Obsession and Complex Trauma

Consumed by uninvited thoughts

Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW, RSW
Invisible Illness
Published in
5 min readJan 31
Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash

As a complex trauma therapist and survivor, I am well acquainted with the persistent regurgitation of disturbing memories. The intractability implied by the need to go over week after week, month after month and even year after year of injurious occurrences and mortifying motifs is understood as an essential part of the remembrance and mourning stage of recovery in trauma-informed care.

Indeed, restoring one’s dignity in the aftermath of traumatic assault is a prolonged, harrowing and formidable task. Pernicious symptoms such as flooding, dissociation, night terrors and flashbacks continuously remind the survivor of how they were stripped of their essential worth. Along with these afflictions, the trauma survivor is plagued by splintered recollections of what occurred. Recurrent intrusive thoughts comprised of fragments of traumatic remembrances create a schema of their plight.

Paradoxically, perseverating over traumatic experiences is a desperate attempt to decipher inconceivable harm and to regain control.

For those presenting with a form of complex trauma due to narcissistic abuse, the quest for redemption and closure exacerbates the victim’s cognitive dissonance and ignites an obsessive preoccupation with discerning what was real.

The prevalence of a pathological power-submission attachment in which the victim perceives their tormentor as their redeemer, is coupled with the activation of the stress hormone cortisol when under siege, and the rush of dopamine when relief is proffered through ‘reward’. These addictive properties comprise the trauma bond with a malignant abuser, which makes the final rupture especially brutal and debilitating. When withdrawal sets in obsessive thoughts are a chronic source of distress.

Although relentless and exhausting, mentally recreating traumatic themes assists with coming to terms with surreal experiences. Memories are revisited and feared outcomes of shattered dreams, excruciating loneliness, helplessness, being replaced, forgotten, and debased invade one’s consciousness. The tenacity of the pain keeps the trauma alive until it is fully assimilated and accommodated.



Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW, RSW
Invisible Illness

Therapist, Coach & Author. Complex Trauma & Addiction. Dual citizen. Survivor, World traveler, love art and nature. I appreciate the absurd. Sheritherapist.com

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