According to Peter Levine (author of Waking the Tiger), ‘Trauma is a fact of life.’ Dr. Tinnin often said if you were born in a hospital or were circumcised, you probably have preverbal trauma. While not everybody reacts to the same traumatic event in the same way, few of us will escape trauma altogether. Many types of trauma facing us on this earth are often not even recognized as causing symptoms. They are just thought to be part of being human and one should just ‘get over it.’ With ITR we give you a way to ‘get over it’ for good by finishing the story. Despite the prevalence of trauma, you don’t have to endure the symptoms for the rest of your life.
Why should I start with an early traumatic event that I don’t remember like, one in the womb, birth or preverbal?
You may not recall or have words for these events, but implicit memory (body sensations or memories, feelings, or emotions not connected with words) has been demonstrated to start as early as 16 weeks old. We call these early traumatic events foundation traumas. They can set the stage for a person’s life. Unlike conventional therapy that works with the most recent events, we advocate starting chronologically and working your way up the timeline. Think of your life like a house. The work on the foundation must be completed first before anything else, or you go over the same territory repeatedly. This is why other approaches may take many years.
ITR can eliminate your symptoms and you can begin right away if you do not have dissociative regression. Once you learn the tasks, you can do much on your own. It does not require a set time between doing one story and the next. It allows you to tell your stories without re-living them.
You will know you have used ITR correctly when symptoms (nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance, panic attacks, fear of crowds) begin to diminish and then disappear altogether. You might feel worse temporarily because difficult material is being addressed. But you will feel better as the events are understood to have a beginning, middle, and end.
Using this method will not erase memories. No one can change what happened to you but we can change the way you think about it. For example, if being in a near-fatal accident is part of your history, that fact won’t be changed. You will always remember it, but you won’t feel like it’s going to happen again at any minute.
If you fill out the TRS on a weekly basis you can easily monitor your progress. Sometimes, the immediate results of doing the ITR tasks can be obvious; sometimes, they are subtle. Often, people close to you will notice changes before you will. This assessment will help you see your results.
Some level of dissociation is completely normal like getting so absorbed in a book or movie that you lose track of time or ‘forgetting and forgetting that you forgot.’ Dissociation is a disconnection of things that are usually linked together such as perception of the outside world, memory, consciousness, and one’s sense of identity. Often, parts of a trauma story are dissociated, making it fragmented and difficult to tell. With ITR you will connect things that were dissociated from a traumatic event, making it possible to finally finish the story and put an end to the related symptoms.
Dissociative regression is an extreme degree of dissociation and is often confused with depression. In dissociative regression a person loses the normal capacity for self-regulation because of the failure of one or more basic mental processes. For example, a person may have a problem with executive functions such as doing the activities of daily living (getting out of bed, taking care of personal hygiene, sleeping, eating regularly, taking care of children, keeping appointments, etc.) A person may lose a reliable sense of time (such as confusing day and night) and lack the capacity for willful action. One may have trouble distinguishing one’s self from another. In dissociative regression one often has difficulty using words and cannot understanding figures of speech, making communication challenging. Dissociative regression must be reversed before using this method. The severity of dissociative regression can be measured by the Dissociative Regression Scale (DRS). (See ‘Resources’ for the Dissociative Regression Regimen.)
No, it is not necessary to be in a hospital program if you follow the directions we give. (See ‘Resources’ for the Dissociative Regression Regimen.) If you are having a hard time doing activities of daily living and you feel as if you have no energy, you need another person to help you do this regimen. Keeping the daily logs (make Hot link to log) of your activities is important. Once you can do this for a few weeks on your own, you no longer need to keep the log, and you can come back and re-take the assessment. What is the Dissociative Regression Regimen?
Get an accountability partner to do this regimen with you. It may take a dose of ‘tough love’ from your partner to accomplish these tasks.
- Keep a daily log – On one sheet of the log is a space for every half hour of the day. On the other is a set of questions to answer. It is essential to fill these out each day to track both your activities and the amount of time you have ‘lost.’
- Monitor stimulation – Avoid being completely alone or being in crowds. Get adequate mental stimulation, not too much and not too little. Do not use alcohol or drugs (except prescription medicine).
- Keep a regular schedule – Have regular meals. Go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. Do not take naps.
- Do regular exercise – Exercise every day. Swim, walk a pet or do other pleasurable exercises.
