The Fourth “F” of Trauma
By Ron Huxley, LMFT
When I work with traumatized people, I always keep in mind that they have one of three reactions: Fight, Flight and Freeze. These are primal brain mechanisms that manage threats to the self. Each type of reaction has its intervention but at the core of these interventions is the fourth “F”: Fusion.
Trauma disrupts relationships and self/other organization. At extreme levels it can cause dissociative disorders (what we used to call Multiple Personality Disorders) splitting off internal parts of the self in an effort to survive and function. At milder levels it can cause us to build defenses or social masks that allow us to get through our days despite feelings of pain or loss. Either we are not acting out of our true self. We also have difficulties with others manifesting by poor intimacy, commitment fears, unmanageable anger, feelings of anxiety and depression.
What we want to achieve is fusion. A fusion of self and personality and a fusion of relationships (self with other). This is easy said than done but it is possible. It is not hopeless as we once thought. The real challenge is trying to help others who are in a state of fight, flight or freeze without ourselves going into a similar state. Staying “fused” in our emotions, in the face trauma, is hard!
This past year presented so many different challenges and obstacles that tested our strength and resiliency. The global pandemic forced us to cope with situations we never even imagined, and a lot of us struggled with our mental health as a result. The good news is that there are tools and resources available that can support the well-being of individuals and communities.
Now, more than ever, we need to combat the stigma surrounding mental health concerns. That’s why this Mental Health Month Ron Huxley is highlighting the TraumaToolbox.com- what individuals can do throughout their daily lives to prioritize mental health, build resiliency, and continue to cope with the obstacles of COVID-19.
Throughout the pandemic, many people who had never experienced mental health challenges found themselves struggling for the first time. During the month of May, we are focusing on different topics that can help process the events of the past year and the feelings that surround them, while also building up skills and supports that extend beyond COVID-19.
We know that the past year forced many to accept tough situations that they had little to no control over. If you found that it impacted your mental health, you aren’t alone. In fact, of the almost half a million individuals that took the anxiety screening at MHAscreening.org, 79% showed symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety. However, there are practical tools that can help improve your mental health. We are focused on managing anger and frustration, recognizing when trauma may be affecting your mental health, challenging negative thinking patterns, and making time to take care of yourself.
It’s important to remember that working on your mental health and finding tools that help you thrive takes time. Change won’t happen overnight. Instead, by focusing on small changes, you can move through the stressors of the past year and develop long-term strategies to support yourself on an ongoing basis.
A great starting point for anyone who is ready to start prioritizing their mental health is to take a mental health screening at MHAscreening.org. It’s a quick, free, and confidential way for someone to assess their mental health and begin finding hope and healing.
Ultimately, during this month of May, Ron Huxley wants to remind everyone that mental illnesses are real, and recovery is possible.
Check out the many mental health tools create free at the TraumaToolbox.com.