“If You Don’t Limp” – (Another Trauma Trap)

“If You Don’t Limp” – (Another Trauma Trap) March 17, 2016

Undermuchgraceby Cindy Kunsman cross posted from her blog Under Much Grace as part of her series on trauma

All images either from NLQ or by Cindy Kunsman and Under Much Grace used with permission

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder causes several different changes in the way that the brain works, most notably, the hyperactivity in the anxiety centers in the brain. As noted in a previous post, the area of the brain that is responsible for acknowledging that something applies to the self also shuts down to a great extent. It allows for a sense of distance from the pain of trauma to help preserve a person’s function when under threat, but when it fails to shut off when the threat has passed, it creates a profound sense of isolation.

I think of that old spiritual song borne out of slavery which ruminates on this pain of feeling alone: “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows my sorrow.” I have little in my own life that can compare to those who were and are subjected to slavery, but I find it fascinating that this terrible feeling found such a lovely expression in song. To me, it attests to universal experience of feeling cut off from the world after a terrible trauma. Actually, singing is far more likely to heal such grief than traditional talk therapy, given the current research findings. It helps overcome the sense of the loss of the self after trauma.
But something interesting also happens among survivors of a common trauma and those who identify with it in both healthy and unhealthy ways. Another common trait emerges: “Only those who went through exactly what I did can really understand me.” Groups of survivors of a common threat tend to form strong bonds because of their shared intense and life-threatening experiences.
Screaming Eagles
An example of this brothers in arms camaraderie can be found within the history of United States’ 101st Airborne Division that carried out some of the most dangerous air assault missions in the Army’s history. Normandy beach on D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, and Hamburger Hill rank high among the campaigns in which the division participated. The history of their insignia, uniforms, and when they were permitted to wear their identifying patch bears witness to the pride, patriotism and the bonds of brotherhood shared by those who fought valiantly among its ranks. Early in its history, the Division was dubbed the Screaming Eagles.
Long after combat was over and those men retreated to their civilian lives, that bond forged in the horror and struggles of war, the grief of loss, and the pride of victory remained for them. Only someone who had been through their own mile could truly identify. Our nation learned much about trauma and how to receive a soldier after combat in its own troubled history of responding to these soldiers’ needs. Some of those men used their bonds with one another in a healthy way to help them transcend the experience – holding true to the inspiring roots of their military service.
Hell's AngelsMotorcycle Gangs
In contrast, the advent of the outlaw motorcycle gang culture offered a different kind of shared brotherhood (think Hell’s Angels and Sons of Anarchy). Please note that they differ from legal motorcycle associations. They are long known for their illegal activities and by other traits such as sex, drugs, masculinity, and rebellion. The outlaw gangs had their own codes of conduct as well as identifying badges and insignias as well as the stereotypical uniform. The original Hell’s Angels emblem derived from the insignias of Air Force fighter and bomber squadrons, but the organization denies that the group formed or was comprised of former servicemen who no longer fit into civilian life.
Those in the biker gangs also manifest an element of isolation combined with shared trauma – something depicted in the iconic biker slogan, “If you don’t limp, you ain’t worth $&^!” It speaks to the “nobody knows” phenomenon and the shared bond of trauma suffered by their members. In contrast to the war veterans who chose to identify with the (legal) virtues of military service to cope after the war, the biker gang subculture embraced an aggressive and closed system that gained a sense of worth through membership. Some of that value also included the devaluing of those who didn’t share in it.
Title 1 PretreatWhere do you want to end up?
Do you want to be more like a patriotic war veteran who goes about the much needed work of healing, or do you want to become something more like a member of a biker gang? Granted, some people do embrace the aggressive culture of anger, but wouldn’t it be advantageous to be like a veteran who employs every resource necessary and within reach to arrive at a place of healing and acceptance?  Wouldn’t it be better to offer others a tried and true plan of recovery rather than perpetuating the ongoing rhythm of hyperarousal, intrusion, and constriction of PTSD?
~~~~~~~~~~~
Cindy is a member of the Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network.