A trigger is any sensory stimulus (ex., a smell, a sound, a touch, a taste, or an image) from a traumatic event that has the ability to generate an uncontrollable, strong, and emotional response such as a flashback or a panic attack. Fragmented trauma memories are stored in the nonverbal brain without regard for time or context. For example, a person unexpectedly sees another wearing a red shirt and is immediately thrown into a flashback where he relives the tragic experience of seeing the blood-soaked shirt of a dying friend. Or, a loud, random sound can make a person dive for cover because he thinks he is being fired on by a drive-by shooter. When the story of an event is finally told with a beginning, middle, and end, these fragments of memory are put into the proper context. Then, they lose their power to be triggers and cease altogether.
A flashback is a distortion of perception where a person has a vivid sense of reliving a traumatic event without warning. They are caused by a ‘trigger.’ The person has little sense of the present environment. Flashbacks seem to ‘come out of the blue’ but, by working backwards, you can usually identify what brought it on. Flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares, and recurring dreams can be understood as the way the brain is trying to finish the story. If you are present during another’s flashback, you must insure the person’s physical safety, and use your voice to help re-orient him/her to the here-and-now.
A large number of people who experience traumatic stress also hear ‘voices’ or have strong, intrusive thoughts that originated in trauma. Although there is a social taboo for talking about ‘hearing voices,’ these experiences are actually more common than many people realize. The ‘voices’ can also be understood as ‘parts’ of one’s self. They are different from those heard in schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. With ITR you will learn how to deal with your parts in a positive way, help them join the present-day and bring about internal peace.
Many people can’t remember what happened when they were preverbal (from before birth to 3 years of age) but have heard family stories about accidents, medical procedures, or the like. As Dr. Tinnin frequently said, preverbal traumas are ‘unforgettable, yet unrecallable’ because verbal skills were not yet developed. Memories of those long-ago events are remembered in the body but not be attached to words. When you do this method, you will be working with the images that you later connect to words, completing the story and bringing the symptoms to an end.
Yes, it is common to recall other events as you begin doing this work. You can add them at any time and do a graphic narrative and externalized dialogue for each.
No. These are called chapter stories. If they are similar events, even if they were repeated many times, you will include them in the same graphic narrative. For example, a repetitive medical procedure like cancer treatment. Use the first remembered story and make sure to add pages if there were different things that occurred during ‘this same event’ over the years (like the time you got bad news or it was extra difficult). Add a note in the narrative that ‘this same event happened over and over again.’ Make sure to say that when you are recording the story.
Many mental health providers don’t take a thorough trauma history, recognize the importance of preverbal trauma, or have the training to deal with traumatic stress at all. Unfortunately, many well-known graduate programs for mental health professionals do not include trauma courses. Instead, most programs focus on teaching coping skills and dealing with present-day issues instead of the causes that are most often rooted in traumatic events. The trauma stories told in talk therapy are missing the nonverbal aspects that are generally the ‘triggers.’ Some examples of nonverbal symptoms are hypervigilance, rage, anxiety, nightmares, irritability, and emotional numbing. Just talking will not eliminate these symptoms. Doing this method will connect the nonverbal experiences to words and integrate them into the verbal story, finally bringing it to an end. At this point, talk therapy may be helpful for follow up to discuss trauma related issues such as vulnerability, boundaries, and connection.
Having an enlightened and compassionate person who can witness the telling of your story will be immensely healing. It is crucial to choose someone who was not involved in any of your traumatic events. Since the story is told solely from your own perspective, family members are usually not good choices since they see things from their perspective. Many people have suffered traumas alone and in silence. A friend can listen with empathy and kindness and not judge or express an opinion as to the reality of the experience. Such a compassionate witness will be extremely helpful in putting the story to rest. Having one’s story heard helps heal that human need for connection that is often severed with trauma.
Yes, the effects of trauma mimic many other conditions. Dr. Tinnin coined the term ‘dissociative attention deficit disorder’ for people who had ADHD or ADD symptoms but had a trauma history. He encouraged people to do the method first and see if any of the ADHD symptoms remain.
We all have parts. Many times you will hear people say ‘A part of me wants to do this and a part of me wants to do that.’ Only you can know how many parts you have. As you explore your internal landscape and get acquainted with your parts, you will discover more about how they function. Start paying attention to moods and emotional reactions. Extreme reactions may signal the presence of a ‘part.’ No matter the numbers, the goal is to have a cooperative team of parts where the present-day “true” self is in charge.
Yes. Parts will become more active at times or when they respond to the presence of parts in other people. Or, they may recede into the background as other parts come to the fore, depending on the situation. You can not “get rid of” a part, but you can learn about them, understand them and negotiate to help them be a part of the team in the present-day.
We have training courses for a variety of professionals. Visit ITRtraining.com or call 800-214-0403 for more information.