Tag Archive | stuck points

Owning It – A step past acceptance

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I always say when you are open, the universe speaks to you. I am hearing one message loud and clear being repeated from multiple sources. It’s starting to sink in and take hold and I hope I can explain this clearly.

I’ve always had something to struggle against. An illness, a disease, a deformity, a disorder.  I’ve always accepted each one as it is diagnosed as a new part of me to struggle with, fight with – and HIDE!! I was taught to be normal, above all costs. Never let anyone know you are suffering. Never let anyone know you are different. Never let anyone know you need help. It is shameful, horrible, disgusting. It is whining, weak, pitiful. No one will want to listen or be in the room with you. No one will accept you with all of your flaws. You must only present a perfect version of yourself, like an edited photograph representing you instead of your real you.

No one can see you in a wheelchair, a brace, a bandage, a pimple, a scar, if you’ve gained a pound, if your nose is red from a cold. No one can see your pain or fear or confusion.

I followed those rules most of life, somehow I actually did. I hid my disabilities like a good girl. I know I shared my difficulty with having to use a can a year ago, in public. It took everything in me to show people I needed that, something so visibly wrong with me, and of course the comments came, “you’re too young to need a cane…” remember that?

OK, so my doctors are now recommending that I get special tinted lenses in my glasses, and special earplugs. The idea here is that my migraines are caused by overactivity, overexcitability, too much stimulation of neurons and these aids can help reduce sensory input, reducing triggers and sensory overload, meltdown and confusion. Makes sense, I struggle when shopping in bright lights or surrounded in a noisy crowd.

But my first thought was, hell no, I don’t want to look like a freak. What if people notice? What if they ask me about my weirdo glasses? Can I handle that?

I’m working with this one major stuck point still as it runs deeply and is multifaceted, this feeling of being a freak and needing to hide flaws. It is a core belief, reinforced by my entire family, and sadly, by most of my adult relationships as well. People do not often respond positively to people with special needs. But that doesn’t mean I should be afraid to have special needs. I started to accept that I do – but can I own it?

Here’s the difference. And wait for it, it was explained to me by my MIL!!! I was telling her about these lenses, and tentatively expressed my fear of wearing glasses that would make me stand out. The ones I need are likely a deep rusty rose color (and yes I’ve already explored all of the implications that my doctor is literally prescribing rose colored glasses, so, umm, anyway) and would be quite obvious. I asked MIL, what if people ask me, why are your glasses pink? She said “Tell them you like pink. Get some other pink things, a pink hat, flower, bow, necklace, color your hair pink. Own it. If they want to look let them look. If they want to ask, let them ask, Who cares what they think. If these glasses help you feel better…that’s all that matters, you are all that matters, not them. Just own it. Be someone who wears pink. why not”

I actually cried. My mind was blown. I have never heard such a message of acceptance in my entire life. And to come from someone that is closest to my mother figure, well, it has broken something in me. I needed someone’s permission I think, and she gave it to me. I can be weird. I can like pink. I look different. why not. who cares what they think?

Can I do that? Can I stop hiding? Can I own it? Oh my god I don’t know but I know I want to. Can I be the girl that doesn’t care what I look like when I dance in the rain, all alone? Just be her, own that feeling I get when I’m hiking and carry it with me everywhere? How do I start? I just start. I stop hiding.

I say hello world. This is me. I am not apologizing any more.

OH!

I forgot to add the other message I received from the universe. I was listening to music this morning, and put on Colbie Caillat to see what I got in the youtube mix. She always makes me happy. First song that came on was “Try” and I wasn’t writing yet, so I watched the video, with all these beautiful, unique women, and woah did this message hit me hard. Tears were unstoppable. This is exactly what I needed to hear coming from one of my favorite singers too. So simple – yet beyond powerful. I think I’ve heard the song before, but never absorbed it like today.

You don’t have to try so hard. to belong. Do they like you? you don’t have to bend until you break. you just have to get up. look in the mirror, at yourself. Do you like you? I like You.

Here’s the entire song:

Put your make-up on
Get your nails done
Curl your hair
Run the extra mile
Keep it slim so they like you, do they like you?

Get your sexy on
Don’t be shy, girl
Take it off
This is what you want, to belong, so they like you
Do you like you?

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to, give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try
You don’t have to try

Mm, mm

Get your shopping on, at the mall, max your credit cards
You don’t have to choose, buy it all, so they like you
Do they like you?

