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Alan G. TMS and childhood trauma

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by Guest, Jun 9, 2014.

  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

    This question was submitted via our Ask a TMS Therapist program. To submit your question, click here.

    Thank you for offering this wonderful service. I am a regular here but need anonymity given the sensitive nature of my question. I will keep an eye out for any follow up questions.

    I have long suspected the root for much of my TMS is because I was horribly raped and beaten by a stranger when I was 13. I'm not sure what was worse….the event or the gossip of the small town or my family's silence. (Mom did tell me she was proud of how strong I was. This was the extent of any emotional help I received. She also told me that I needed to be careful because "it could happen again." Yeah, that was really helpful.)

    A very small solace was the fact that because I reported this to the police, they were able to grab the bastard when he was stalking out his next victim.

    In journaling, I realize a huge issue is how I've hated myself for not running when I had the chance. The signs were all there and when he started attacking me, my fight/flight/freeze reaction was FREEZE.

    I can't even express how difficult it is for me to type these words. It was only recently that I told my husband of many years more specifics of what happened. (He knew I had been raped but not the extent.)

    I'm not sure if telling him was helpful or not. He tends to shut down when he can't handle things and is unable to offer much encouragement. (Mind you, his heart is in the right place and I know he loves me very much. He did tell me he wanted to go kill the guy.)

    I have told very few people about this; the shame is still great and its still just to damn painful, even decades after the event. I have walked through many forgiveness exercises over the years.

    I suspect there's a lot of rage there but I feel numb inside when I think about it. I've compartmentalized it for so long it just sits there like a dusty reference book high on a library's shelf.

    Can you help me understand how this has played a role in my severe TMS? I think Dr. Sarno would send me to a therapist but I am just not able to do that right now so please know I greatly appreciate any insight you can give me.

    Now for the tough part…hitting "submit".

    kevinmichael likes this.
  2. Alan Gordon LCSW

    Alan Gordon LCSW TMS Therapist

    Thank you for being brave enough to make yourself so vulnerable with this question. I want to tell you something. Your decision to freeze instead of run was not a decision at all. In the face of a threat, our primitive brain reacts automatically (as a result of millions of years of evolutionary programming) and does not consult with us when determining what action to take.

    Freezing was not a choice, it was a primitive instinct no more in your control than jumping at a loud sound or closing your eyes when you sneeze. Please show yourself some compassion and let yourself off the hook for this.

    You mentioned feeling a lot of shame around the incident. Feelings of shame around a trauma can often be reduced by talking openly about it with someone you trust to respond in an open and accepting way. Family members, close friends, or support groups can be wonderful for this.

    Regarding the rage you think you’re repressing, intensive short term dynamic psychotherapy (ISTDP) is a great therapeutic approach with regard to getting in touch with powerful repressed emotions. If you’re not able to see a therapist who uses this approach, the second edition of Howard Schubiner’s book, “Unlearn Your Pain” has a section on ISTDP and has some exercises to try and help you do it on your own.

    It’s hard to know what role this incident played in the development of your TMS symptoms. Many people spend a lot of time looking for the “magic bullet,” the one instance from their past that if they just process, their symptoms will go away. This is often a frustrating and fruitless search.

    TMS symptoms are usually the result of one’s present relationship with themselves and their emotions. Of course, past traumas can play a large part in the development on one’s relationship with themselves and their emotions.

    It’s possible that the rage you’ve repressed with regard to this event has led to a (or reinforced a previous) pattern of repression that still exists today.

    Talking openly about this trauma with people that you trust, processing your justified feelings of rage toward the perpetrator for his actions, your family for their silence, and the townspeople for their alienation, and exploring your relationship with yourself and your emotions will likely go a long way toward reducing your suffering.


    Any advice or information provided here does not and is not intended to be and should not be taken to constitute specific professional or psychological advice given to any group or individual. This general advice is provided with the guidance that any person who believes that they may be suffering from any medical, psychological, or mindbody condition should seek professional advice from a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions. No general advice provided here should be taken to replace or in any way contradict advice provided by a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions.

