An Overview of Childhood Anxiety Disorders…
An Overview of Autism
An Overview of ADHD
An Overview of Bipolar Disorder
An Overview of Depression
Conduct Disorder & ODD (An Overview)
Borderline Personality Disorder

Studying for the NCE – “Assessment Section”

Rosenthal on Assessment Section of NCE
Transforming Raw Scores
Cognitive Assesssments
Norm/Criterion/Self Referenced Scoring
Basic Assessment Skills 
NCE Assessment Section – “The SASSI”
NCE Assessment Section – “The MMPI”
NCE Assessment Section – (Midterm Review Notes???)
NCE Assessment Section – (Cognitive Assessments)
NCE Assessment Section – (Reliability)
NCE Assessment Section – (Validity)
NCE Assessment Section – (Transforming Raw Scores)

Studying for the NCE – “Family Therapy Section”

Rosenthal on Family Section of NCE
Essential Family Skills
What is Family Therapy?
Solution-Focused Family Therapy
Murray Bowen Family Systems Theory
A Family Genogram
Contextual Family Therapy
Symbolic-Experimental Therapy
Satir Human Validation Process Model
Imber-Black Family Secrets
Strategic Family Therapy
Narrative Family Therapy
Emotionally Focused Therapy

Studying for the NCE – Research & Program Evaluation

NCE – Research & Program Evaluation

Studying for the NCE – Group Therapy

NCE – Group Therapy

Studying for The NCE – Social & Cultural Foundations

Multicultural Competency
A Cultural Self-Assessment
Culture & Rapport
Counseling Latino Clients 
Psychological Testing Bias
Counseling Older Adults
Asian-American Families
Understanding LGBT Clients 
Understanding Native Americans

Studying for the NCE – Counseling Theories

Choosing a Theoretical Orientation
Introduction To Behavioral Approaches
Classical Conditioning
Operant Condition-Inspired Models of Therapy
Karen Horney (Psychoanalysis)
Alfred Adler (Alderian Psychology)
Carl Jung (Analytic Psychology)
What is Psychodynamic Therapy???
Freud’s Ego Defense Mechanisms (Psychoanalysis)
Sigmund Freud (Psychoanalysis)
Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy
Aaron Beck’s CBT
Bandura’s Social Learning Theory
Carl Rogers Nondirective Approach
Transactional Analysis
Reality Therapy 
Existential Psychotherapy
Gestalt Therapy
Narrative Therapy
Solution-Focused Therapy

Studying for the NCE – Human Growth & Development

Attachment Therory
Robert Kegan “The Evolving Self”
R. J. Havinghurst
Lev Vygotsky
Harry Stack Sullivan
Margaret Mahler
Freud’s Psychosexual Stages
Lawrence Kohlberg
William Perry
Jean Piaget

Studying for the NCE – Career Counseling

Rosenthal Overview of Career Counseling
Prescriptive vs. Proscriptive Decision Making
Super’s Model
SSI Method
Parson’s Steps

The Nature of Emotions

The Nature of Emotions: Part #1
The Nature of Emotions: Part #2
The Intelligence of Emotions…
The Intelligence of Emotions, (Contd.)
Feelings about Feelings
Stolen Watermelons Taste Better


Dreams, Plans & Goals!!!
Fuck Facebook!!!

 Trauma & Healing Old Wounds

(HERE’S MY HUBBY’S STORY)“It was the most miserable day of my life” 

