Summary: Learn how living with someone with PTSD can affect our body and mind and experience a motion which will help to resolve the symptoms. Join host Pamela Stokes in this third episode in the PTSD Awareness Month Series for June 2021. PTSD can be cured and together we can break the cycle! Thanks for joining in the evolution of the species!
- Symptoms of living with someone with PTSD
- Molecules of Emotion (Candace Pert)
- It’s OK to feel OK
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Hello, my friends. Pamela here. Welcome. Thanks for joining me. Today is our third episode in the PTSD Awareness Month Series, and in this episode we’re going to be talking about PTSD from living with someone who has it. Now this could be a family member or a spouse or even it could be someone that you work with on an ongoing basis regularly. When we live around someone who has the symptoms of PTSD, many things can happen that affect us internally, in our nervous system, because our brain is designed to help us identify if there’s a problem and then to be able to, by being aware of that problem, either get away from it or to calm ourselves around that. When we’re surrounded by someone who’s in this constant state of hypervigilance and hyperarousal, irritability, things like that (the symptoms of PTSD), when we’re around that person we then can also feel, that is, the challenge of it can make us feel a lot of different things. And what I have now is to share with you a list of potential symptoms. Not all of them will happen, but oftentimes a lot of them do. And it’s helpful to understand this, I think, so that you can then identify oh, that’s what’s going on with me and by doing that, you can help yourself to come away from the situation in a more healthful way. By identifying the symptoms that might be there in your body and in your mind, you’ll have a better opportunity to heal from that and to change how you respond to the situation.
[02:33] Intro to the List of Symptoms
So here we go. I’d like to just invite you to listen to the symptoms and see if any of them line up with how you might be feeling. And this is not to put blame on the other person or to shame yourself for responding this way, but merely to enlighten you to understanding what’s going on. I hope you find it helpful. If this brings up some things that are activating to you, just take a break. You don’t need to do this part. You can do the motion with us and that would be just fine. But it may be helpful for you. If you have been raised by or have lived with someone with PTSD you can end up having some or all of the following:
[03:34] List of Symptoms
- chronic self-blame or the feeling of walking on eggshells
- a fear of your own needs, and thereby having a fear of having an impact, or “ruffling feathers”. Some people have described this as a fear of “poking the bear”
- You can develop an insecure attachment of one sort or another. The anxious type would be where you’re chasing after connection, and the avoidant type is where you hold people at arm’s length. That’s insecure attachment.
- You can also end up choosing a partner that is similar to that parent or caregiver, and thus repeat the cycle.
- You can end up distrusting or burying your needs. And what we’re talking about are our basic natural needs like safety, satisfaction, and connection; trying not to be a burden. And this distrust or buried needs can eventually lead to what can be called a “need panic”, where you want more connection NOW.
- You can also end up having a fierce independence and pushing your needs away, which results in not asking for or easily receiving or trusting help from others. And, because we are a social species, we do need other people; we’re interdependent. So this piece can be a challenge.
- We can also become a “parentified child”. And what that means is if your parent had symptoms of shutdown, you could end up trying to take care of them, as a child, so that they can feel better. And this “parentified child” will attend to others needs before their own.
- We can end up being highly-sensitive or projecting our weaknesses on to someone else; pointing out how they are not good enough.
- We can end up distrusting or disallowing pleasant body sensations. And I talked about this in the previous episode, the practice of FINDING THE GOOD may be unfamiliar, but the more we practice, the more we realize those pleasant body sensations are very important for our wellbeing.
- And, finally, we, as a person being raised with or living with someone with PTSD, we can also develop PTSD. In the next episode I’ll be talking about this a little bit more, but the symptoms of PTSD (intrusive thoughts; the avoidance or triggering by events which feel familiar; nightmares, insomnia; anxiety, depression, pain and gastrointestinal distress.
[07:00] We can break the cycle.
You can see by this list, that there are many symptoms that go along with this by living with someone with PTSD, including developing PTSD ourselves, and then thereby perpetuating the cycle. So I find that it is important not only to help ourselves feel better, but, because we’re in relationship with others—we are interdependent; we are a social species—we can help ourselves, but also the people around us, by being aware of the things that I just mentioned, all these different symptoms. This can allow us to come to a place where we accept ourselves for having these symptoms. We did the best we could, given the situation. We handled it the way we did. Our reflexes took over and supported us in that, but if we don’t need it any longer, and it’s not serving us, and it’s giving us nightmares and insomnia and things like that, it might be time to let that go. And, as you’ve heard in previous episodes, PTSD can be cured, so this isn’t something that you just have and it lasts forever, we can change it.
