• John Snyder, Psy.D.

The Traumatized Self As An Act

The traumatized person is an actor, trapped on a staged set. His behavior is an act and looks odd to others because he is an actor on a stage they cannot see. Only the traumatized person can see the set, though he himself cannot be "blamed" because he does not totally realize it is in fact a stage.

Every day he walks about this stage that only he sees. He carries this stage around with him, mentally projecting it out onto the present, an augmented reality. His actions seem dramatic, an act, because they are.

Depending on how good an "actor" he is, others may believe it, or not. Both perspectives are right. The person who does not "buy" the traumatized man's act, recognizes that this person is behaving in a contrived way, not an authentic way, reflective of present reality. The person who does "buy" the act is also right. The believer recognizes the emotion as genuine-which it is. The fear, for example is real. The catch is that this fear is a fear of something that is not presently there. Thus, the believer sees the truth of the emotion the Skeptic sees the truth of the present moment. This belief and doubt occurs not only for family, friends, and society, but also within the traumatized person's own psychee, and it must be reconciled for healing to occur. This coming to terms with the belief and the doubt represents a major task of psychotherapy when working with any psychotherapy client, but particularly with traumatized clients. When it is successful, psychotherapy allows the client's mind, which is stuck in the genuinely dangerous past, to catch up with his body, which is rooted in the physically safe present. In such cases, the stage recedes and the reality of the now emerges.

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