The earliest origins of my trauma started at home and continued at school.  There was no abatement for me, it was ongoing and continual.  I was completely alone
  1. (IT STARTED AT HOME) Happy Family Game
  2. (IT CONTINUED AT SCHOOL) The Girl With The Cooties
  3. (& THE BULLYING GOT REALLY BAD) Bullying as a Group Process
And these experiences left me with a lousy self-esteem & years of built-up misunderstanding that took a while for my family to work through  They struggled to accept the traumas I was working through, & strangely enough I had to apologize for the reality of this fact.
  1. (HERE’S WHERE I HAVE TO APOLOGIZE FOR MY OWN HURT)Anatomy of a Misunderstanding 
  2. (THIS DESCRIBES MY FEELINGS OF SHAME & INVALIDATION) Shame, Invalidation & A Little Baggage
  3. (& HERE IS THE COLLATERAL DAMAGE) Collateral Damage
But leaving home didn’t solve matters.  I carried the aftereffects of these early experiences with me & They infected my life, like the bubonic plague.
  5. (AND THIS IS WHERE I FEEL COMPLETELY BROKEN & ALONE) The Story of an Almost Suicide
However, it does get better, but not without a few hiccups along the way.  Here are the latest posts describing my journey toward healing.
However, I hate to leave on such a down note.  Here are my reflections on this lifelong journey of healing.  
  3. (HERE I REFLECT ON HOW HEALING HAS ALLOWED ME TO GET “UNSTUCK”) “Getting Unstuck & Why I Started this Blog”

Finally, here are a few references pages, containing critical information I need to access often.

This link provides information on how to properly complete essential paperwork I will encounter as a therapist.
This post provides an overview of the Mental Status Exam.
This post provides an excellent summary of Substance Use Disorders as discussed in the DSM-5

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A PTSD Survival Plan….

As I may have mentioned earlier in this blog, I have PTSD.  Coming to terms with this diagnosis has required me to develop a greater understand of the symptoms I’m experiencing.  I’ve also had to accept that I’ve had this disorder for much of my life.   My perception of “normal” is therefore skewed and I’m left wondering what it might feel like….

…The other concern which occupies my mind is the fact that this diagnosis has no cure.  Coming to terms with this fact has required me to fully develop a realistic understanding of healing means.  PTSD is managed and not cured.  This has been a bitter pill to swallow.  I mourn what could have been, and feel like a cumulative byproduct of others’ opinions about me.  I have to accept, regretfully, that I allowed the worst of my bully’s words throughout life, to become my truth.  Overcoming the cumulative byproduct of these early traumas has consumed much of my life.  On the alter of healing, a potential of “what could have been” has been sacrificed.  My own personal sense of self, has been consumed by external factors including a socially-relevant idea of my utilitarian value.  I feel like a man in a monkey suit with a scarlet letter sewn on front.  The fact that this perceived value has no basis in reality of my ultimate worth seems pointless.  I protest against the idea that anybody external to myself defines my ultimate worth.  However, by iterating this fact, I feel like that kid in story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.  At times I speak the truth and yet get crucified for it.  It seems as if the rules of the game in life are set up to drive me mad.  Socially relevant “truths” carry the weight of a collective systems of belief in which the majority of us play by the rules unquestioningly.  Acting otherwise seems like a radical idea to some….

…..And as I read this stream-of-thought, I realize it reflects intrusive memories of recent events that have trigged painful memories, I had naively believed were buried in the past….

A Trigger & Reminder…

“The traumatic event can be re-experienced in various ways.  Commonly, the individual has recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive recollections of the event…depressive rumination…intrusive distressing memories….(American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 275).”

The above video, provides a good sampling of the rhetoric I’ve heard during this election.  I brought it up on the November 8th, as the election results began pouring in.  Its worth noting, that my husband and I have divergent political beliefs.  He is an ardent conservative and Trump supporter.  I am a progressive who voted for Hillary in the hopes of preventing a Trump presidency. As I expressed my concerns regarding this hateful rhetoric, memories of a time long ago rendered my brain.   Feelings of shame fell over me as memories of past abuse flashed through my mind.   I began crying uncontrollably, as my husband immediately dismissed my concern, iterating the what he heard that night on the Fox network.

Before I begin, I must admit I’m not a very politically-minded person and this post has nothing to do with who is president.  It is a personal recollection of an experience that points out vividly the lasting impact of PTSD on my daily life.  

