After two years of regular counselling Aarti, in a state of semi hypnotism, where she was more aware of her internal subconscious reality, she blurted out her trauma- that her cousin had sexually assaulted her in her home, finding her alone one day. On waking state she did not recall having said anything significant. That explained a lot of things for us, especially her growing bad behaviour with her family- her relatives, her mother, father and the entire extended family except her grandmother whom she adored. She mentally blamed all of them for her state of vulnerability and for not being protective enough towards her. She was very angry with all of them. She carried this secret burden of shame, guilt and anger, alone for several years which manifested itself in irritability and maladjustment, but the load lessened after we brought it out in the open and shared it.
Anita was a troublesome child as she was stubborn and fussy and had a high temper. She was much ‘misunderstood by all’ was her refrain at home with family members. She was generally good in studies but quite controversial with her dealings with people and friends. It was easy for her to get angry, jump into a fight and then break off from them by ‘blaming them’. She apparently had many deep-rooted complexes. But it took a while for them to surface during counselling as she herself had suppressed and forgotten them. She had been a darling of her father but he had passed away soon enough when she was just a small child in school. She plucked from her memory one day a deep rooted sorrow- her mother had blamed her for her father’s death by saying ‘you killed your father as you have given him the maximum trouble’. Her mother must have said this in grief, with no intentions of hurting the child, but it stuck to Anita’s mind. It bothered her as she felt extreme guilt and missed him badly. Her sorrows multiplied as she became reclusive.
A gentleman often wallowed in his past misery and complained of depression and suicidal ideation. The visual of the burning body of his parent was horrifying even today as the scene stood out starkly in his mental canvas. He would get nightmares whenever his depression struck him and the ghosts would frequent him and torture his mind even though it was a childhood memory. He felt deprived of love and affection by parents as he lost them early on and was brought up by relatives. Although he grew up physically and became a parent eventually he remained emotionally a ‘little child’. He would lean on his wife and friends and demanded ‘love and affection’. His emotional theme rotated around ‘attention, affection and acceptance’ as he begged it from others.
People who experience or witness a traumatic event in which there was a physical harm or a serious threat, stress symptoms set in which develops into a disorder called ‘post traumatic stress disorder’. This disorder was first discovered after world war and was hence called ‘shell shock’ or ‘battle fatigue’ but was later expanded to include a wide variety of terrifying conditions that could cause intense fear, helplessness, and horror. Ordeals such as sexual assault, physical assault, accidents, natural disasters, death of loved ones or chronic child abuse can develop such stress symptoms. These events remain in the memory of people and can flash through the mind at times leaving behind intense feelings of anger, bitterness, guilt and fear. Such people can be hampered in living normal lives as they relive their memories in the form of nightmares, hallucinations or flashbacks. Such people may also tend to avoid the places, people associated with the event or the thoughts as they may lead to feelings of isolation and detachment. They may also experience increased arousal and excessive emotions which may lead to maladjustment issues, such as difficulty showing affection, outbursts of anger and irritability, poor concentration and an agitated restlessness. Their negative emotions may target themselves at innocent people and situations appearing as odd behaviour with exaggerated emotions. Physical symptoms may follow with high blood pressure, muscle tension, rapid heartbeats, and nausea.
Healing is an important part for such people with bad past experiences. A healthy personality is natural and smooth in its responses and interactions with people as it has its past experiences sorted out and emotions in control. An unhealthy or neurotic personality is controlled by its past emotions and displays defensive or offensive behaviour. Healing towards good mental health starts with awareness of the traumatic events and its accompanying emotions. Awareness is a painful process as people run away from haunting memories as they resist facing it- it is too much to talk about and handle. But a resolve to face them, confront them is the first step towards a resolution. The buried negative emotions need to be processed, understood and accepted. The conditioned behaviour that goes with the negative emotions also need to be understood and unlearned. De-conditioning, unlearning the past and fresh learning of alternative behaviour helps in moving on. The mind has to be cleaned of the dark shadows of the past so that energy blocked in negativity is released and can be channelized into bright and positive goals of living life with zest and happiness to your fullest potential.