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Destructive behavior in trauma victims

ARTICLEMarijke Baljon - 55–3 (2017)

SUMMARY

It is natural for people to become angry when somebody under­ mines their autonomy or violates their integrity. Victims often take fright at their own aggression, causing them to clamp up and lose themselves in impotence and passivity. Indirectly, this aggression can become manifest through for instance auto­mutilation, fear of intimacy and self­criticism. People who suffer from post­traumatic stress, especially when they’ve been traumatized repeatedly, tend to alternate between impotence and anger. As a consequence, anger with themselves and anger with others can become closely rela­ ted. They are ashamed of their destructive feelings. For treatment it is important to acknowledge and normalize this aggression as the natural consequence of trauma. The next step is to help clients to explore and express their anger in an adaptive way. These steps are often part of the process of coming to terms with traumatic experiences.

KEYWORDS

Trauma, aggression, shame, self-hatred, constructive anger