    The general advice and information provided in this format is for informational purposes only and cannot serve as a way to screen for, identify, or diagnose depression, anxiety, or other psychological conditions. If you feel you may be suffering from any of these conditions please contact a licensed mental health practitioner for an in-person consultation.

    Questions may be edited for brevity and/or readability.

    kevinmichael, Becca and Ellen like this.
  3. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Dr. Gordon, I hope that Guest follows your advice to talk about her childhood trauma. That sure must have been a frightening
    experience. You were an innocent victim. God does not blame you, neither should you hold any negative feelings about yourself.

    I hope she reads Dr, Schubiner's book Unlearn Your Pain.

    If anyone else has suffered what Guest has, it would be great if you replied to her in this sub forum and tell how you dealt with the issue, or are dealing with it.
    kevinmichael likes this.
  4. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    My heartfelt admiration goes out to the question asker for the courage she is showing in facing these challenges.

    I'm currently traveling and about to reach my destination, so I can't write much, but if anyone would like to reply anonymously to this discussion thread, I encourage them to use the offer at the following link:
    kevinmichael likes this.
  5. Anne Walker

    Anne Walker Beloved Grand Eagle

    About twenty years ago I produced a documentary about the myths surrounding rape. We followed one woman through her personal story and interviewed all the various people she would come into contact with once she made the decision to report the rape - police, nurses, doctors, investigators, judge etc. In order to find the one woman that we choose to tell her personal story, we put out an add in the local paper(this was before the internet was popular). I was responsible for answering the phone calls and screening potential participants. I spoke with over 75 women and was not at all prepared for the volume of calls or the stories I would hear. For many I was the first person they had ever told about what happened. I just want to say that you are incredibly strong and brave. You were very, very young and it took tremendous courage to report the event and enable the police to catch the man before he injured another. You mentioned how painful the town gossip and your family's silence was and I wish with all my heart that everyone was better educated on what to say and do to help support survivors of rape. There are so many misconceptions and this is why so many women remain silent, which hinders healing and leaves these men free and unpunished. I personally have found Peter Levine's books on somatic experiencing and how to release trauma extremely helpful. I also work with a somatic experiencing therapist who follows his work and this has been key to my healing from TMS. I am confident you will succeed in your TMS recovery and you are on the right path.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2014
  6. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Wow, once again, many, many thanks to you Alan and the other therapists who answer these questions. Shame and silence goes hand in hand. In my family, my older brother molested my sisters. Why I was never victimized I'll never know. He was shipped off to a boy's home when he was around 12 and I wonder if that was my parent's way of dealing with the dirty secret that was never discussed.

    Alan, it's funny you mentioned the ISTDP protocol. It sounds like Schubiner has had a lot of success using that and that's what got my attention doing Schubiner's Unlearn Your Pain program. I have an appointment with him mid-July.

    Anne, over the years I've had several woman open up to me about their being assaulted….and they'd tell me I was the first one they told. It is a trust that has humbled me.

    Finally, Guest, gentle hugs to you...
  7. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Guest, I would also like to express my admiration for your courage in telling your story and reaching out for support. I know that your question and Alan's excellent response will help many.

    It saddens me how pervasive it is in our culture to blame and shame victims of sexual assault. I believe this is a defense mechanism that people engage in to lessen their fear about their own vulnerability to random acts of violence. Still, the lack of empathy and compassion is very disheartening.

    Guest, I wish you all the best on your healing journey...
    kevinmichael, Anne Walker and Forest like this.
  8. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yesterday a favorite niece and her nice husband came here for a visit and brought a delicious lunch.

    I told them about TMS and Sarno and the wiki and forums and they were very responsive.
    My niece works as a high school counselor and says she often helps kids with their emotional issues
    so she will look into TMS. I gave examples from my childhood stresses and it definitely rekindled it all,
    but I felt good about it. It was kind of emotionally exhausting so when they left I just sat and meditated
    and relaxed and that too felt good. I told them the family stresses and how I put myself in their shoes
    and was able to forgive them. It all felt good and was a very meaningful visit for us all.

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