The Meadows Blog

Wednesday, 27 June 2018 15:39

The Trauma Timeline: A Journaling Exercise for Understanding the Impact of Relational Trauma in Your Life

“The essence of psychological trauma is the loss of faith that there is order and continuity in life. Trauma occurs when one loses the sense of having a safe place to retreat within or outside of oneself to deal with frightening emotions or experiences.”

Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD

Relational trauma can be a confusing issue to deal with, partly because it is cumulative, it is not one incident but many small attitudes, incidents, and dynamics that span time. It’s easy to lose track of when something happened, how often it happened or what exactly it was that was painful, particularly if the trauma was some form of neglect, emotional abuse or disinterest. Filling in a timeline helps to make these issues and dynamics visible. It can also reveal which were significant incidents, which were ongoing dynamics and what periods felt relatively safe and happy.

Next to or within each five-year span write a few words that refer to some thing, some relationship dynamic, or some ongoing situation that you experienced as traumatic. Note: neglect can be traumatic as well as abuse, divorce in the family, addiction, siblings or parents leaving, accidents, hospitalizations, family illness, etc. . . . the idea here is to understand how you experienced it, not whether or not it fits some criteria as to what is formally called trauma.Write in whatever comes to mind in this catagory we’re discussing in the appropriate lines.

0 yrs _________________________________________________________________

5 yrs___________________________________________________________________

10 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

15 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

20 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

25 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

30 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

35 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

40 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

45 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

50 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

55 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

60 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

65 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

70 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

75 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

80 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

85 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

90 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

95 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

100 yrs ___________________________________________________________________

Answer the Following Questions:

What jumps out at you as significant when you look at your timeline?

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

What was a particularily difficult period in your life?

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

What were the silver linings, what were the gifts of trauma?

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

Were there periods that were relatively easy and good?

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

What painful relational dynamics from the past are you still living out today?

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

Inner Child Work: Having an Inner Dialogue

Instructions: “Mentally reverse roles” with yourself anywhere along the Trauma Time Line continuum and write a journal entry speaking “as” that part of self, e.g., “I am Shahara, I am eight years old and I am” or “I am Hank, I am around thirteen and I just . . .” After you have completed your journal entry “answer back” from your “adult role” of today. In other words, begin a journaling dialogue between the two parts, your childhood self and your adult self and allow your adult to help your child or adolescent self learn to talk about your experience rather than hide it from your adult self and allow your adult self to listen to, support, and guide your child self.

CHILD/ADOLESCENT ROLE: I am ______________. I am ___ years old and I .

___________________________________________________________________

ADULT ROLE: (Answering back to your child self from your adult self)

___________________________________________________________________

CHILD/ADOLESCENT ROLE: I am ______________. I am ___ years old and I .

___________________________________________________________________

ADULT ROLE:

___________________________________________________________________

CHILD/ADOLESCENT ROLE: I am ______________. I am ___ years old and I .

___________________________________________________________________

ADULT ROLE:

___________________________________________________________________

End this exercise by writing a few sentences to yourself as a child from where you are today, what you know now that you didn’t know then.

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________


Written by  Tian Dayton, Ph.D. and Senior Fellow at The Meadows

https://www.tiandayton.com/

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