After the Webinar: The 4 Most Common Feelings of Trauma Survivors. Q&A with Duane Bowers

Webinar presenter Duane Bowers answered a number of your questions after his presentation, The Four Most Common Feelings of Trauma Survivors. Here are just a few of his responses.


Audience Question: Can using hope as an intervention make a survivor feel unheard or discounted if it’s done too early? 

Duane Bowers: I can only talk from my experience, and from my experience hope can be introduced as early as possible, but you got to do it… In other words, you don’t want to come with a little Mary Sunshine kind of hopeful attitude. You’d look at small things of hope, small places of hope… okay, this could be better than what you’re experiencing now. So, doing something talking. And it sometimes it doesn’t even have to be related to the trauma just to help a person get a sense of hope sometimes, you know, if they say, “Oh, my cat’s pregnant!” “Oh, so how many kittens do you hope that they have?” “Oh, I don’t care 4 or 5.” See? We’re already talking about the future. We’re talking about something positive, you know, there’s a sense of hope. Just introducing the idea of hope and then saying alright. So, there’s one thing that maybe isn’t affected by the trauma. There’s one thing in your life that maybe you can help with, and maybe you can help give a sense of control about and work with that isn’t going to be affected by the trauma. What do you think about that? Alright. So, I don’t think you can introduce it too early. I think you can come on too strong with it, though. And I think you want to keep it very small at first because if you come on saying, “Oh, the sun will come up tomorrow.” They’re just going to look at you and walk out the door. They’re not going to engage with you.


Audience Question: How do we help a person plan for the future and develop hope if they don’t have a motivator for doing so? 

Duane Bowers: So again, to make it as small as possible. Would you feel better if this is the way it is? What’s one tiny little thing you can do in your house that’ll make it feel a little more comfortable for you? What’s one little thing that you can think of even, what’s one thought you can have? What’s one little thought you can have that actually would feel good? Give me one feel-good thought. Talk to me about one memory you have that makes you feel good. Again, and then, once they can identify it and they feel good, you help them understand. So, see the control you just took, you just took control over your brain. You introduced something that made it feel better and made you feel better. What else can you do to build on that? So, it’ll take maybe some time, but there’s always something that you can help them find that they can use as the catalyst and then build on it.


Audience Question: Can our emotions ever be fully under our control? 

Duane Bowers: Again, I think we can manage our emotions, I’m not sure they can always be under control. I agree with you. I think I know we’re going with this, and I agree with you on that. It’s like anger. We cannot control it. We can manage it. We can’t always control because, often emotions are a response to something that’s outside of our control. So yeah, probably not. But we can manage how we manifest and how we allow them to be expressed.


Audience Question: When it comes to mindfulness activities, are there certain activities that work better for kids versus adults? 

Duane Bowers: Oh, kids love mindfulness activities because they have less inhibitions. You know, I talked about focusing on the body. One of the things that I’ve noticed kids really love to do is pretend to be a worm and literally crawl around the floor, pretending to be a worm. Well, that’s when they’re focusing on their body. They’re focusing on the here and now, they love connecting with that kind of thing. Play therapy is based on the idea of mindfulness and up being in the present moment. So, all of those things, and sometimes you can sneak a little play therapy in with an adult and it’ll work. But kids, that’s the essence of play therapy, is the idea of being in the here and now and focusing on the play and recognizing that this is helping me control my feelings. So yeah.


Audience Question: Is it common for a person’s actions to not align with their emotions? 

Duane Bowers: Oh, I think so. Yeah. Yes, absolutely. And that can be what I am trying to say. It can be on purpose, or it can be subconscious, I think, either way, particularly with a person who’s experienced trauma. They may be very afraid, very afraid of their environment, and put on a front of being in control and whatever. And I think this is often why anger shows up because I’m not in control. And so, I use anger to back people away into acting like, “Yes, I’m going to control this situation.” So yeah, I think so, I think that happens all the time. People with depression often try to act like they’re not depressed. And so, one of the challenges for us as the helping person is to figure out what I’m seeing, since it’s different than what I’m hearing, which is really what’s going on. And I think helping them to see that perhaps their actions are not representative of what they’re saying, they’re feeling. “Talk to me about that. How are you able to do this when you say you’re feeling like this, talk to me about that.” Might be an avenue to work with that.


Audience Question: How does substance abuse impact emotions? 

Duane Bowers: Oh, well, now, do we have an hour? I think one of the reasons that. And again, I say I’m in recovery. I think one of the reasons that we tend to use drugs and alcohol is to, we think, free us up from the emotion. Get rid of the emotion, get rid of the pain. I think what we find is that it might temporarily relieve it, and I’m getting way off base here, but temporarily relieve it. But then we find we have to use more and more alcohol, or more and more drugs, or more and more of whatever the addictive source is to get the same response because of the dopamine response. And so, we get deeper and deeper into the addiction because we’re trying to get that same feeling we got the first time we used to cover up the emotions or to tolerate the emotions or manage the emotions. With trauma survivors particularly drug abuse, substance abuse is used as a self-medicator for feeling. So that is the point of using it, it gives me an escape from feelings or whatever. But the addiction comes because I have to use more and more and more to get the same effects as I’m using it to help me modulate, help me to manage those emotions. Yeah, so. I don’t know if I answered that or not.


Audience Question: Does fear turn into anxiety? 

Duane Bowers: I think fear is the root of anxiety. I’m not sure about the turning into, but I honor what you’re saying, as far as the connection there is definitely a connection. Anxiety is fear-based. So, fear, like flee, is the basis of it is fear. It is. What if? What if? What if? What if something happens? What if something happens? It is definitely fear-based. So, it is one of the expressions of fear. I think that might be a better way of saying it.


Audience Question: Does cortisol result in the production of adrenaline? 

Duane Bowers: No, but they are both produced by the same organs which are the adrenal glands. Most of the cortisol, now cortisol is produced in different areas of the body, but most of the cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands. And is released often with adrenaline, so not only are you getting the effect of the cortisol, but you’re also getting the sort of pumped-up physiological reaction of the adrenaline at the same time. So, they are produced in the same place by the adrenal glands. And I don’t know that they’re coworkers necessarily. But when they get released at the same time, you’re going to have the effects of both in a traumatic response. And again, interesting, that when that happens and cortisol floods the brain, floods the body along with adrenaline, adrenaline can be just as strong in a freeze response as it is in a flee or fight response. A lot of people talk about it. I just froze and I couldn’t, it was almost like I couldn’t move. That’s the adrenaline actually overwhelming the body and overwhelming the muscles, and whatever so that I froze I couldn’t move. I couldn’t. It’s so intense that my body wouldn’t respond to my need to move.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of The Four Most Common Feelings of Trauma Survivors.  


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