Wait a second,
Why, should you care, what they think of you
When you’re all alone, by yourself, do you like you?
Do you like you?

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to, give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to bend until you break
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try

You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try
You don’t have to try

Mm, mm

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to, give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try
You don’t have to try

Take your make-up off
Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror, at yourself
Don’t you like you?
‘Cause I like you

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No self worth – when a good little girl is never good enough

Don’t tell anyone. Don’t let them see. Don’t let them know. Keep quiet. Smile. You’re so pretty when you smile, no one wants to see an ugly face. Don’t bother the grown-ups. Be a good girl.

It’s our special secret. Crying never helped anyone. Only boring people get bored. Never let them see you sweat. Anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time. Wish in one hand, shit in the other, see which piles up quicker. Dreams are for idiots, geniuses make plans. Only fools waste time on books and art but you’re just a girl so I guess it doesn’t matter anyway. I don’t why you try so hard, you’ll never do anything important. Girls only get good grades or good jobs because you’re cute or because you cry.

These are only some of the messages I heard on a daily basis from my parents. I learned to be perfect – to only show people that I was perfect, and to hide every flaw. I was put in an impossible position of needing to be superhuman to be accepted and no matter what I achieved, I was treated as less than human, as nothing, nonexistent, an invisible nuisance like a gnat or fun toy for their sick amusement and pleasure.

Not only did I suffer from low self esteem and low self worth, I suffered from no sense of sense at all in this environment. My parents did not allow me to grow and develop into my own person, with unique desires, needs, and emotions. I existed only for them. I was completely enmeshed and served them. My only desires were to please them and be accepted – something I never knew was impossible. Abused children never know this, how can they?

So today I have some maladaptive behaviors based on core beliefs stemming from no self esteem. In fact I have way too many to describe in one blog post, so I will pick one that I’ve been discussing with my counselor recently.

I have a need to keep my secrets. I still need to hide my flaws. I still try to be perfect.

How can this be? I’m not a tortured little girl any longer. Why do I still resort to the same social behaviors that were taught to me as a child? Well, I haven’t learned any new ones yet. And until last week, I wasn’t even aware of how ridiculous some of my behaviors are, based on these unbalanced core beliefs. I’ll explain.

In January I had a particularly bad hemiplegic migraine attack that weakened my right arm and right leg for a few weeks. Sometime about 2 weeks after the attack, I decided to go grocery shopping by myself. I started pushing the cart and was doing fine for a while, until my right side fatigued as I put more in the cart and as I walked along. This was the first real exercise I had attempted since the attack but I was walking fine so I thought I could do it. First I started to limp, and then my right leg started to drag. I could no longer lift it. This was not alarming to me. Annoying, yes, but not alarming. I just knew it was time to go and headed to the checkout line. But to my horror, as I walked to the front of the store – people noticed my struggles.

People can’t see my struggles. People can’t know. Don’t tell them. Don’t let them see. Smile, no one wants to see your ugly face. Now you’ve done it. You screwed up.

First one, then another, then another, oh God no, another…people kept asking me if I was alright, did I need help, should they call someone, did I need a chair, could they push the cart for me….

Shut up! Leave me alone! Go away! Why did I come here today? Why did I think I could do this? I should have known better. I have to get out of here.

I smiled politely and told each person that I was fine. I refused help. Because I was fine. Because they have to think I’m fine. And if they can see I’m not then I’m actually going to pretend?? Hmmm.

Somehow I slowly made it out to my car, got my bags in it, locked the door. I wanted to take a moment to recover, but everyone was still there watching me! I had to get away. I drove home, with shaking hands, and tears started before I pulled into my driveway. I screamed and cried and hit the steering wheel and had an amazing fit that confused and shocked me. I had no idea what was happening. I felt horrible everywhere. My stomach was queasy, my throat was tight, my head was aching. I thought about my class and therapy – was this an emotion? Ha, I actually laughed at myself while I cried. I pulled out my chart of emotions and went through it….sadness, fear, shame, guilt, despair, frustration, humiliation, anger, grief, anxiety…I went on to name some more and ended with overwhelmed.

Why? What happened? Why is that response so strong for me? I’ve been working on this for a week now, completed several worksheets and I think I have a clue now. This situation actually encompasses several layers of stuck points, each one triggering the next core belief until I short circuit. I used to shut down, numb out and dissociate. This time I felt it all. Woah did I feel it.

