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On the last track, we discussed Shattering Assumptions. As you may know, grieving clients may be forced to reconsider three assumptions about themselves. They are the loss of invulnerability, the loss of an orderly world, and the loss of a positive self-image.
On this track, we will discuss Secondary Wounding. As you may already know, secondary wounding occurs when the people the client turns to for support respond in a way that further injures the client. In my practice, I have found five basic types of secondary wounding experiences. They are disbelief, discounting, ignorance, labeling, and cruelty. As I describe the five types of secondary wounding, you may want to use this as a checklist to evaluate a client you may be treating.
Five Basic Types of Secondary Wounding
For example, prior to the sexual assault, Sarah worked as a department manager. Her supervisor assumed that because Sarah had taken a few days off work and attended a rape crisis group, she would be unable to function as a department manager. Sarah stated, “When I went back to work, my boss asked me to serve as a receptionist instead of department manager. When I asked why I was being demoted, my boss said it was because she didn’t know if I could emotionally handle a management position.” Would you agree that Sarah’s boss had labeled her a victim? Do you have a client you are currently treating that is being labeled as a victim.
3-Step "Dealing with Secondary Wounding Experiences" Technique
--The first step is to identify specific secondary wounding experiences. Sarah identified three distinct secondary wounding experiences. The three Sarah identified were disbelief from her boyfriend, discounting from her sister, and labeling from her boss.
--The second step in the “Dealing with Secondary Wounding Experiences” technique is to identify specific emotional responses. I asked Sarah what feelings she experienced from each of her secondary wounds. Sarah stated, “I feel anger, pain, disgust, and sorrow. I also want to get back at all of them for hurting me even more.”
-- In addition
to identifying specific secondary wounding experiences and identifying
specific emotional responses, the third step is to consider
the effects of the secondary wounding. I asked Sarah if her
secondary wounds altered her self-image, relationships, or ability to participate
Would you agree that Sarah’s ability to forgive others while experiencing her own pain and grief may help her through the healing process? In a later session, Sarah stated, “I don’t feel so bad now. I know why my friends and family said the mean things they said. I forgave them and they apologized. Now we can actually talk about what happened and I don’t feel like such an outsider.”
On this track, we discussed five basic types of secondary
wounding experiences. They are disbelief, discounting, ignorance, labeling,
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