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How Identifying My 'Stuck Points' Is Helping Me Process My Trauma

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When I first started trauma work with my therapist this summer, I had no idea what to expect. Most of my previous knowledge of “trauma processing” either came from highly dramatized television shows or social media threads about eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and my therapist had made it very clear that my work with her would look nothing like those examples. Instead, my therapist and I spent an entire session discussing the three forms of trauma treatment she thought would best work for me, and together we mapped out my treatment plan.

• What is PTSD?

Like most other types of therapeutic modalities, trauma treatment rarely starts with any of the “heavy lifting.” In fact, the first several weeks of trauma work involved learning skills that almost paralleled those I’d already picked up through dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). However, I was instantly hooked when we started working through my “stuck points.”

As the name suggests, stuck points are thoughts that keep us from recovering. They are usually concise, overarching thoughts or beliefs that you hold about yourself or others that are often exaggerated and inaccurate, plus they almost always hold a negative connotation. Stuck points not only skew a person’s view of themselves and the world, but they also lead to a cycle of painful emotions and negative thought patterns, hence causing someone with a history of trauma to become “stuck” in an unhealthy state of mind.

As I began identifying my personal stuck points and identifying situations where the stuck points led to emotional responses, I began to understand just how problematic these thought patterns were to nearly every aspect of my life.

For example, the stuck point of “everyone will abandon me eventually” automatically puts me on the defense in nearly all of my interpersonal relationships. Because I already fear abandonment from the beginning, I bend over backward to hopefully convince the person to stay, panic and grow overly clingy at even the smallest hint of drifting, or lash out and use passive-aggressive communication to push people away so that I can blame myself for everything. Of course, all of these behaviors are problematic and make lasting relationships all but impossible, so I remain “stuck” in this constant cycle because of my own thought, my stuck point.

Obviously stuck points stem from trauma, which means these thought patterns became a habit for those of us living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and are obviously hard to break. However, I am trying as much as I can to not only identify a list of my own stuck points, but I’m also using assignments from my therapist to tease apart my stuck points so that I can see how much they harm me.

As I continue to evaluate everyday events and look at the stuck points that automatically enter my mind, I am starting to recognize my emotional responses and work through them before I let my body’s automatic responses take over. It’s not easy, and I’m still not getting it right all the time, but I am also seeing glimmers of hope where I only saw despair before.

I think that for many of us, the real work in building a life worth living doesn’t involve changing our lives, but changing the way we look at our lives instead. After all, sometimes the way we see the world is merely a perception that’s skewed by our past experiences and our own preconceived notions of what the world should be. By recognizing the thought patterns that we’ve allowed ourselves to get “stuck” in, we can eventually reframe our thoughts and turn on the lights in the room so that we’re no longer stumbling around in the darkness.

Photo by Artyom Kim on Unsplash

Originally published: December 16, 2020
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