Psychological Self-Help

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Trauma has recently become a renewed concern for patients and
therapists. Of course, handling catastrophes is a problem as old as
mankind because our history has been filled with trauma--disease,
injury, storms, starvation, fears, arguments, war, abuse, death, etc. In
addition, over 100 years ago, Freud started finding sexual abuse
frequently among his psychologically troubled patients. A decade or so
later, doubting that incest could be that common, he concluded that
the reported sexual activity had probably not really happened but was
a fantasy connected with the developmentally important attraction
that naturally occurs between daughter and father or son and mother,
which he called the Electra Complex and the Oedipus Complex. In
time, other internal conflicts and dynamics also became concerns to
Freudian therapists, such as Inferiority Complex and various defense
mechanisms (see later in this chapter), and for nearly a century verbal
psychiatric treatment has focused on resolving these internal problems
related to childhood development. 
Of course, external traumas, such as accidents and disasters, have
often required treatment and/or support from friends. But two fairly
recent events have re-focused attention on external stresses: (1) the
Vietnam War with its Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and drug
addiction and (2) the research confirmation of Freud's original
observation of actual sexual abuse of children. Interest in drug
treatment developed with the war and the drug counterculture (1966-
1973). Likewise, a huge revival of interest in the long-term
consequences of childhood abuse started soon after Multiple
Personality, Adult Children of Alcoholics, and other disorders were
found to be associated with childhood abuse. This completed the cycle
of therapeutic interest back to coping with external trauma. A
Beall of Auburn University. 
Note: The way the term "trauma" is used here and elsewhere may
be confusing in several ways. I and others usually use the word
trauma in a very broad, general sense--to me it merely means a very
disturbing, stressful experience; it may be intense for a long time or
only moderately upsetting for a few days or weeks. Moreover, as I use
it, the traumatic stress may come from a real external threat
(upsetting physical or psychological circumstances) or from one's
interpretation or even false perceptions of circumstances, dangers and
faults (a subjective experience). However, the specific APA Manual
diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is limited, according to
many diagnosticians, to people who have been in serious jeopardy and
experienced intense fear, persons who have personally been exposed
to possible death and escaped or been intimately involved with a loved
one in such a dire situation. Therefore, because of this diagnostic
restriction, "trauma" in the diagnosis of PTSD applies to soldiers who
have been in combat, holocaust victims, rape and violent abuse
victims or their loved ones, cancer patients or their loved ones, serious
accident survivors or their loved ones, and so on. In contrast, to me
"trauma" includes assorted non-life-threatening events, including
death or suicide of a child or loved one, a very stressful divorce, a
debilitating disease, difficult childbirth, natural disasters, a failure or
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