Last week we looked at how to deal with our trauma emotions with the help of others. But sadly, for many of us safe, mature, regulated people are not always available when we need them.
Thus, today we'll look at how we can work through some of these emotions when it is just us and God.
Grief and Fear
When we find ourselves alone in our grief, it can be helpful to meditate on the fact that God is always with us (Matthew 28:20) and for us (Psalm 56:9). He is collecting our tears in a bottle and recording them in his book (Psalm 56:8). Jesus was often moved with compassion for others' suffering (Matt. 9:36; 20:34, Luke 7:13). Meditating on these truths can bring comfort and regulation. Remembering our own good moments with God also helps, particularly if we move from there into an Immanuel prayer process.
When we're going into a situation which we know might trigger our fear or grief, this crisis worksheet which I adapated from an APSATS resource may help. This worksheet can also be a useful tool in the midst of some crises.
A final exercise we can do to comfort and calm ourselves is to wrap our arms around ourselves: right hand on left shoulder and left hand on our right. Trauma expert, Peter Levine, calls this a "self-hug." We can add to the regulating effect of this exercise by tapping, first on one shoulder and then the other, rhythmically. Similarly, booking in for a massage can also help us release some of the grief and fear stored in our bodies.
One of the insights Kitty Wilder gives in the Life Model video on anger, is that anger seeks physical expression.
When we have a plan to direct that physical expression, we are much less likely to do something that we will regret later. Here are some of the ideas I give women for the moments of anger:
- Grab the phone book and start tearing
- Go for a run, walk, cycle
- Throw a tennis ball as hard as possible against the outside of the house/a wall (over and over again)
- Have some easily breakable, cheap, dishware available in a safe place. Put on safety gear (goggles, gloves, closed-toe shoes) and smash away
- Go out to the garden and take vengeance on the weeds
When you are feeling some degree of relief, consider sitting down and writing an anger letter. Use whatever language suits your feelings. You probably want to consider holding on to that letter until your anger has passed—and then decide if you'd like to pass it on to the object of your wrath (usually our SA husband).
As mentioned last week, it is easier to get back to our place of peace/quiet joy when others enter into our emotions with us. Do consider calling a friend or support person—who is not traumatized or grieving herself— and asking her for a couple hours of support.
However, I'd like to offer a word of caution about taking our anger onto the internet or social media. As explained last week, when others look in our eyes, validate the injustice of our situation and meet our level of anger (i.e., synchronize with us), this enables us to return quickly to psychological rest (i.e., peace or quiet joy).
However, there's a problem with this normal process when it's attempted online: we're limited to words. Non-verbal cues, we're told, may make up as much as 93% of our communication and these aren't available to us when we are online. Sadly, emoticons don't cut it. It is the flash of anger in the eyes, the rise in the voice, the tightening or relaxing of facial muscles, which is most important in attaining synchronicity and regulation.
Without these crucial cues everyone is "shooting blind" as they try to synchronize. Thus, well-meaning people (some of whom are in a good enough place to regulate others, some who are not) respond with angry words... that often just escalate the anger further and possibly cause distress. Similarly, the responder doesn't get to see if they have helped their friend return to rest (visual cue needed), and thus they themselves can end up stuck in anger. Those who read the exchange can likewise be triggered into anger without a means to regulate.
In such situations things get said which one often regrets later. And as we've all probably heard: "the internet is forever" (i.e., we can't always erase the record of what we've said). Even women trying to release their anger in what should be the safety of a private forum have been burned when their husband found out... and then used what they said against them in court.
That said, there are a few well-moderated online private groups for Christian wives of sex addicts. Most of these groups have very strict rules in place for the purpose of keeping everyone safe. While such a venue has the potential to be one outlet for our emotions, it's, nevertheless, important to have other, more personal ones as well.
Thus, I would encourage us all to work on turning to our Father (our "refuge and strength" Psalm 46) and others who can be physically available to us when we so desperately need to express and move on from our anger, grief or fear. (FaceTime and the like are the next best option for connecting. Phone comes after that.)
Also, if intense fear, grief or anger are endangering you or others please do not hesitate to seek professional assistance through a coach, group or therapist trained in betrayal trauma.
As we come into the Christmas season it can be really important to have some tools to help us cope with the added busyness and stress (more on this next week). In addition to the ones mentioned above, consider using regulating music, or arts/craft as a means of comfort.