This New York Times article presents research that suggests that what happens right after a traumatic event may be just as important as the trauma in determining how a traumatized person fares.
This may seem like common sense, but the world surely can use more of it.
Here’s the link: A New Focus on the ‘Post’ in Post-Traumatic Stress. And I really dislike the paywall where you can only see so many NYT articles per month for free. It’s early in the month, and I hope you can read it if you’re interested.
One of the damaging things that happened a day or two after my childhood trauma was telling an adult that I wanted to go home and being told I needed to stay where I was.
It wasn’t even that I wanted to literally go home. I can see now that I wanted reassurance that things would be or even could be okay again. I wanted the comfort of my mother’s presence. That’s what home meant then. And at age 11, I just didn’t have the right words to communicate what I needed so badly.
Was that the moment that trauma became PTSD? I don’t know.
Part of my recovery (after the big chunks were in place) was having a series of dreams for a couple of years in which I was trying to get home and couldn’t. I’d find myself stranded and making the best of it in some town miles away from Austin, but always looking out for a way to get home.
Then I finally had a dream in which I was at home, and it was a home I didn’t recognize, but it was my home.
At both ages, home was a metaphor for living in my body and feeling safe.
A note: The work of Dr. Peter A Levine spells out how important it is for a person to connect with and be tended to by a kind, calm person after a traumatic event. He recognizes that “the human connection” is critical in preventing PTSD after a trauma — in his book In An Unspoken Voice, he describes his own trauma and recovery in detail, including a bystander who offered a steady, reassuring presence.
He is one of the most renowned trauma researchers and writers in the world. It seems like an oversight to me for his work to go unmentioned in this article.