12 Steps of PTSD:
In my previous article, I discussed Randy J. Hartman, Ph.D.’s 12 Steps of PTSD. If you missed it, you can read it again here. Although these stages are intended for post-traumatic stress disorder, I am aware that they can also be applied to complex post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma healing.
To understand how to heal any deep emotional trauma, we must first learn and understand each of these transiting steps in order to be able to heal what we have been through. In my experience, if one of these is skipped, then one will continue to experience ups and downs of emotions until that step is resolved.
Please note that I do mention trigger warnings and that I can be brutally honest about some behaviours as this information is for the collective and not for an individual person. If you’re sensitive or easily upset, this post may not be for you. Please use your own discernment as to whether to continue to read or listen to my post.
It is recognised that a person’s perspective will influence how they respond to their traumatic experience significantly. Due to the state of mind we were in prior to the trauma occurring, we might experience the same forms of trauma repeatedly and have entirely different reactions.
Mindset examples can be but not limited to:
- If a person is constantly exposed to traumatic events, they will continue to become a victim as they don’t have a stable and safe foundation. This person will either detach from their emotions as they become numb, as their nervous system is unable to handle current events. Alternatively, one can also become increasingly depressed and act out in anger.
- If a person has a more upbeat attitude and they are determined to create the best life for themselves, they will continue to work towards their healing after the initial psychological shock period.
- If a person has a positive mindset, they will react to traumatic events in life with a higher vibration perceptive after the initial psychological shock period.
Step One; The Activating Event(s):
The first bottom step makes reference to the “Activating Event(s),” which should be self-explanatory. These are the incidents that caused the trauma the person has gone through. One may react differently to another individual who has gone through the same kind of trauma depending on their mental conditioning (mindset) prior to the occurrence.
First reactions to trauma can include anxiety, fear, sadness, worry, disbelief, difficulty believing what has happened, emotions of uncertainty, numbness, exhaustion, and detachment. Depending on the person’s usual mental state, they can become less social or they might need more companionship and closeness than usual.
It’s normal to experience some or all of these emotions. Never criticise or make a person feel guilty about their behaviour. When a person is in a state of shock, they frequently lack control over their feelings and actions. As the individual tries to make sense of what has transpired, their minds will go into overdrive mode.
If at all possible, use a recorder or write down the events. This will help you or the person who experienced the trauma avoid future confusion or memory loss.
Allow yourself some recovery time; these steps are critical for the healing process. Nobody should expect you to have superhuman abilities. However, do not dig yourself into a deep, dark hole.
Step Two; Pain:
This is the stage at which we should acknowledge and heal the emotional, spiritual, and physical pain caused by the traumatic event. I recommend a ‘grieving period‘ at this point because we need to transmute the energy that we are feeling in our minds, bodies, and spirit.
Some individuals wrongly believe that mourning should only be permitted in cases of death. This is a seriously mistaken belief, which is why so many individuals struggle to move on from periods of their lives. Grieving is not always in response to a tragic incident or the loss of a person. It is healthy to grieve as it enables a person to switch easily between their life stages.
Our amygdala, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and every other cell in our body will hold onto trauma and the stress that we are feeling. When held for long periods of time, this creates ongoing illnesses and diseases.
In my four-part series “The Secret of Healing Your Body,” I write about how pain and conditions will manifest in the body if you have not dealt with certain emotions. Click here if you would like to read this series.
We need to grieve to allow the kinetic energy in our bodies (our chakra energy) to flow freely to avoid energy blockages or overactivity, which can lead to health and mental health issues.
My next article will go into more detail about the grieving process.
Step Three; Confusion:
This is the stage at which we try to remember and begin to doubt our memory. The loss of memories and disorientation is very common after an experience. This is why it is critical for someone to record or document the event as soon as possible.
Please make a copy for anyone you are recording or documenting for, even if it is for yourself. Keep the original copy on hand in case the second copy is lost or damaged. Even though they might not want it right now, it will be crucial after the initial psychological shock subsides. Or it can aid in the process if a police statement is required.
When we are in a psychologically traumatic state, our memory may suffer from brain fog as the brain is most likely struggling to function optimally. Due to the severity of trauma, a person can bury their memories deep within their subconscious mind as these memories are too painful to deal with.
A person must be thoroughly aware of what they have experienced, without confusion or memory loss, in order to recover fully from a traumatic event.
Step Four; Guilt:
This is the stage where we start to feel guilty. We often start wondering if we have caused the event and what we could have done to probably prevent the event from ever happening.
