Your statement about the necessity of an individual connecting with their trauma story as well as themselves as they relate it caught my attention. My experience with sharing traumatic events usually results in feeling exposed and vulnerable but not necessarily more integrated with my story. There appears to be an inherent benefit in the telling; yet, for healing to occur, being present for another person may only be the beginning.
When one of my sons was deployed to Afghanistan a few years ago, another military parent suggested that I read, “Once a Warrior, Always a Warrior: Navigating the Transition from Combat to Home-Including Combat Stress, PTSD, and mTBI” (2010) by Charles W. Hoge, MD, Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret.). http://onceawarrior.com/ In the chapter entitled, “Narrate Your Story,” Hoge speaks of “exposure therapy” and “imaginal exposure” where the therapist asks the client to recount the worst traumatic event(s) repeatedly until levels of reactivity, anxiety, or harm surrounding the experience becomes more bearable. Also, the client relays the episode with eyes closed as if the event was happening in real time. During the disclosure, the therapist offers support and positive feedback, asks for clarification, and assists the client in learning to cope with the distressing emotional and physiological reactions. Hoge asserts that what results from telling the same story in sufficient detail is memories become more organized, and the client can recall the experience with more emotion, connection (if detached), and acceptance. Additionally, the client has less distress in the form of guilt, self-blame, anxiety, or physical symptoms. The event may not be less painful, but there is an increased ability to talk about and tolerate the experience. My description is a brief version of what Hoge communicates in this book, and I find it intriguing that repetition remains such an important element of progress.
I appreciate when others are willing to hear and hold harm from my life story, and I consider it an honor when I can do the same. Could we help our loved ones or future clients dwell more deeply in their traumatic stories in order for them to integrate more fully? Do I have the capacity to stay with someone in that level of pain, and how do I continue to grow my ability to stay this present with them?