Some of my stuck points for this event:

  1. If I can’t do my job I am worthless
  2. If people see my flaws I have failed
  3. If people see my flaws they will know I am nothing
  4. I’m not allowed to share my faults or secrets
  5. If I break a rule, I am bad
  6. If I get caught breaking a rule, I will be punished
  7. If people see me struggle I will be humiliated
  8. If people have to help me, I am a bother, a burden to them
  9. If people see something that I failed to hide, shared unintentionally, I have been violated
  10. If I let people see the real me, they will hurt me or leave me
  11. If I let people see my struggles, I am a failure, disobedient
  12. If I let people see my struggles, I will hurt them, make them uncomfortable

I overwhelmingly felt like a bad dog at that grocery store. Like I had messed on the carpet, chewed up the pillows and now my owner has caught me. The shame and fear were huge, but the disgust and self-loathing were intolerable. I was taught to hate myself and that lesson has stuck.

Like when I asked Mom if we could eat at Wendy’s after my back surgery at age 12, she said we could get drive-thru, couldn’t eat inside because she didn’t want anyone to see my leg brace and be uncomfortable. Wouldn’t want them to be unable to eat their lunches would you? They made me practice walking at night so no one would see. Kept me hidden away like I was hideous and would make people lose their appetites. I had a metal and plastic brace from my hip to my toes to stabilize the knee and ankle. It looked a little like the picture below, but my leg was a bit girlier, skinnier, and not so hairy.

afo_ankle_foot_orthosis_orthotic_brace

I see this now and I get so angry at my parents. Seriously. I wasn’t ALLOWED to be paralyzed? I am so freaking sorry that my being paralyzed put such a damper on your fashion plans for me and ruined lunch and social events that summer until, all on my own, because you denied me physical therapy and after care, I learned to walk again. A-holes.

OK. Sorry about that.

So anyways, I have some deep seated stuck points regarding how I am to behave, and even though I know rationally they are not healthy or realistic, I can’t simply snap my fingers and change it all.

Another example:

I told my counselor I am afraid of having flashbacks of my first back surgery during my next one coming up soon. And I’m not sure how to best prepare for it. I told her, it’s not like I can warn the hospital staff.

She says Why not?

Huh?

The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. No way. not possible. You want me to tell all of those strangers, nurses, transporters, volunteers, doctors, surgeons…that I might have a flashback? That I have PTSD? That I’m not normal? The thought filled me with the same mixed bag of fear, shame, dread, guilt, anxiety…no…we don’t tell people…they don’t need to know…

She challenged me. She does not back down. She asked me to list out everyone I’ve ever told about having flashbacks and PTSD. It was a VERY small list. Then asked which ones of those people humiliated, rejected, or said horrible things to me. Sigh. None of them. Each person I have told has been compassionate and understanding so far.

Then she asked if I’ve ever told medical personnel. I said yes, my neurologist, after I had been seeing her a while. And the counselors in the psych ward. And her of course. She asked if any of those people treated me horribly once they knew about my flashbacks. Again I had to say no.

Then she had me visualize, a brand new nurse coming in to my bed, and I was telling her her hello and just by the way, I might have a flashback, I have PTSD, I just wanted you to know. How do you think she would respond? I tried sooo hard, but in every scenario the worst I could come up with would be maybe a nurse being abrupt or like ok, whatever, but no one being horrible. Most responses I imagined were “Thanks for letting me know, is there anything I can do to help?” or “What can I do to help make this less stressful for you?”

This fear I had…fear of what?? I had no idea. I had no idea what the terrible consequence might be. What exactly had my parents been trying to prevent all these years? Why did we all have to be perfect? What is this horrible thing that happens when people know the truth?

The answer is NOTHING!! Nothing happens. Its all a lie to keep us quiet and afraid. Was it all about control? Did they need us to be perfect so they could be perfect parents? Had my mom not told her friends I was paralyzed so she couldn’t risk anyone seeing me? If kids are perfect, then other people don’t ask questions and they get in trouble? Was it about her and them – and never about me at all? All of my shame was about covering their own asses? And I’m still doing these behaviors, to protect them, unknowingly, because it is habit, hard wired and ingrained in me.

I’m such a good girl.

I’m both sickened and amazed by these revelations. I think one day I may be free. But these chains are still bound tightly.