Needless to day, shock & panic took over as this year’s election results began pouring in.   Panic & anxiety set in as I struggled to understand his appeal. The very idea that Donald Trump would be president horrified me.   My mind vacillated between shock and horror, panic, and numbness.   As this painful reality set in, I describe how hurtful Trumps words were for me to hear as a trauma survivor.   Rather than providing comfort and an empathic ear, he became defensive and angry.   Misperceiving my concerns as an attack of his own political beliefs began criticizing and attacking everything I said.   This sent me into an emotional tailspin.   I ran headlong into an interaction that was reminiscent of a child that involved a complete dismissal of my thoughts and feelings.

As I struggle to manage the effects of this election on our marriage, I came to realize my symptoms were evidence of a diagnosis and not an ardent political belief system.  I’m coming to the realization that I need to take this PTSD diagnosis seriously.  What is it that causes these emotional flashbacks and the painful distressing memories?  

A Survival Tool-Kit…

What follows is a quick list of steps I can take to manage trauma triggers and the emotional flashbacks that might ensue.  I need a plan of action, to endure the resulting PTSD symptoms should they flood my mind.  Mind you this is something I create for my own benefit.  I’m not an expert here, I’m a sufferer who is learning to cope.  Here’s what I’m doing now & what appears to be working.  In this respect, it is a quick reminder on how to survive emotional flashbacks, should they recur.

STEP ONE:  Find a Psychiatrist.

Currently I’m only seeing a therapist.  I am not taking any medications and don’t have a psychiatrist following my case, since the one who diagnosed me retired.  This first step is much more frustrating that I might have imagined.  However, I’m happy to admit I’ve finally find somebody.

STEP TWO:  Identifying Trauma Triggers.

“Trauma triggers are reminders of a traumatic experience that provoke continued trauma symptoms. Trauma triggers can be internal or external stimuli, (Trauma triggers, 2012).”  At, site owner Anthony, makes a point of arguing the semantics of what is and/or isn’t a trigger, according to his self-imposed expertise (, 2015).  As a sufferer I don’t feel these semantics are of any value.  Instead, for survival purposes, self-awareness is the ultimate goal.  What is it that has produces these painful reactions to reminders of past traumas?  The DSM-5 manual notes the foll0wing about trauma triggers:

“[they can be] events that resemble or symbolize an aspect of the traumatic event, (e.g. windy days after a hurricane, seeing someone who resembles one’s perpetrator”.  The triggering cue could be a physical sensation (dizziness….rapid heartbeat). (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 275).”

“Even though it may sometimes feel like PTSD symptoms come out-of-the-blue, [they] rarely spontaneously occur….cued by something in our internal (thoughts or feelings) or external environment (…a stressful situation). (Tull, 2016a).”  It is for this reason, that the above description from the DSM-5 manual is useful as a jumping off point.   The following questions are posed in an article I found online titled: “How to Identify & Cope with your PTSD triggers?” (Tull, 2016a).

FIRSTLY, “what types of situations are you in (Tull, 2016a)?”

Utilizing the above example, I was in the middle of a conversation with my husband.   Throughout the election, the rhetoric (see video) has been hard for me to take in.  When I expressed my horror that a man with corrupt value system was in office, he became angry.  He began dismissing my perspective and refused to hear my concerns.  A critical aspect of this exchange reminded me of that bad relationship from long ago where my feelings were continually dismissed and belittled.   While not intended, my mind was thrown into a wellspring of negative emotions.  

SECONDLY, “What is happening around you (Tull, 2016a)?”

We were in the basement watching television together.  The kids were upstairs playing.  I remember feeling exhausted, still recovering after a three-day weekend night shift.   I drifted in and out of consciousness, taking cat naps throughout that evening.  Realizing our divergent political belief systems were problematic this election season, we’ve avoided the subject.  That evening we had agreed to not watch the results together.

