can not only change your biochemistry, but also the way you think. There are predictable
patterns of thinking; you will become able to catch yourself in these patterns
as you become aware of your mind-sets.
Trauma Mind-Set #1: All-or-Nothing
and Now-or-Never Thinking
Absolutist, all-or-nothing thinking is characteristic
of those who have experienced a traumatic event. Since there is so much at stake
during a traumatic event, issues can become black or white.
Ask yourself the
Who was there during the trauma, or immediately
before of after the trauma?
Were there fellow survivors, authority
figures, rescuers, or bystanders?
What did they say? Did anyone give
instructions or orders or threats?
Did anyone make all-or-nothing comments?
Did your thinking change because of what others said, or did not say, right
before, during, or immediately following the trauma? How did your thinking change?
Trauma Mind-Set #2: Intolerance of Mistakes and Perfectionism
When others make errors similar to your trauma-related mistakes
Superiority, Entitlement, and Jealousy
Trauma Mind-Set #3: Denial of
Entitlement, and Jealousy
Coming to terms with contradictory feelings
within ourselves is one of the hardest parts of being human. Life would be so
much simpler if we felt only one way about ourselves and others, instead of feeling
one way one time, and a different way the next time, and sometimes feeling two
contradictory ways at the same time.
all trauma survivors feel both inferior and superior to others at the same time;
neither do they feel they deserve nothing and are entitled to almost everything
at the same time. But some trauma survivors do feel such contradictory feelings,
and for them the tension between these kinds of extreme feelings creates its own
confusion and pain.
section will not apply to all survivors, but it does apply to you if you answer
yes to the following questions:
Have you ever felt so worthless,
ashamed, and guilty because of your trauma and the scars it left that you feel
you deserve very little out of life?
On the other hand, do you sometimes
feel that precisely because you suffered so much as the result of your trauma,
you are now superior to others and entitled to the best that life has to offer?
Do you sometimes think, Ive paid my dues. Now the world owes
Does a part of you feel ashamed of your scars (whether they
be psychological, physical, or both) while another part of you wears them as a
badge of honor?
Do you feel that the hardships youve had set
you above those who have never known true suffering or defeat?
you experience these kinds of contradictory feelings -- feelings of inferiority
alternating with feelings of superiority, and feelings of worthlessness alternating
with feelings of entitlement -- you may discover that when relating to others,
you are simultaneously both jealous and contemptuous.
example, you may be jealous of others because they dont have to deal
with nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, or triggers and life seems
to have dealt them a better hand, whereas you have been cheated of aspects of
your physical and mental health, and perhaps, years of your life. On the other
hand, you may be contemptuous of the nontraumatized because they dont know
what real life is all about. Unlike you, they havent been tested
and they still naively believe that the world is just and fair and that people
are basically good at heart. You know better. You know about cruelty and injustice,
or bad luck and in that knowledge, you might feel superior to those who assume
that life is one positive experience after another, interrupted only by the ordinary,
normal stresses of life, such as flat tires or lost baggage at airline terminals.You
may feel that, because of all you have been through, the rest of your life should
not be stressful, and that you are entitled to an easier time of it than others.
At the very least, you may feel that no more traumas should ever happen to you
again because, after all, youve had your share. Furthermore, allowances
should be made for you at work, in relationships, or elsewhere that take into
account your limitations and triggers.
Being Honest About Feeling Superior
Do you feel entitled to special favors
or services from others because you have been traumatized and have suffered? What
are the special favors or exceptions you feel you deserve? Have you directly asked
for these special arrangements in any of your relationships? Have you asked for
them, or expected them, indirectly? Have you not asked for these certain arrangements
either directly or indirectly, and then become angry when they were not provided?
Being Honest About Being Jealous
People are often reluctant to admit to
feelings of jealousy because such an admission reveals a lack in ones self.
There are two types of jealousy:
The first is a kind of pathological possessiveness
of another person that seeks to control that person and keep that person all to
oneself. In this type of jealousy, you arent jealous of the qualities of
the person, you are afraid of losing that persons affection or commitment
to you. You seek to ensure that persons allegiance through various means
of control, and you possessively guard that person from being influenced by others.
Almost anyone, or any force outside of your relationship is seen as a potential
threat to the relationship. For example, the other persons family, vocational
interests, friends, intellectual interests, or, indeed, any interest other than
you is viewed as threatening.
The second type of jealousy is jealousy
of another persons traits or achievements, which you admire and wish you
had. You may see a dancer in a movie, for example, and be jealous of the dancers
grace and skill. You may hear someone give a speech and envy the smoothness and
effectiveness of the presentation. You may read an essay written by a friend and
be envious of your friends achievement.
Channeling Your Jealous Energies Productively
1. Were you jealous
of any of these people? Did you want to control them so that you could be assured
of their affection for you? What did you fear would happen if you lost that person?
2. Were you the object of someone elses jealousy? What do you think this
person was afraid of if he/she lost you? If you have left this person, what happened
following your departure?
3. If you are currently behaving in a jealous
manner toward someone, how does your behavior affect the relationship? Is your
behavior useful in controlling the other and assuring you that this person wont
leave you, or does your behavior have another effect? What is that effect?
4. Examine the relationships you wrote about in chapter 1 again. Were any of these
relationships affected by jealousy arising from your insecurity? How did
your jealousy affect the relationship? Are you currently feeling insecure and
jealous within an important relationship? What is the source of your insecurity?
How does your jealousy affect you and the relationship?
5. Are you, or
have you been, jealous of what someone else is doing or how someone else behaves?
Would you like to be more like that person? In what ways is possible for you to
become what you are jealous of? In what ways it not possible? In what ways is
your jealousy a mirror of the losses you sustained as a result of the trauma?
6. What stops you from becoming the kind of person of whom you are jealous? For
example, if you are jealous of people who are physically fit, what stops you from
emulating them and becoming more fit? Even if you take steps to become more like
the person you envy, what might be the limits of such action? What can you realistically
hope to achieve?
-Matsakis, Ph.D., Aphrodite. Trust After Trauma. New Harbinger Publications, Oakland, 1998.
Reflection Exercise #3
The preceding section contained a Client Worksheet.
List two case studies regarding the possible applications of this Client Worksheet.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION
10: What are three possible Mind-Sets a trauma survivor may exhibit? To select
and enter your answer go to .