GFW PTSD Home  | Site Map  | Site Search   
Gift From Within - PTSD Questions & Answers with Frank Ochberg, M.D.


PTSD:
Complex/Chronic PTSD:
PTSD Symptoms:
PTSD/PTSI Insomnia:
Relationships:
Caregivers/Partners with PTSD:
Childhood Abuse:
Work Issues:
Recovery:
Therapy:
Veterans & PTSD:
Professionals:
Other Conditions:

PTSD Questions & Answers
with
Joyce Boaz & Dr. Frank Ochberg, M.D.

Read "Survivor Psalm" by Frank Ochberg

search this site the web

site search by freefind

Search FAQ pages (use FAQ in your search string)

PTSD Symptoms: Feelings of Loss and sense of self.

Q: Dear Frank, A cause of dissatisfaction I've heard and read from survivors is about their feeling of loss -- the loss of one self after their traumatic event. People say that they are not the same person. Who I am now is not who I was. How do you feel about this expression of pain and grief?

A: Dear Joyce, The famous anthropologist, analyst and author, Erik Erikson, described an elderly gentleman who complained to his physician, "Oh, doctor, my head hurts, my bowels don't move, my joints are sore, and doctor, I myself don't feel so good."

I can picture this scene so clearly!

It makes one think about the meaning of "I, myself."

Surely we are more than our body parts, than our feelings and thoughts, than the way we appear to others. So it doesn't surprise me to hear that many of our gift from within survivors express a sense of being somehow different after profound trauma. I assume the change is in some aspect of that difficult-to-describe thing we commonly call "I, myself."

What is the self? Let's go back to Dr. Erikson. He described identity and the identity crisis. Identity crisis is something we face in adolescence and it is a confusing, turbulent transition from childhood to maturity. As adults, we achieve "self-sameness through time." We are no longer children. We have times of stress and change, but we are essentially molded and we have a feeling of knowing who we are. We have, according to Erikson, identity.

After certain traumas, our identity is shaken. We have more than PTSD symptoms. We have an altered sense of self. At best, this is a loss of innocence. At worst, it is a loss of capacity for trust. I want to be very careful here because individuals are different, "capacity for trust" is a complicated concept, and readers who suffer impaired capacity for trust need encouragement, not gloomy forecasts. Post-traumatic therapy is an individualized search for optimum outcome - not for return to a former sense of self. Once major symptoms are overcome, survivors re-examine their goals and values and the meaning of their lives. They are NOT the same as they were before. Often, they are sadder and wiser. When they are relatively confident in their new circumstances and, in a manner of thinking, in their new skins, they can trust and relate and recover human connection. Later, perhaps much later, there is a sense of integrity (Erikson's word, again). He doesn't mean honesty, he means that the whole journey of one's life adds up, makes sense, and feels coherent. In looking back, one recalls losses and gains, tragedies and magical moments. One knows who one is and where one has been. The sense of self is clear. One no longer feels lost or damaged or diminished.

To admit to "loss of self" is a candid and thoughtful insight. It is common among victims of major trauma. As a rule, it does not last a life-time. But the "self" that is found may feel different for a long while. It can feel as different as the difference between childhood and adulthood. But it is the same self - and eventually, if all works out as it should, that sameness of self is felt and understood.

Was this helpful to you?
If so, please consider supporting our work.

top


Article Index:

Addiction | Adoption | Auto Accidents | Chaplains, Police, EMT | Childhood & Adult Sexual Victimization | Compassion Fatigue
Culture, Race, and Ethnicity | Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault | Grief | Journalists, Survivors, and the Media
Male Sexual Abuse & Domestic Violence | Partners & Families | PTSD Treatment & Recovery | PTSD and Health
PTSD and Workplace Issues | Recovery & Self Help | Resiliency | School Disasters
Spirituality & Trauma | Survivor Guilt | Trauma Responses in the Aftermath of Disasters | Veterans & Their Families


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Home Page | Site Map | Articles | Webcasts | Order Form | DVDs on PTSD and Trauma | Q&A with Dr. Ochberg
PTSD Etiquette: Finding The Right Words | Meditations | Support Pals Humor Grab Bag
Support Pals Share Inspirational Stories | Support Pals Share Favorite Healing Ideas | Support Pals Book Reviews
Support Pals Finding A Therapist | Support Pals Talk About Living With PTSD | Support Pals Favorite Books & Music
Support Pals Discuss: What PTSD Means To Me | Military Family Resources | Support Groups | Internet Links | Retreats & Respites
Conferences, Workshops and Seminars | PTSD & Trauma Bookstore | Poetry | Art | Music | Survivor Psalm | Memory Shouldn't Be...
Mission Statement | What People Are Saying | Support GFW | Frank Ochberg's Bio | Joyce Boaz's Bio | Board Members | Contact Us
Awards | Band of Angels | What's New | View Our PSAs | Site Search | Guestbook


Copyright © 1995-2017 Gift from Within,Camden, Maine 04843
html Conversion Copyright © 1995-2017 SourceMaine, Belfast, Maine 04915
Content may not be reproduced on websites without express permission. Please link instead.

Page created on 28 January 2010
Last updated by on 2 August 2016