Cynthia Mullen Kunsman is a nurse (BSN), naturopath (ND) and seminary graduate (MMin) with a wide variety of training and over 20 years of clinical experience. She has used her training in Complementary and Alternative Medicine as a lecturer and liaison to professional scientific and medical groups, in both academic and traditional clinical healthcare settings. She also completed additional studies in the field of thought reform, hypnotherapy for pain management, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that is often associated with cultic group involvement. Her nursing experience ranges from intensive care, the training of critical care nurses, hospice care, case management and quality management, though she currently limits her practice to forensic medical record review and evaluation. Most of her current professional efforts concern the study of manipulative and coercive evangelical Christian groups and the recovery process from both thought reform and PTSD.


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  • Abigail Smith

    I didn’t think about this before, but it’s like our bodies are equipped with “self-preservation” mechanism for dealing with trauma, much like camouflage to protect animals….

  • It really is. For so long, people thought of chronic trauma only as a psychological issue as opposed to a strongly physical one (especially if we are trapped or can’t respond or flee). That made it seem like a moral thing, and really, the only moral choice involves seeing your options for healing and making the choice to work through it instead of constantly living it, over and over. But if you don’t see what you’re doing, you don’t know what’s happening to you.

    It is a way of camouflage — a very good analogy — because even if we’re introverts, we still need connections with other people. Even if we don’t feel that way and feel overwhelmingly isolated, we will still seek out those social connections.

    The hard thing about involves feeling safe enough to stop long enough to recognize that we’re human and we’re wounded. Because PTSD makes us so overwhelmed when we’re threatened that we lose our perspective. The hope in that? Once we see the problem and that what we’re doing is very predictable because we’re human, we can embrace the hope that we’re not so different when we’re wounded.

    If we move through our trauma, that’s when our individuality and our strengths can blossom — a far better way of feeling and being unique and wonderful.

  • We can’t know the specifics of someone else’s trauma, even if we have a lot of common threads and factors. But even if someone has suffered PTSD because of something very different, those who know about the process of healing realize that there are common factors in how we deal with it all. The uniqueness of “my trauma” and the common ways in which we cope with trauma are not in competition with one another.

    When you get a sense of your own power back, you realize that there’s plenty of power to go around for everyone — even if your abuser still has some or more than they did when they hurt you. And when you’re in a better place of healing, it makes power easier to share. You have more tolerance for injustice, for you realize and feel your own power holding you up.

  • Abigail Smith

    Yes! And when you realize that you DO have choices…like leaving an abusive church even if all your “friends” are there, or going no contact with abusive, toxic people…that gives great leaps towards healing…you can’t begin to heal when you stay on the street so the same bus can hit you over and over again….It’s downright frightening with spiritual abuse because you start to think that “God is okay” with the abuse…at least it was that way for me….I know He’s not and neither is anyone who is emotionally healthy

  • Abigail Smith

    I didn’t realize it until I read your response (“The hard thing about involves feeling safe enough to stop long enough to recognize that we’re human and we’re wounded.”) but that was key for me….I had always felt because of the abuse that I was less of a person, so I wasn’t like everyone else…I ‘deserved it” somehow (Toxic mom’s words to me since I was little)…when you realize that each and every person has value and worth and deserves to be treated with respect…which is NOT a QF belief at all….or part of an abuser’s vocabulary….to me, Jesus clearly showed respect to all people, especially women, who at that time had no rights, so QF who thinks it’s “promoting” Jesus is actually going against HIm in all they believe…..Bless you on your healing…you are helping me so much…

  • And we have to learn how to be emotionally healthy if we never saw it modeled, and we have to work to find it for ourselves again after we get out of the bad situation.

  • Bless you on yours, too. Mine is always on going. And the silver lining in the cloud is squeezing some good out of all of the bad stuff. That helps me heal all the more. 🙂

  • Abigail Smith

    It IS hard work…but there’s nothing more rewarding then getting far even through it that you can turn back to help pull others out