(picture credit: By Pagemaker787 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

Shining Light on Shame Gremlins

 

shine light

(Photo Credit: By carlos gonzalez (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

Shame is a powerful feeling that is not only an emotion but can also be a state of being – a form of existence. Shame results from comparison, when you look deep inside and evaluate yourself as not good enough. It can start from someone else’s criticism or from your own criticism directed inward. Guilt is when you feel you have DONE something bad. Shame is when you feel YOU are bad.

Huby and I spent two sessions discussing shame with our couples counselor now and my mind is blown. We both apparently have shame triggers, what the counselor calls shame gremlins, responsible for our patterns of arguments, misunderstandings, lack of intimacy, and poor communication over the years. Counselor said the only way to kill a gremlin is to shine light on it. (remember what happened in the movie?)

Okay, he had my curiosity, again. He was either crazy or brilliant, so I paid close attention because either way is interesting to me. He said shame makes us wants to hide, alone, in the dark. (ding, ding, ding – not sounding crazy) We naturally don’t confess we are feeling ashamed and may not even recognize it. Instead we go into defensive and self-protective mode automatically. (wow not crazy at all…) What are your automatic reactions? Do you get angry and yell? That’s what Hubby does. Do have an urge to leave the room, run away, hide and be alone? That’s what I do.

Shame is more likely to trigger anger in men and depression in women. Hmmm.

So here’s an example of how shame causes trouble in my marriage:

We’ve been preparing the house for a kiddo to have a birthday party here this weekend. You all know I hate having people here, but I worked through my fears with many worksheets and I’m feeling okay about this party. Even though I’ve spent 10 out of the past 14 days in bed or in the hospital bed with migraines, I’ve been able to let go of SOME of the anxiety. I still don’t want the party here, but I am resolved to do it for the kiddo, he deserves to have his friends here. I can do it for him. My illness is out of my control. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do. I’m strangely almost peaceful about this. I’m doing what I can and it feels like enough, almost. Its not terrible anyway.

So my role is to mainly manage and delegate to kiddos what to do and keep them working. We were all busy cleaning last weekend and I was having my 7 year old do some dusting. While we were doing this, Hubby came over and said something to me about how good we were all doing, and that we were “deep cleaning” not just tidying, so it was taking longer but worth the effort and really needed done.

If you’ve ever watched a 7 year old dust, there is no “deep cleaning” happening.

So I giggled at Hubby’s comment and said something like “I don’t know about “deep cleaning” but we are making good progress here”

Hubby instantly got angry and started yelling at me about how hard he is working and I’m so mean or not fair, and he’s sick of these nasty comments, and whatever he does is never enough…on and on and on…

Woah – I had no idea what happened. But now I do. Hubby was instantly shamed.  My comment wasn’t about him, but he interpreted it that way, internalized it as criticism that I don’t think he is doing good enough, and that HE is not good enough. So his automatic defense is to yell back in anger, anything to stop feeling that shame. Shame is intolerable, anger is easier to manage.

So then he yells at me, and I can’t figure out what I did wrong. Here’s the fun part. It then triggers shame in ME! But I don’t fight back and yell. I get quiet, slip out of the room, isolate myself alone in my room, feel like crying, maybe feel like dying for being such a terrible person and I don’t even know why.

Wow. OK. How many hours of my childhood did I spend in exactly that state of mind? Hiding, trying to be invisible, trying to figure out what I did wrong, how to be a better person, keep myself away from everyone to protect myself from the chaotic world. I felt safest when alone. No one attacks or shames me when I’m alone.

Here’s the crazy part. Neither of us actually ever criticize each other – intentionally. We’re not like that, we try to be kind and good, and over the top appreciative of each other. It’s why it is so surprising and confusing to have the shame gremlin show its ugly head in the middle of an otherwise pleasant conversation, and then AHH, teeth, claws, daggers, RUN.

Here’s another example of a shame gremlin the counselor wants me to shine that light on:

This one will actually be more difficult. I’m supposed to tell Hubby every time I have a flashback. Instead of trying to hide it. My method for coping with flashbacks has been to get myself grounded as quickly as possible, figure out if anyone noticed, make up some excuse for me acting weird if they did notice, pretend to be ok for as long as possible, then recover from it later when I’m alone, and maybe tell Hubby about it later, maybe not.