With an f-d up sleep schedule, I found myself battling insomnia at 1 a.m.  I took out my iPad and decided to read a few blogs I like to follow.  The post I found announcing Trump’s win was unexpected, since this specific blog doesn’t cover the subject of politics.  As I started crying, my husband rolled over and asked me what I was reading.  This is when the conversation happened and things went downhill.

THIRDLY, “What kind of emotions are you feeling (Tull, 2016a)?”

A mixture of anxiety, fear, and depression overcame me.  They were to remain for the rest of the week as I began feeling I was left to “white knuckle it”.  Desperate for a magic “happy pill” to make the feelings go away, I was angry at myself for not finding a new psychiatrist since my last one retired.  Finally, I can’t help but compare my reaction to others’ I know who voted against Trump.  While my parents and sister were shock and worried about the nation’s future, somehow they remained more in control.  Like the above video, they found some ability to remain positive and keep things in perspective.  My mind, on the other hand, began spinning out of control…..

FOURTH, What thoughts are you experiencing (Tull, 2016a)?”

Intrusive and painful memories entered my mind.  I tried willing them to go away, but somehow found this impossible.  The most exquisitely painful memories that still haunt me, aren’t physical abuses, but simply harsh and abusive words.  Nothing can scar your soul more that emotional abuse and an endless barrage of hate and contempt.  The painful aspect of these experiences that still haunts me is that nobody acknowledged my feelings.  They did these mean things to me and let it known to me that it was my fault and I deserved what I got.  Somehow this fucked-up sentiment hurt the worst.

FIFTH, What does your body feel like (Tull, 2016a)?”

My body drifts back and fourth between a state of hyper-arousal and dissociative numbing. At a moments when the emotional pain is literally excruciating, I curse my family and their undying love for me.  If it wasn’t for this, I could just “off” myself and be done with it.  Enduring somehow has felt like a curse.  However, much I want to live and keep going, the struggle has been difficult.

STEP THREE:  Distract First…

When experiencing flashbacks or dissociative symptoms, first distract then challenge.  Distraction techniques involve “coping tools designed to ‘ground’ you in the present moment…so you can retain your connection with the present moment, (Tull, 2016b).”  The DBT distress tolerance and mindfulness skills described in this blog are useful as a jumping off point.  Distracting ourselves from a situation or trigger that can cause us pain, can ground us as we focus on the five senses (Tull, 2016b).  For example, one client I met recently has an aromatherapy glass roll-on bottle which she carries everywhere.  I, on the other hand, have utilized calming music, exercise or mandalas as a tool for distraction.

STEP FOUR:  Challenge Second….

Anthony at (2015), makes a useful point regarding ptsd triggers:

“Categorize your triggers as realistic or unrealistic. You may want outside opinions on this….Review your cognitive biases based on your immediate thoughts and reactions to the trigger, and have counter-statements prepared to confirm the unrealistic aspect of the trigger, (, 2015).”

This suggestion is useful in developing an awareness of how PTSD symptoms often reflect past events or unresolved cognitive biases, and not present situations.  Marsha Linehan’s emotional regulation skills a re useful in challenging our emotions and thoughts.  The ultimate goal here is thinking through them and not with them.

STEP FIVE:  Seek Support.

Tull (2016b), suggests finally, to utilize any support system we have in place.  “If you know that you may be at risk for a flashback or dissociation by going into a certain situation, bring along some trusted support.  Make sure that the person you bring with you is also aware of your triggers and knows how to tell and what to do when you are entering a flashback or dissociative state, (Tull, 2016b).”  My husband, sister, and parents have been a critical first line of defense here.

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American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing (2015, September, 2). PTSD Triggers.  What triggers PTSD symptoms?  Retrieved from:
TRAUMA TRIGGERS. Encyclopedia of Trauma. Jan. 1, 2012.
Tull, M., Phd. (2016a, May, 4)  How to identify and cope with your PTSD triggers.  Retrieved from:
Tull, M., Phd. (2016b, September, 6).  Coping With Flashback and Dissociation in PTSD.  Retrieved from:

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