Trauma & Shame / episode 5 Show Notes

Updated: Apr 6

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For more information, I highly highly recommend reading pretty much anything from Peter Levine. In particular, these 3:


TRAUMA & SHAME


DEVELOPMENTAL / COMPLEX TRAUMA

One avenue of trauma

  • Being in a chronic state of flight/fight

  • Van Der Kolk’s Developmental Trauma Disorder

  • PTSD does not cover the history and wide range of behavior problems associated with developmental trauma


FREEZE IN THE WILD - TONIC IMMOBILITY

Entering the freeze state without a struggle

  • Many paths to TI: predator going into it to get prey, kitten being carried, survival technique of prey

  • Wild animals will spontaneously recover from TI in a matter of seconds to minutes, usually after the predator has left the scene with no trauma sx

  • Shark video, it simply swims away after being induced without fear (see below)

  • If the animal is frightened before or during, it will stay in TI for much longer - “Fear-induced Tonic Immobility”


FEAR-INDUCED TONIC IMMOBILITY

This is the shut down of TI plus fear.

  • It’s shut down plus sympathetic arousal of flight/fight

  • It’s like slamming on the accelerator in your car and the brake at the same time

Polar bear video link below - helicopter

  • Using its legs to escape, also showing teeth and biting

  • It’s forced into a shut down state while fleeing for its life

  • So it needs to discharge the sympathetic energy while also coming out of the freeze state

  • It shakes, trembles, spontaneously breathes in huge gasps, getting the nervous system back to a baseline


HUMANS STAY STUCK IN TRAUMA

Humans are spooked by the bodily sensations of coming out of immobility

  • We get sent back down the ladder when our bodies attempt to go up

  • Our bodies are stuck in a state of defense

  • The experience, the pain, the sadness, the humiliation, disgust, embarrassment, the loneliness that stems from the traumatic event itself

  • We avoid these because it’s vulnerable, scary and we literally might feel like we’re dying

  • Stories and beliefs we create about the event or ourselves keep us stuck in trauma

  • Isolating ourselves keep us stuck in trauma

  • Keeping it secret keeps us struck in trauma


WHAT IS SHAME?

Fear-induced freeze and shame seem to go hand in hand

  • Numerous similarities: A feeling of rejection, disgrace, being worthless, being shut down, humiliation, embarrassment

  • It’s an experience felt in the body, an imprint, a biological response

  • not an indication of weak character

  • The experience of shame is not a belief, but part of a way of being

  • Is externally imposed onto the victim, by parents, teachers, abusers, people who have some power over us

  • The messages from these people are of course a reflection of their own state


SHAME IS PASSED DOWN

Shame is imposed from powerful others through verbal messages

  • “What’s wrong with you?” “Why can’t you be like your brother?” “You’re such a blankity blank.”

Shame is imposed through abandonment

  • Being rejected, abandoned, isolated, left alone, ignored

  • All intrinsically linked to shame

Abandonment denies us maybe the most integral mammalian need

  • Closeness, family, safe touch, protection

  • We don’t get these things with shame

And shame is imposed through various physical abuse, including sexual


SHAME vs GUILT

Shame versus guilt, which is internal subjective knowing of having broken a personal or community value

  • Stealing, hitting, lying are common

  • Very subjective


BIOSOCIAL FUNCTION OF SHAME

“Shame is one of the basic biological responses that social animals need to organize into groups, into hierarchies.” -Peter Levine

“It’s a brake. It stops everything in action.” -Peter Levine

“Shame is meant to be repaired.” -Peter Levine

Reinforcing of the trauma state


SHAME REINFORCING STORIES

“Story follows State”

  • Our brains are meaning-making machines

  • An attempt to place meaning onto the situation to make sense of it

Self-blame is part of the story of the state of shame

  • “I should have fought back”

  • “I shouldn’t have made him mad”

  • “Why didn’t I tell someone the first time it happened?”

Other Stories involve rationalizations

  • “It’s because of the way that I look”

  • “That’s how men show love”

  • but these are still Stories to explain the State of the autonomic nervous system

Shame-based beliefs

  • “I’m unlovable"

  • "I’m unattractive"

  • "I’m defective"

  • "I shouldn’t have been born”


EXPERIENCE OF SHAME

  • Wanting to disappear - becoming physically smaller, tucking head in, curling shoulders inward, a hunched look

  • Feeling inferior, worthless, self-loathing, loneliness, emptiness

  • Addiction, compulsion, self-denigration, anxiety, depression, perfectionism, co-dependency and more, disgust, loss of dignity, feeling dirty, lonely, isolating


DISGUST

Disgust is a natural biological function to get rid of something that is potentially damaging or toxic

  • Like unsafe food that has gone rotten

  • Social benefit to others around you

Disgust is a way to begin the process to get out the shame, “gatekeeper to other emotions”

  • Shame is internalized, antidote is to externalize (Peter Levine)

  • It’s internalizing someone else’s shame who is inflicting it on a victim

  • But disgust is the body’s signal to begin the process of healing

  • But we avoid this natural feeling, our body’s way of telling us something


TRAUMA & SHAME

There’s a direct connection

  • “When children are emotionally or physically abandoned, abused, or neglected they often take on the shame that belongs to the adult who left or hurt them by assuming that it's because they themselves are the "bad" one.” -Psychology Today, Mary Lamia

Shame doesn’t spontaneously occur, it’s a result of abuse

  • “Very particular body posture and autonomic pattern… very similar to what you see in trauma.” -Peter Levine

  • Posture of collapse, aversion of gaze, wanting to hide and being smaller, lowered capacity to think, problems orienting to the moment and environmental safety



NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE


CRISIS TEXT LINE

https://healingshame.com/articles/2017/8/21/shame-and-trauma

TI SHARK - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NErt6zP2MBI

TI Rats - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1687864

TI Lizards - https://paperity.org/p/59862983/tonic-immobility-as-a-fear-response-in-lizards-anolis-carolinensis

Polar Bear - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmJDkzDMllc

Shame & Trauma - https://healingshame.com/articles/2017/8/21/shame-and-trauma

Peter Levine on Shame - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2CN5nhmfxk&vl=en

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