I’m going to be honest and upfront with you in this step, so I’m going to apologise in advance if that offends you. I believe that we should all be responsible for our own actions. However, we don’t need to carry what is not ours to keep.
If you didn’t do anything extremely stupid, out of ignorance, or that put other people or yourself at risk, you are not accountable for the actions of others. That is their doing, not yours. You have nothing to be guilty of, so dump that baggage of guilt. It doesn’t belong to you.
If this traumatic incident was caused by a freak accident with no intentional intention to harm or put anyone at risk, you need to accept that bad things do occasionally happen to good people. Therefore, the guilt is not yours to carry either.
If you have survivor’s guilt, please know that your time was not up and you were given a second chance to make a difference in your life. This type of guilt needs regular therapy if you feel responsible for someone else’s passing.
Now, if you are guilty of endangering yourself and others intentionally, you do need to work through the underlying issues that have brought you to this traumatic event.
You’ll need regular therapy with a therapist or healer to heal the other wounds that you are carrying. Taking responsibility for your actions is the very first step of healing.
Step 5; Shame:
This is the stage where shame can set in. Depending on the type of traumatic experience that you have encountered, this can be very hard to overcome.
Especially if the occurrence involved any kind of sexual abuse. No one has the right to touch another person personally without their consent and being of legal age, regardless of the circumstances. My heart holds healing for you if this has happened to you. There is nothing to be ashamed of; the offender, not you, is to blame.
If you are feeling shame because you believe you are responsible for a situation, please ensure that you have completed the previous step of healing guilt. Shame should no longer be an issue for you once you have overcome your feelings of guilt.
When people leave their lives, some people, especially children, feel ashamed. This could be a loved one, a parent, a relative, or a friend. They believe they did something wrong to cause that person to leave.
People leave our lives for a variety of reasons, and if that person truly desired to be in your life, they would remain. This has absolutely nothing to do with you. This person who left made this decision based on their own desire to leave.
I recommend you keep going to counselling with a therapist you trust in order to overcome shame. Alternately, invoke the aid of the archangels, your guides, your ancestors, Jesus, or whoever else you believe in.
Participate in positive music therapy, painting, or colour therapy as well. These treatments help you to connect with your solar plexus chakra, which makes them incredibly healing.
Regularly listening to positive affirmations with headphones or earpods will also assist someone in overcoming shame.
Trigger warning: If you know for a fact (not from someone else) that you dress provocatively and tease on purpose, you should see a therapist to figure out why you need to display this type of behaviour.
Step 6; Self-Worth Dissipating:
This is a stage in which someone feels completely worthless, which they become despondent and depressed.
After going through a traumatic experience, a person who was once active and outgoing may put a lot of pressure on themselves to expect things to return to normal. When they experience an episode of anxiety, a panic attack, etc, they may become extremely frustrated that they cannot continue in a carefree manner as they formerly did, making them feel useless.
It can be quite difficult for someone to recover from self-worth issues if they have previously had them. They won’t be able to utilise a previous recollection as motivation, which will make them feel even more hopeless and unworthy than before.
This is where a person needs to work on self-love for themselves. By learning self-love, we learn forgiveness and how to accept ourselves for who we are.
In my article, Never Underestimate The Influence of Self-Love, I discuss several ways to accomplish this.
Step 7; Anxiety:
This is the stage where a person develops an overload of thinking. It’s where the monkey mind will start to think of the worst possible outcome to a situation that has not even occurred yet.
Depending on the traumatic experience that a person has gone through, there are various levels of anxiety.
For instance, if someone had a car accident, they would experience anxiety whenever they think about or need to use a car. It’s possible that they don’t feel anxious in any other aspects of their lives.
In my article, Anxiety. There Are 3 Things You Should Know Right Now!, I discuss several ways on how to overcome anxiety.
Step 8; Fear:
This is the stage where posttraumatic stress disorder (complex or singular) manifests as a condition in a person at this point. It is where a person has an unpleasant, often intense emotion brought on by the prospect or perception of danger.
One has to feel secure, and the only secure method to achieve this is to restrict what you read, watch, play, or consume. Our subconscious mind keeps track of occurrences when we engage in activities like viewing horror or action movies or the news, and we can escalate our fears by what we watch or listen to.
To feel safe a person should listen to self-hypnosis and positive safe affirmations whilst wearing headphones or earpods to retrain in the subconscious mind in order to bring about a sense of safety in their life.