[08:25] Molecules of Emotion
I’d like to talk a little bit about what’s going on inside the body when we are around a person who has difficulty feeling good and not being able to give to others because they’re stuck in this trauma response. We can bury our needs; we can turn off our body; we can turn off the pleasant sensations. And so, allowing in good, as we learned in the previous episode, allowing in the good is a good practice to begin that. But what’s happening on a cellular level? There’s a book called Molecules of Emotion by Candace Pert, which basically turned a lot of the science on its head. This, in combination with the epigenetic research by Bruce Lipton, helps us to understand that the environment of the cell is what determines how that cell responds to life and what DNA gets expressed—what genes turn, well “turn on” is really not a great word— but the ones that get expressed, that turn into proteins. So imagine, if you will, a situation where there is someone always around you who’s got these symptoms, these PTSD symptoms, what ends up happening is the cell membrane has these little receptors, they’re kind of like antennae. Those antennae receive the different molecules of the chemicals that are created around these different emotions. That’s why they’re called the molecules of emotion. And the receptors are sitting there waiting for these molecules to fill them. And if there’s a whole bunch of them, the cell will make more receptors to receive more of those molecules. If we then take away the molecules and stop producing them, in essence our cells will be waiting for those molecules, and kind of craving them. It’s like an addiction. So if we’ve been around someone with PTSD, we can get addicted to them, and this is what’s called trauma bonding. It happens a lot. Some people call it codependency, but what we’re doing here is we’re trying to help that person resolve their trauma, we’re trying to help support them, but our cells are receiving these negative emotional molecules and getting hungry for more, which is what keeps us coming back and staying in this relationship. Now, if it’s a parent, it’s pretty difficult when you’re a child to get out of that, but as you become an adult, you can separate yourself more from that person, and it will help. Practicing FINDING THE GOOD, like we learned in the previous episode, will support that. We’ve gotta change these antennae, the receivers, that are receiving these molecules, we’ve got to change them to the ones that we would rather have, which help you to receive these good feeling molecules. In a previous episode last month, I talked about the HAPPY BRAIN CHEMICALS and how we can make more of them. So I invite you to look at that and listen, because this will help to guide you in ways that you can make these good feeling molecules. There is a film called What the Bleep Do We Know?, and Candace Pert is in it—she’s the one that wrote Molecules of Emotion—and many other people, including Dr. Joe Dispenza. And in it there’s a great scene where they have each of the people in a ballroom connected to an I.V. tube and it’s on a cart so they can move it around with them like a dance partner. And they are each dancing with their own molecules of emotion, showing that they cannot be removed easily from those, disconnected, because it is an addiction. Addiction takes time to overcome, but knowing that what addiction is for is to help you feel better, that’s what we’re trying to do is to help ourselves feel better. And if what’s familiar is stress, we’ll bring more stress into our lives. If what’s familiar is ease, we’ll bring more ease into our lives. And so we can change the addiction; we can change that. It does take some efforting and some time, but it’s well worth it. And we can stop this cycle of PTSD/abuse/PTSD/abuse, and so forth, in relationship.
[13:38] Intro to HAVENING
Today’s activity I’d like to do is called HAVENING. And in this one, what we’re doing is we are doing some self-touch that will bring an emotional feeling of ease, and it will turn on the production of oxytocin. And in the Happy Brain Chemicals episode, we learned about this as well. Oxytocin has a wonderful benefit, which is in the amygdalae, which are the little almond-shaped organs in our brain, or parts of our brain, that signal, it’s sort of the alert system, the alarm system, alert us and our body to there’s a problem. What oxytocin can do is it can actually be a signal to the amygdalae that there is no problem and all as well. So by doing this havening, we can turn off the alarm system and we can feel better.
So I’d like you to please join in with HAVENING. It’s very simple. What we’re doing here is we are bringing our hands, we’re crossing our arms and we’re bringing our hands to our upper arms, and then we’re going to slowly slide them down the arms all the way to the palms and slide the palms across each other and then off. And take a break and take a breath. And we’ll do that again. Crossing the arms, placing the palms on the upper arms, and then gently sliding the hands down the arms all the way to the palms, palm to palm, and then let the fingers slip off each other. And then rest your arms and take a break. Breathe. Notice any pleasant sensations. We’ll do this again. Crossing the arms, palms come to the outsides of the upper arms and then slide the hands down and all the way to the palms, palm to palm, and slide them off each other. And then let your arms rest by your sides and notice how you feel. [pause] So a simple way to do this is anytime you’re feeling upset, you can just bring your hands, cross your arms and bring your hands to your arms, and just slide them down your upper arms over and over again. You’re kind of petting yourself. That’s a nice way to do this one too anytime that you’re feeling upset. It really does make some good oxytocin for you, to turn off that trauma response.
[17:09] It’s OK to feel OK
One of the things that I want to make sure that is clear to you is it’s OK to feel OK; it’s safe to feel safe. It’s important. It’s vitally important for our function, for our homeostasis, which is optimal wellbeing. It’s vitally important for us to keep ourselves making these happy brain chemicals—self touch to make oxytocin—and knowing that this is good for us. Vitally important.
That’s what I have to share with you today. I thank you so much for coming and joining in, and please send yourself some appreciation for doing so. This has been Move Into Resilience. I’m Pamela Stokes. Take it easy.