I’m ashamed to have flashbacks. I feel like a freak. I don’t want anyone to know or worry about me. I don’t want to talk about it, or what I just experienced. And sometimes I can’t. Sometimes there are no words to express what I re-experienced. (Why? Well let’s see, say we are going out to dinner and Hubby reaches for his coffee and I have a flashback about driving with AF, and I feel his hands on me, sliding up my thigh like he used to do while he drove and I would try to sit as far as possible by the door out of his reach but nowhere was out of his reach. So am I really supposed to share that moment, explain the memory, bring more attention to it rather than look away from it? And then Hubby and I are supposed to somehow continue into the restaurant for dinner then? Talk about spoiling the mood. Is it fair that I went through that alone? I guess not, but I don’t see how it is better for us both to feel the pain) Yeah, well, these counselors say I can’t do that any more. No more hiding. If I’m with Hubby I need to tell him about it, and if I’m alone I need to write it in my flashback log and share with Hubby later. Eeek.

Just writing it now brings up HUGE amounts of fear. I’m supposed to hide. I’m not ready. I’m comfortable in the dark with the gremlins. I’m afraid to shine the light. This fear is terror, throat choking terror. I have a few stuck points to work through about this and I’m still working on the phrasing. Here’s what I have so far.

  1. If anyone knows there is something wrong with me I will have failed
  2. I am worthless if I have any flaws
  3. No one will love me if they know the real me
  4. My secrets are too horrific to share
  5. Accepting help is a sign of failure, worthlessness
  6. It is pointless to try to explain myself because no one ever understands
  7. If people know about my problems…(I don’t know how to finish this one, it’s so strong, I’d rather die protecting my secrets than be exposed, but I can’t think of an ending that makes sense. I’m just “not allowed” to tell people about my problems and this core belief is hard wired)

 

 

Are you Stuck? I am

CPT introduced the concept of ‘stuck points’ to me and at first I was completely lost, confused, skeptical, and thought I could never figure it out. I was amenable to the idea that I may be stuck, that my brain may have automatic thought patterns that get me in trouble with unwanted symptoms. I reluctantly admitted that FINE I do have mental illness, that my anxiety/depression from this c-ptsd is no longer something I can hide or want to hide and I’m willing to listen if these new counselors SWEAR, I mean, cross their hearts and hope to die swear that they know how to help me out this hell hole I am trapped in, well then I will fess up.

I am a mess. I am stuck. I have always been a mess. I’ve pretended and avoided and dealt with pain and panic and terror all of my life.

They say there is another way to live. They say I can get UN-stuck. Hmmm. Yeah right, I think. But I’m curious. So I listen.

Here is what they explained to me about stuck points.

“Basically, stuck points are conflicting beliefs or strong negative beliefs that create unpleasant emotions and dysfunctional or unhealthy behavior. Stuck points can be formed in a couple of different ways: 1. Stuck points may be conflicts between prior beliefs and the traumatic experience. 2. Stuck points may also be formed if you have prior negative beliefs that are confirmed or reinforced by the traumatic experience.”

That’s where the confusion set in. Prior beliefs? What does that mean? I bravely asked my counselor in front of the group, and she explained that this means our beliefs prior to the traumatic experience. We were supposed to be comparing our thoughts, feelings and beliefs from before and after the traumatic experience. Ohhh…wow. OK well that would make sense if I had only one, and if I could remember a life before or without trauma/abuse. But I can’t. My youngest memories at age 3 already include sexual and other abuse. I have NO PRIOR beliefs. All of my beliefs were formed and shaped during trauma. I expained this to the counselor, and saw the room react. Even in a room full of trauma victims, I managed to shock them, and invoke pity, yay me.

So my counselor had to explain stuck points differently for me to understand.

“Stuck points are thoughts that keep us from recovering.  Unbalanced, extreme thoughts we say repeatedly, automatically to ourselves everyday, often in times of stress, and usually when we exhibit avoidance or otherwise self-destructive behaviors.”

