Adaptions not symptoms

One of the powerful things taught to me by my first counselor that my ‘symptoms’ of PTSD were actually life adaptions that worked for me at the time of trauma.  Of course, the issue was that they were maladaptive for living a more settled life.  In the list of best practices, one of the concepts is to help the client to understand that hyperarousal, dissociation, hypersensitivity, and other symptoms were high stress coping tools that were designed for extreme circumstances.  He pointed out that my challenge was learning to take off the body armor during the rest of my life.  Here is the issue that crops up….bad things still happen.  Yes, I often over react.  Instead of having my phaser at stun it is always in complete obliterate.

4.       Regard symptoms as adaptive and work from a strengths-based approach which is empowering of the client’s existing resources

A view of symptoms as `expectable and adaptive’ reactions to traumatic childhood experiences (Courtois, Ford & Cloitre, 2009 p.93) (i.e. as the outgrowth of normal responses to abnormal conditions) should inform clinical work.

Blueknot guide lines agrees with my counselor.  What I like about this point of view, is my actions and reactions are now considered strengths instead of weaknesses.  My counselor emphasized that he wanted me to be able to put in a dimmer switch and tone down my reactions to better fit current circumstances.  Scorched Earth reactions have a place in extreme circumstances, every day occurrences are not extreme circumstances.  I struggled with understanding what was and was not an extreme situation.  I spent many, and I do mean many, counseling sessions asking what is an expected reaction verses what my reaction was.  I remember one time when he was explaining how most people reacted to a situation.  He went on at some length.  When he was all finished, I asked puzzled, “You mean people actually do that?”  It was one of those moment in times that Face Palm had great meaning to me.

4 thoughts on “Adaptions not symptoms

  1. Yes! We survived and that’s amazing but somehow society flipped the script. Glad your counselor helped flip it back. I also appreciated what you said about not being sure of what’s a normal or right reaction; I’m prone to under-reacting to certain things and still learning about healthy expectations and how to maintain them.

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