I have been readingThe PTSD Workbook, and found some pretty awesome exercises that will anyone in whatever stage they are in their healing process as a survivor of sexual abuse! Mary Beth Williams, PhD, LCSW, CTS and Soili Poijula, PhD explain in understanding their trauma is recognizing the three major types of factors that influence the development of post-traumatic stress disorder: pre-event factors, event factors, and post event factors.
Some factors that influence whether or not a person develops PTSD is their exposure to pre-event factors. Unfortunately, it is the exposure of pre-event factors that has the potential to create Complex-PTSD (C-PTSD). C-PTSD is a form of type II PTSD where symptoms occurred early in life, were prolonged, and interpersonal. While childhood sexual abuse qualifies as possibly resulting in C-PTSD there are other factors which contribute:
- previous exposure to severe adverse life events or trauma or childhood victimization, including neglect, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, or witnessing abuse
- family instability, including a history of parental psychiatric disorder, numerous childhood separations, economic problems, or family violence
- trouble with authority, even in childhood, including running away from home, school suspension, academic underachievement, delinquency, fighting, or truancy
- absence of social support to help out in bad times
- multiple early losses of people, possessions, or home
HEROES AND VILLAINS WITH C-PTSD
You may notice that many of the superheroes we love fall into many, if not all, of these pre-event factors. For example, the loss of Bruce Wayne’s parents resulted in an absence of social support to help in bad times. Clark Kent / Kal-El loss of his parents with the destruction of his planet, Krytpon, created a feeling of childhood separation with the loss of his family of origin. Finally, Barry Allen’s loss his mother and father created multiple loses early in his life. The list of characters continue in the Marvel universe with the death of Peter Parker’s parents, the domestic abuse and eventually murder of Bruce Banner’s mother by his father, and the absence of Matt Murdock’s mother before, during, and after losing his sight.
What’s also interesting is that many villains we may see ourselves as also suffer from C-PTSD. Bane grew up in a pit that filled with water each day with no one to care for him creating a sever life experience. Lex-Luthor’s father was a drunk and abusive forcing the young boy to run away on more than one occasion. Finally, while intelligent, Leonard Snark, came from an abusive household resulting in fighting and delinquency. In the Marvel universe Victor von Doom was targeted and hunted with the rest of his family, and Harry Osbourn’s father, Norman Osbourn, was verbally abusive and emotional absent.
The primary difference that separates one from the other is the ability to develop resilience from the impact of trauma. What is similar between the two groups is that both heroes and villains struggle to come to terms and heal from their C-PTSD. To move from identifying as either hero or villain, you must progress down the path of healing to become a survivor.
EXERCISE: MY ABILITY TO COPE WITH TRAUMA
In The PTSD Workbookan exercise I recently completed helped me to understand where I was in my ability to heal from the trauma of my childhood sexual abuse. I have been working to recover from the trauma of my childhood sexual abuse for over five years with the help of a therapist, psychiatrist, medication, and meditation so I may be a little further along than many other survivors. Even with that being said, I still struggle with depression, anxiety, shame, and grief daily. This exercise below may help you the same way it helped me.
Directions:Check those of the following statements that you believe apply to you.
- ______ I have a high degree of extraversion (I like to be with people).
- ______ I am open to new experiences.
- ______ I am conscientious in the work I do (I follow through).
- ______ I am an agree able person.
- ______ I believe that my source of personal power lies within me.
- ______ I am confident in my own abilities to cope with situations.
- ______ I try to find meaning in what happens to me.
- ______ I try to break down bad situations into manageable parts I can handle.
- ______ I am motivated to solve the problems that occur in my life.
- ______ I am generally an optimistic person – I see things more positively than
- ______ I take control in situations whenever possible, or at least try to take
- ______ I like a good challenge, and I rise to the occasion.
- ______ I am committed to overcoming the bad things I have experienced in life.
- ______ I have a good social support network – there are people I can turn to.
- ______ I understand my life’s circumstances and what I can and cannot do about
- ______ I have faith.
- ______ I have a sense of humor.
- ______ I have a sense of hope.
- ______ I like to try new things or look at things in new ways.
- ______ I am open to how others feel.
- ______ I am an action-oriented person – I would rather do something than sit back and let it be done to me.
- ______ I actively try to structure my life and make plans.
- How many items did you check? Do you notice any pattern of those you did or did not check?
- What do you observe about yourself from reading these statements?
The more you checked, the more likely you are to take action and to work through the trauma that happened to you. However, if you have not checked many it does not mean that you are not deserving of healing. Everyone, no matter of their past, deserves to heal from their childhood trauma to become a complete person.
What I Observe:
- I checked 11 of the 22 questions. What I noticed about the questions I did not check is that I still have a problem with spontaneity. I do not like to try things I cannot control because it scares me and results in a feeling of insecurity and shame from being sexually abused as a child. It also makes me feel worthless and suicidal thoughts.
- I observe that I although I have come a long way, I still am in recovery.
*If you enjoy this exercise it can be found in The PTSD Workbook: Third Edition(2016).