I asked her if she meant negative self-talk? Like, I’m a freak, I’m worthless, I can’t do it? She said those can be good places to start, but that stuck points can be about anything and anyone, and we may not recognize it as negative self-talk, but only as self-talk. Hmmm. So I was sent home with a blank stuck point log and told to start listening to myself and which phrases pop up often. It was difficult at first, these phrases were so ingrained that I did not know I was even thinking them. It is getting easier to hear myself now, pull out my log and jot another down. And then sigh. Before I’m so stuck its difficult to see how to get past any one of these let alone this entire sheet of them. A list like this, showing you exactly how messed up you are, is not an easy thing to own. This is not a perfect score and I no longer have any way to run or hide. I get angry and nauseous every time I look at it, and yet I keep somehow looking at it. Because I want to start crossing them off. Blasting them away with maniacal laughter and awesome laser sound effects. Some day…

Well, Here’s my own personal list so far, this is still growing and being refined:

  1. People will eventually hurt me
  2. I can’t get too close to anyone
  3. No one will understand me
  4. All doctors make mistakes and may make it worse
  5. People live double lives and can’t be trusted
  6. Everyone lies
  7. I can’t experience my feelings until its safe
  8. Its not safe to feel emotions until I’m alone
  9. They will think I’m a freak if they see or hear me
  10. No one will accept the real me
  11. I’m a burden to others
  12. I make others uncomfortable and cause them too much pain
  13. I can’t do this by myself
  14. I can’t protect myself
  15. I’m not good enough
  16. I am too flawed, damaged and broken to be mended or ever fit in and have a normal life
  17. Everyone I love leaves me
  18. I’m no fun unless I fake it
  19. I can’t count on anyone
  20. I’m better off alone
  21. It’s pointless to try, it doesn’t matter anyway
  22. If I don’t do what I’m supposed to do, bad things will happen
  23. If I don’t control the environment someone will get hurt
  24. If I don’t think of everything no one else will do it, and something bad could happen
  25. If let others know what I’m thinking or feeling they could use it to hurt me

I’ve found great resources online that helped me when I was confused on my homework, I’ve included some excerpts below from this link Stuck Point Help Sheet from Ryerson

Below are examples that are commonly misidentified as stuck points:

Not a stuck point:  “Trust”
Why not?   This is a concept, not a thought.  It is not specific, and you need to identify what the person thinks about trust.  In this example, you might ask him/her what about ‘trust’ is a problem.
Possible related stuck points:  “I can’t trust anyone.” “If I let anyone get close to me, I will get hurt.” “I can never trust my judgment.”

Not a stuck point:  “I am nervous whenever I go on a date”
Why not?   This is describing a feeling, not a thought.  In this example, you might ask what patients are telling themselves about the date to help them identify potential stuck points.
Possible related stuck points:  “If I go on a date, I will get hurt.”  “People always take advantage of me.”

Not a stuck point:  “I fight with my daughter all the time”
Why not?   This is describing a behavior, not a thought.  In this example, you might ask more about the client’s thinking before, during, and after a recent fight with her daughter to identify possible stuck points.
Possible related stuck points:  “I don’t mean anything to her.”  “I must be in control to keep her safe”

Not a stuck point:  “I witnessed people die”
Why not?   This is describing a fact, not a thought.  In this example, you might ask for the client to describe the impact of witnessing others die.  What thoughts did he have at the time, what thoughts does he have now? Or after that statement asking – And, therefore?
Possible related stuck points:  “It was my fault that people died.”  “I should have done something to prevent it.”

Not a stuck point:  “I don’t know what will happen to me” or (“What will happen to me?”)
Why not?   This is a question about the future.  In order to find the stuck point in this example, you might ask clients when they ask themselves that question, what is the answer they come up with?  What is the meaning of that answer?
Possible related stuck points:  “I will not have a future.”  “I am not deserving of good things in my future”

 

A few reminders about good stuck point structure: 

  • If you are struggling, put a statement into the “If…., then…” format if possible and fill in the blank. For example, “If I had seen the mine, then Joe would not have died”. On the impact statement, you can underline stuck points and put into “if/then” format on the Stuck Point Log.
  • Stuck points are typically black/ white statements, and use extreme language. Extreme language can sometimes be hidden, for example, sometimes when a patient says “It was my fault” they really mean “It was ALL my fault” – the second can be easier to get some movement on.
  • Stuck points are harder to challenge when they are too vague. Make it more specific by asking, “How did you come to this conclusion?  For example, “I trust no one” can be refined to “If I trust others, then I’ll get hurt.”

