Thursday, June 25, 2009

Trauma & desensitization **

The Transactional Analysis explanation of trauma reaction is that the Free Child ego state hides away. When an individual is confronted with something especially repugnant, shocking or horrifying the FC gets over loaded and it copes by withdrawing.

This diagram is meant to indicate that the FC gets partitioned off in the personality. It is hidden away from the environment and thus the sensitive parts of it don’t have to deal with any future ‘shocks’ that may come.

This permits the person to desensitise. When the FC hides away the person is desensitising to their environment especially to those circumstances that the person found very unpleasant. It is these sensitive emotions and aspects of the FC that hide away and thus the person becomes less ‘sensitive’.

Desensitisation makes what is emotionally abnormal become emotionally normal. For instance a soldier in a combat zone may have considerable painful emotions when he kills his first person. After he has killed ten people then his emotions about killing are far less dramatic and painful. This is because his FC has been partitioned off and he has desensitised to killing which allows his Child ego state to be much less sensitive about it. Thus what was once emotionally abnormal for him becomes emotionally normal.

Desensitisation is usually portrayed as a negative kind of process as we hear phrases like “children desensitising to violence” and so forth. However it is a normal psychological process and indeed has a positive purpose. If the soldier did not desensitise then in a short space of time he would emotionally collapse and simply could not function. He would psychologically breakdown and be rendered incompetent and inept. Such desensitising allows him to function and survive the traumatic episodes.

Trauma debriefing is designed to halt the partitioning off of the FC and the person once again gets resensitized. The sensitive aspects of the personality are coaxed out by the therapist and the person then can give up the partitioning off process and can again experience the world as a safe and OK place.

The problems occur when the degree of desensitisation is too intense or too protracted. If the partitioning off is strong and goes on for too long then the individual will begin to psychologically breakdown. They get a thing called PTSD which means the following happens to them

Persistent reexperience of trauma (e.g. flashbacks, nightmares)

Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma (e.g. inability to talk about things even related to the experience, avoidance of things and discussions that trigger flashbacks and reexperiencing symptoms fear of losing control)

Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (e.g. difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger and hypervigilance)

Significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (e.g. problems with work and relationships.)

If the FC is partitioned off for too long then the personality begins to collapse in the ways just described. Desensitising is a positive process in the shorter term but without the Free Child getting its basic emotional needs met in the longer term then humans will begin to fall apart. Trauma debriefing allows the person to once again emotionally resensitize and thus the symptoms of PTSD diminish.



  1. What about the research that shows that those who go through debriefing do worse than those who don't?

    And god, I could write books on desensitization in medical training. I think that's most of what's wrong with me now. I've turned off every normal reaction of disgust and despair and gore. And it leaves me just numb.

  2. Some people never recover. Somehow they can never be resensized again. Their bodies begin to break down and they are unable to do things that would seem to be normal for them.

    Free child really does make THAT much of a difference to our lives? That's so frightening. I would think that pretty much most the people I know have cut off FC. That means we're not whole then?

    This is a yuck post Tony. A bit sad.

    My exam time is over and i'm free for a whole sememster. Well... except for my counselling course. Bit excited about that! *Giggles* Yay!

  3. Tony?

    Is it difficult for you (as soon as people know what you do) to feel ok when you're in a group of random people - like at a party where there are some people you know and some you don't know?

    I feel as though i stalk you. Obviously you get that in the cyber world but do you also get that in the real world of life?

    Do you feel (cause i can imagine people being jealous and protective of your time with them individually) that you are owned by your family, clients, blog people?

    Do you ever feel over looked and taken for granted by others? Like you are a resource and nothing more? Just people fodder?

    Do you feel as though people pay for you so they - in a sense - own you and because so many people own a part of you, you feel torn in so many different directions?

    I was just thinking. If i were you, i think i would.

    I'm so sorry for my part in all of that stuff. Its wrong but its what you do - consequences i guess.

    I really hope you have a lovely and surprisingly exciting week end. You deserve all good things.

  4. No Roses,

    I don't feel like that, like I am owned or taken for granted. I have no trouble stating what I want and if I feel things are not equal in a relationship in this way I have no trouble dealing with it.

    In the blogosphere I don't feel I have to respond to anyone, because I don't. In previous times I have simply not responded if I feel that is the thing needed. I don't owe anyone and they don't owe me in the blogosphere.

    Regarding stalking? There are lurkers on this blog. Those who come and read and stay to lurk and never make any comments. So I don't feel stalked but I do feel lurked.

    I can always shut it down an time I want. At the moment I get a lot from the comments and as I have said in the past it has helped me to formulate ideas that will end up in some form of professional publication at some time. Which as I keep banging on about is my primary goal here

    I am sure glad though that you come and comment Roses. It has been grand getting to meet you in this cyber space way


  5. Oh... so we're your fodder. Well i guess since its your place, that we like to invade, that's makes it ok. Its true - you have full control in it all.

    I've got to say - its weird getting to meet here in this cyber space way. And i'm glad and am grateful to you for allow us (me) to come and comment here. Thank you.

    Being lurked... is that anything like being leeched? Eww! Don't like sluggy leechy type things. *Shudder*

  6. You better watch out Sara with those comments about research and scientific knowledge particularly in relation to the helping professions. I will launch into a monologue on my soap box about the status afforded such knowledge.

    If you are numb why don't you do some resensitizing as I have suggested above?


  7. Yes Roses,
    I have control of my place and everyone has control of thiers. And your point is?


  8. I don't know if i was making a point, it appears that what you said makes good sense.

    Did you want to have an argument about something? I will argue with you if you like. *Shrugs* It may be quite boring for you to know that you will win. Its your call.

    I hope this weekend is a bit exciting for you in a nice way. Its nice when that happens.

    Cheers... roses

  9. Yes Roses

    Lets have an argument. I think we would be good at that


  10. What about? I'm in a particularly good mood this morning. But i can rough it up for you if you like