Step 9; Anger:
This is the stage that activates the area involved in cognitive function and preparation for fight or flight response in a person. A person may become angry with themselves, others, or with life in general. If you have worked through the previous steps, which is recommended, then we can turn anger into a positive driving force.
anger – a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong; wrath; ire. – pain or smart, as of a sore. – Obsolete. grief; trouble.Dictionary.com
Writing letters is a form of therapy that I personally find very healing. Whenever I feel angry with a person or with a circumstance, I write a letter to the person I’m angry with, the cosmos, or even just to myself. If the letter is to a person, I don’t recommend giving this letter to the recipient as this can complicate things further or you can jeopardise your own safety.
I want you to channel all of your rage onto that piece of paper in this letter. It makes no difference how messy your writing is or how many grammatical or spelling errors there are. You are free to curse. You can write down everything that comes to mind. If you don’t like to write, you can channel your feelings into a painting or drawing.
Now depending on the type of paper that you have used, will depend on your next step. If your using biodegradable paper (eco friendly) you can choose any of these steps, if not I would recommend only using the first option.
These steps are very powerful to do on a full moon, as the full moon is all about releasing. However, you can perform this anger-releasing activity at any time. Always set your intention that you want to release your anger and always use your discernment when carrying out any of the options below:
- Fire – find a safe place to be able to burn that piece of paper, drawing, or painting. As it catches fire, take a big deep breath in and I want you to imagine that you are collecting every bit of anger in your body and exhale noisily, pushing all that anger from your body into the fire.
- Water – this has to be done while running a source of water. Now, with your eco-friendly paper, place this paper in a running stream, or into the waves. As your paper is flowing away from you, take a big deep breath in. I want you to imagine that you are collecting every bit of anger in your body and exhale noisily, pushing all that anger from your body and into the water.
- Air – this is always best done on top of a mountain or hilltop with your eco-friendly paper on a windy day. As you are releasing the paper into the air, take a big deep breath in. I want you to imagine that you are collecting every bit of anger in your body and exhaling noisily, pushing all that anger from your body and into the wind.
- Earth – this is where you dig a deep hole. Now, with your eco-friendly paper, place this paper into the hole. Now take a big deep breath in and I want you to imagine that you are collecting every bit of anger in your body and exhale noisily, pushing all that anger from your body into the hole. Fill in this hole with the remaining dirt.
Now I want you to move any excess energy into beginning a new project, chasing your dream, engaging in physical activity, or even dancing. To transmute and transform your energy, you must move your body.
Step 10; Resentment:
resentment – the feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc., regarded as causing injury or insult.Dictionary.com
In the diagram of the 12 Steps of PTSD by Randy J. Hartman, Ph.D he has placed “distrusting others” in this category. I personally feel, from my own personal experience of CPTSD, that this may relate to not trusting others due to the fact that one actually doesn’t trust themselves.
Therefore, when someone claims to be able to assist us or that everything would be alright, we feel bitter and suspicious. How can we believe in them? They lack our knowledge and pain of the circumstances. They are not suffering like I am!
I would love to hear your take on this, so please feel free to comment below.
I believe that the work that a person has put into the previous steps will have an impact on the final steps. As when a person works through the lower steps, the severity of the higher steps will become less severe or non existent.
As we have worked through all of our:
Step 11; Depression:
In the diagram of the 12 Steps of PTSD by Randy J. Hartman, Ph.D he has placed “self-esteem in a downward spiral” in this category. Which is pretty self explanatory. We lose our self-esteem, self-worth, self-love, self-care and our self-awareness.
I have read an in-depth article on depression and you can find it here.
Step 12; Acute Anxiety:
In the diagram of the 12 Steps of PTSD by Randy J. Hartman, Ph.D he has placed panic and anxiety episodes in this category. This is usually the final symptom of diagnosing one with post-traumatic stress disorder or complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
This is where the heightened level of anxiety impacts a person in their daily life. The person is always on high alert, waiting for anything to happen. To read my article on anxiety, you can find it here.
I think I’ve covered every aspect of these 12 steps. Please use this information only as a guide and consult your doctor if you have any questions. I wrote this piece, as I said in the post, based on my own experience of recovery and the advice I give to others.
My next article will be about grief and will be published in a fortnight because I’ll be focusing on other projects I’ll be starting.
Until next time, take care and know that you are deserving of the best life possible.
Love Sherry 💚