Examples of Stuck Points

  1. If I had done my job better, then other people would have survived. (assimilated)
  2. Other people were killed because I messed up. (assimilated)
  3. Because I did not tell anyone, I am to blame for the abuse. (assimilated)
  4. Because I did not fight against my attacker, the abuse is my fault. (assimilated)
  5. I should have known he would hurt me. (assimilated)
  6. It is my fault the accident happened. (assimilated)
  7. If I had been paying attention, no one would have died. (assimilated)
  8. If I hadn’t been drinking, it would not have happened. (assimilated)
  9. I don’t deserve to live when other people lost their lives. (over-accommodated)
  10. If I let other people get close to me, I’ll get hurt again. (over-accommodated)
  11. Expressing any emotion means I will lose control of myself. (over-accommodated)
  12. I must be on guard at all times. (over-accommodated)
  13. I should be able to protect others. (over-accommodated)
  14. I must control everything that happens to me. (over-accommodated)
  15. Mistakes are intolerable and cause serious harm or death. (over-accommodated)
  16. No civilians can understand me. (over-accommodated)
  17. If I let myself think about what has happened, I will never get it out of my mind. (over-accommodated)
  18. I must respond to all threats with force. (over-accommodated)
  19. I will go to hell because of the things that I have done. (over-accommodated)
  20. I am unlovable. (over-accommodated)
  21. Other people should not be trusted. (over-accommodated)
  22. My hypervigilance is what keeps me safe. (over-accommodated)
  23. If I have a happy life, I will be dishonoring my friends. (over-accommodated)
  24. I have no control over my future. (over-accommodated)
  25. The government cannot be trusted. (over-accommodated)
  26. People in authority always abuse their power. (over-accommodated)
  27. I am damaged forever because of the rape. (over-accommodated)
  28. I am bad because I killed others. (over-accommodated)
  29. I am unlovable because of [the trauma]. (over-accommodated)
  30. I am worthless because I couldn’t control what happened. (over-accommodated)
  31. I deserve to have bad things happen to me. (over-accommodated).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Challenging beliefs, cpt example

Cpt introduced me to some powerful tools, mainly this worksheet used for organizing thoughts, feelings, and cognitive distortions.

Cpt seems to take over for where CBT has gotten me but left me. Addressing stuck points, identifying automatic thoughts and feelings, and then challenging them in this structured, step by step format has been amazing…and terrifying too. I’ve never felt so vulnerable, like having a microscope inspect your thoughts and then document all the unbalanced problems. It’s difficult not to feel like a totally messed up freak with this much new awareness. No more hiding. No more saying I’m fine. I’m clearly not.

I wanted to share one of these worksheets here.

image

I’ll go through an example if how to fill one out later. Writings not coming easily to me today.

If knowledge is power

Why do I feel so weak? I have all this new knowledge. The blinders are off. The process has begun to build a new and improved me. We started by identifying everything we need to work on in cpt and its not a cute tidy little to do list.

First they helped me to recognize some of my stuck points. These are unbalanced automatic thoughts I think to myself. I have identified so many now in many different areas, we break them down into modules like trust, safety, intimacy, etc. An example for safety is “I can’t protect myself”. This is a phrase I find myself thinking often and will usually cause me extreme anxiety or avoidance of the event. Being a small, abused girl with a weak leg has given me unbalanced thoughts about my personal safety. I was unaware of these thoughts and the powerful emotions the thoughts produced until I took the cpt class.

Through a series of guided worksheets and writing exercises they helped me get in touch with some of me genuine thoughts and emotions. The counselors at the center for traumatic stress helped me untangle the mess of overwhelming crapstorm that caused me to disassociate and shutdown.

Some days it felt more like dumbledore was magically retrieving this information from my brain as I watched in amazement. But now I have some awareness if not yet the skills to do it myself. I no longer black out when connecting mind to body to emotion. I can feel some of it, which would be so much more exciting if I had tons of repressed joy. Sadly I have decades of unexpressed sadness, grief, anger, fear, terror, pain. I have so much to work through and figure out.

I’m mainly overall completely confused. I don’t recognize my own brain, partly from the therapy, and partly from the migraines.

We’ve also started couples counseling at the trauma center. Attacking this cptsd from every angle. Hubby is seeing his own counselor now and I barely recognize our marriage either. So many changes, growth, even when for the better still has tremendous growing pains.

So I’m going to start blogging again, the good and the bad, because I need a concrete way to measure change over time and journaling my thoughts seems one if the best ways to track that.

I’ll fill in and document some of the missing details if the past year and then I’ll go forward.

I’m hoping that by posting this, it could be helpful to someone else waivering on their path. If nothing else, I do seem to keep going. I’m going to be discussing some very intense and difficult topics soon. I think I’m ready to write it.