14-Step Neuroscience-Based Recovery from Complex PTSD

Having lived with Complex PTSD (more accurately, Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Injury, or PTSI) my entire life and studied the biology of fear for several years, I’ve come up with a neuroscience-based recovery plan:

1. Recognize that I wapaper_dolls_doors_opens powerless during my traumatic experiences and the long-term effects of  Developmental Trauma and its changes to the architecture of my brain have made my life unmanageable.

2. Understand that trauma is never the fault of the survivor but a toxic or threatening environment.

3. Acknowledge that everything I did to survive was necessary; if I’d been capable of making better choices I would have. Understand some of my actions may have harmed others and I can apologize, make amends, and make reparations, as my recovery unfolds and those capabilities return.

4. Appreciate the power of trauma to dysregulate the nervous system and that neuroplasticity is my salvation; what was built can be seriously renovated.

5. Decide to focus my attention on repairing my nervous system, integrating my brain, and healing my attachment style. “Focused attention is your superpower.” – Dr. Dan Siegel

6.  Make a searching and fearless inventory of the MASSIVE volume of good things stolen by trauma/abusers, and cultivate determination to reclaim whatever is reclaimable. Recognize that one secure, though brief relationship from childhood is the seed of my resilience.

7. Acknowledge Complex PTSD is a normal, natural, and brilliant response to an overwhelming experience or chronically toxic environment.

8. Recognize severe child maltreatment results in insecure, avoidant, or disorganized attachment styles and recognize these can be changed.

9. Use my understanding of the biology of fear to recover safety and connection, seek appropriate care, and educate my providers.

10. Discontinue encounters with providers and others who trigger or otherwise jank-up my nervous system; all interpersonal visits must be net neuropositive.

11. Accept that accountability will not come from the domination system that a) allowed the abuse; b) protects perpetrators; and c) wants me to shuddupalready. Just like my abusers.

12. Hold accountable whichever abusers are still alive in whatever ways bring me resolution.

13. Use my watercolors, words, and wits to find and develop materials that help inform providers, protect me from further abuse, and share with others.

14. Share my journey, struggles, and successes, encourage and empower others, and speak up against cruelty, contempt, and domination.

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6 Responses to 14-Step Neuroscience-Based Recovery from Complex PTSD

  1. Tiffany says:

    Thank you for this ❤️

  2. Susan says:

    I’ve had to heal/help myself as years of therapy didn’t diagnose or treat me well. I think this is excellent. I’m 69 and still have to deal with cptsd every day….every single day. I don’t live in dissociated state of torment like I did for 30 years. All you’ve written applies. Susan

  3. Kerrie Hill says:

    Love this post Shay!

  4. PKH says:

    12. Hold accountable whichever abusers are still alive in whatever ways bring me resolution.

    I feel like this is the big missing piece for me. Can you please say more about how to do this?

    My two primary abusers are still alive but 2,500 miles away. One is a dangerous sociopath. My therapist and attorney have warned me that any contact or actions condemning them or trying to hold them to account are likely unsafe for me.

    There has been no contact for almost 12 years, but I still experience the inability to hold them to account as a block to my healing. I have written down what they did and my spouse and close friends and a sibling know. All are unanimous that further contact is very risky to my mental health.

    Any advice?

  5. Shay says:

    PKH, that seems like a very difficult situation. It seems wise to follow the advice of your attorney and therapist. If you are open to the idea of using imagery or holding a ritual or ceremony, that might be helpful. I’ve burned, buried, and sent things downriver. Once I imagined I was in a courtroom with my father and I could say anything I wanted and he had to hear. I gave back his deathwish, threw it at him, and it stuck to his chest. That felt sooo good! I’ve also “cut ties” by cutting a string off my wrist, burned bad memories, and held a faux funeral for “the father of my dreams,” after which I put a candle atop the block of wood that was the headstone. I watched that piece of maple rot into the ground over several months.

    Even when I’ve held others accountable by direct confrontation or through an agency or organization, the system itself was so unresponsive that the best thing about my complaint was that I used my voice. It was important and effective because I said what I needed to say.

    In choosing what you might create, tune into your body and feelings for the selection of mode, materials, and content. Invite others to join you if that feels appropriate. Have a party after! Whatever helps you feel some resolution. Also, have fun! Why not?

  6. Ewelina says:

    What about being raised by a double bind personality mother. She would abuse but she couldn’t tolerate the thought that she is abuser. She was fanatic christian using forced emotional intimacy to portray herself as the most sensitive mother. At the same time she would subtly or not programmed me to feel that I am evil, insensitive human being if I want to express pain, advocate for myself or distance myself from the abusers (including my grandparents) so I literally blocked any feelings of anger or secondary though process to evaluate reality – I needed to not be aware and could not let myself to see and feel about abusers as they were in fact abusers. It’s like a solution became the punishment. This fucked me up for life and I still have a block to see my own mother as a psycho and in fact I am stuck in double bind with anyone- my brain cannot process accountability and cannot connect the pain someone is causing with the person who does this to me. I have no words to explain that but it feels like a nightmare where I am in complete darkness hearing soft voice and at the same time feeling the pain of being mauled and my brain cannot comprehend that the soft voice belongs to the same person that is mauling me. It’s like a split in me where the pain of being abused is caused by “no one “. I feel like I am still in that complete darkness and can never evaluate reality up to the point to see someone as the source and a danger. Feels a bit like a Stockholm syndrome but worse, I can’t stop. It’s been like 3 years since I went no contact and nothing helps, my brain is damaged

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