Source: ractapopulous / Pixabay
In my last post, Intimate Betrayal and Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), I described a physiological model for recovering from intimate betrayal. In this one, I describe a specific technique to form conditioned responses to PTS symptoms with images that evoke core value, replacing painful emotions with mild feelings of well-being.
The most troublesome PTS symptoms following intimate betrayal are waves of negative emotion that seem to come out of nowhere. Often with no discernible trigger, waves of emotion seize control of your body, making it tense, rigid, or agitated. They dominate consciousness and make it difficult to think of anything other than how terrible you feel or how awful your partner is for making you feel so bad.
They typically start with a flash point—an abrupt awareness that you’re about to experience something horrid. A physical marker sometimes occurs with the flash point, something like a pit in your stomach, a sharp pain, muscular weakness, or blurred vision.
Core value images are those that reinforce deeper values of basic humanity, meaning/purpose, love, compassion, spirituality, community, and appreciation of natural and creative beauty. They ease pain by shifting focus from loss to value. Who you are, as reflected by your deepest values, becomes more important than what you’ve suffered.
Core value images can be visual, auditory, or written words. The most powerful healing images reflect humane values:
- Basic humanity
- Appreciation (natural and creative beauty)
The following are suggestions for healing images to associate with waves of negative emotion. They’ve helped my clients and can serve as a starting point to develop your own images.
- Imagine comforting a desperate child. Feel your pain fade, as you comfort the child, and as the child responds to your care. Feel yourself becoming stronger, more powerful, more loving, as you outgrow the pain.
- Fortify your sense of self by affirming the most important thing about you. Your important qualities by far outweigh the injury.
- Affirm the most important thing about your life. This is the testament about you, what you would want on your tombstone. Your resolve to be true to your deepest values strengthens you and makes your hurt less important.
- Feel the love you have for the significant people in your life. Feel the love healing your wounds.
- Feel your spiritual connection applying healing grace to your wounds.
- Imagine the most beautiful thing in nature you’ve ever experienced, and feel your hurt subside in the beauty.
- Imagine the most beautiful art, music, jewelry, or handcraft you’ve ever seen or heard.
- Feel your community connection.
- Remember the compassionate things you’ve done.
Repeat the associative process each time waves of negative emotions occur.
To summarize, PTS symptoms are usual after suffering intimate betrayal. They are more physiological than psychological. They will do minimal harm and last for a shorter period of time if you are able to manage the secondary symptoms, which come from giving the primary symptoms a negative meaning about yourself. With gentleness, care, and practice, they will not constitute a barrier to healing and growth. They offer an opportunity to reinforce your healing identity and access your core value under stress.