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You know those sensations — the ones that come out of nowhere — those feelings that create PTSD symptoms you just can’t control. We’ve all been there. During my PTSD years this happened often in medical situations when I’d suddenly find myself shaking so much my teeth would chatter.
The simplified answer is that it happens like this:
Your senses deliver stimuli information to your brain. Your mind assesses the info and develops an interpretation of the data. (This is where the whole process hinges: Your (negative, positive or neutral) interpretation affects the rest of the chain reaction.)
In response to the interpretation your mind forms a thought which releases chemicals in your brain that create a sensation in your body that compels you toward an action (fight, flight or freeze). At the end of all that your mind registers a response to the meaning of the experience.
Whew, with a process so complex it’s no wonder that how feelings create PTSD symptoms is exhausting! To break it down and make it easier to see I’ve created this infographic:
The crux of learning how to interrupt the full-blown process of how a feeling creates PTSD symptoms means learning to intervene in the interpretation phase. One way to do this is to immediately start asking yourself,
“What’s another way to look at this?”
“What’s another explanation for what’s happening in this moment?”
True, the feeling creation process happens quickly and at first you may not be adept at slowing it down enough to fully explore other interpretations. However, you can ask yourself to imagine other interpretations at any point in the process and start to benefit immediately when you do so.
Developing a feeling interruption habit a valuable skill in healing PTSD. To make it easier to build this skill, start the habit today by asking yourself the questions listed above in moments when there’s the least amount of outside stress.
Whenever you begin to introduce alternative ideas (at the beginning, middle or end of the feeling creation cycle) you will be changing your dominant thought, which will change the sensation in your body, which will change the expression (and your experience) of PTSD symptoms. Like everything in the process of how to heal PTSD, this takes time but is sooo worth the effort.
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