C-PTSD, What is it?
Most people know what PTSD is. Post traumatic stress disorder is well known as a response to certain traumatic events like seeing or being involved in terrifying happenings such as in warfare or a car accident. The feelings associated with those events can be repeated for many years after as if you were living through the experience over and over.
Complex Post traumatic stress disorder is the result of traumatic happenings that lasted for long periods of time. A childhood of physical or emotional neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse, or even a long term relationship that was abusive or emotionally draining can cause re-lived traumas that affect our day to day functioning from being difficult to navigate (uphill struggle) or even to the point of contemplating suicide (I want out).
I discovered that I had C-PTSD just a few years ago (2022 as I write) and have been receiving therapy and am very grateful for that. During the course of my therapy I discovered something just by imagining it and adapting it to my needs. It has helped me a lot and I felt that I wanted to share it with any other C-PTSD sufferers who feel they might want to try it. Its related to Inner child work but extended further. I call it "Trauma Bubble therapy" (TBT). As with any other therapies there is no "One size fits all" but if this works for you, I would be really pleased.
Bubbles have always held a fascination with children. They are not seen as threatening, but a safe happy space. That's where I naturally went to in my imagination because it was going to house a past time of trauma. I didn't want to choose rooms because of the opening and shutting of doors being something that could easily trigger a negative response. Of course if you did happen to have a bad experience with bubbles please accept my apologies and adapt the process to your own needs.
So...How does it work?
Trauma Bubbles therapy (TBT)
This is how it works. Think of inner child healing but extend it to all periods in your life where you experienced trauma. I am sharing my Bubble set up as an example:
Choose a Bubble for each period of your life where you experienced long term trauma. For me it was:
Put the "you" at whatever age you were into a
trauma Bubble, and remember an image of the you back then. The 4th person is you as an adult (now) in my own case. (The amount of Bubbles will vary to each person)
When you experience a reaction, or emotional flashback, enter the Bubble where you think the reaction came from (was rooted) as your "Older" self. Sit by your former self (hence the bench) and empathise, "I understand why you feel like this, it was really hard for you, I'm your older self and I want you to know its ok now, you can feel safe, I'm here for you now"...then quietly leave the Bubble.
This is a way of giving yourself the love and support you didn't have over that period of time of your life.
I have even entered my teenage Bubble and shared some relaxing music that as an adult I enjoy, in a sense showing an interest and forming a close bond with my younger self.
I think that this is a cognitive and sympathetic way of connecting with the emotional trigger response in a positive way.
Why it works
As I mentioned earlier, there are pivotal moments in our lives that contain trauma. Comforting and consoling my inner child could have no relation to an issue that came about due to a long marriage full of stress due to adult marriage related issues.
So lets imagine I am watching a film and a particular scene triggers a response in me that makes me feel worthless because there was never the same warm loving interaction in my own marriage. I enter my first marriage bubble, sit on the bench next to my younger self (probably around 30 years old) and console that moment where I felt so alone: “Jason, You know you did so much, you tried so hard to make things work but it was so difficult. In fact there was hardly anything left of yourself because you loved her so much, I’m so proud of how hard you tried. It says a lot about you”
These are the words you needed to hear at that time. The support you needed either because it was absent or because the people trying to help you had little or no understanding of how you felt.
After I have given me the support I needed back then (at the source of that particular trauma) I feel more calm, and can move on from the low emotion trigger response.
I’ve also given a lot of thought as to why this isn’t just a case of “me” talking to “me”. It isn’t.
We don’t even look the same! We all change over time. Its often only in therapy that we see a young child that was mistreated, hurt, and damaged instead of some vacant inaccessible part of ourselves.
Enter that bubble with the love of an older, wiser self, ready to give the compassion that was absent when you needed it most. It works for me, and I hope it works for you.
Please note: If this method doesn't work for you then maybe one of the reasons could simply be that it just doesn't work for you.
That's ok. It could also be a matter of timing. We are all at different points in our healing process, if it doesn't work for you now, maybe it will later. Remember that we are all unique in our personalities and our traumas. What works for one may not work for another.