Suicide: What It Is, What It Isn't, and What You Can Do About It.


Suicide is one of the most difficult subjects for any of us talk about. Add to that fact that I am a surviving family member of a suicide victim, and that I am a psychotherapist whose role is to prioritize and promote personal safety and suicide prevention, and this subject becomes a hard swallowing, throat lump forming, and eyes cast downward type of conversation piece.

But today, I choose to write about it. I choose this because most recently, with the suicide of successful and beloved designer, Kate Spade, the subject of suicide seems to be on the minds and in the mouths of many. Most troubling to me is that I have heard many cringe worthy, fictional statements about suicide that promulgate myth wrapped in a judgmental, condescending package. I rationalize that if harmful and misleading suicide information is being disseminated, I have, from my unique platform, a basic humane responsibility to attempt to reframe the issue of suicide in order to expound on the subject through a hopefully enlightening, loving, and factual lens.

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Below is a list of fictional statements that I have personally and professionally been witness to:


FICTION: Suicide is cowardly. It is much harder to stick around!

FACT: Suicide is a heartbreakingly painful decision and those who choose it do so with tremendous strength, usually after enduring extensive mental, emotional, and sometimes physical pain. Labeling suicide as a cowardly act underscores the strength that suicide victims have utilized to survive as long as they have, and to make their single, most painful final decision to end their suffering.

FICTION: Suicide victims are selfish. They never think about how killing themselves will impact their family and friends.

FACT: Quite the contrary, suicide victims almost always think of loved ones before the suicide act. However, usually due to depression and social isolation, they often suffer from a low self-value and decide that their loved ones will have better lives without them in it. Suicide victims often commit suicide as an act of perceived selflessness (which is, understandably, a very difficult concept for survivors to understand and/or accept).

FICTION: Speaking about suicide causes incidents of suicide to spread.

FACT: Research has proven that this is not the case. Speaking about suicide opens the door for those who may be feeling hopeless, helpless, isolated, or depressed to discuss their thoughts and feelings freely, thereby reducing social stigma surrounding their symptoms, allowing those who are suffering to feel increased connectedness, and introducing the possibility of arriving at adaptive solutions to their problems.

FICTION: Suicides often occur suddenly and without warning.

FACT: Most suicides occur after a number of verbal and behavioral warning signs. Knowing the warning signs is vital to suicide prevention. Please visit for a list of common warning signs.


Important Note:

In families that operate by keeping secrets from each other and from the outside world, warning signs can be especially difficult to notice and openly discuss. This family dynamic is often found in strictly religious communities as well as in more affluent communities due to pervasive social stigma surrounding perceived individual differences and the threat of damage to one’s social standing and reputation. If you or someone you know lacks support because of a family dynamic surrounding secrets and shame, it is important to become connected, or connect others, to those who offer unconditional support, such as trusted friends, employers, teachers, community members, or mental health professionals.


FICTION: When someone decides to commit suicide, you cannot change their mind.

FACT: This may be the most dangerous myth of all. While we are not to blame when suicide victims commit the act, we all have the power to support and actively champion suicide prevention. One of the reasons for this is because suicide victims often ruminate over committing suicide for a long time before actually carrying out the suicide act. Those contemplating suicide are likely to hint at their intentions verbally (‘You would be better off without me’, ‘I don’t want to be here anymore. I don’t see the point. Nothing will change for me.’) and behaviorally (giving items away, refusing to make future plans, neglecting themselves). By spreading awareness of the warning signs, and offering compassion and non-judgmental support to those who are struggling with hopelessness and despair, we CAN prevent suicide, often without even being aware of it.


What does non-judgmental support look like?

Below are some examples of what TO say vs. what NOT to say:

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“I don’t want to be here anymore”

What not to say: “Of course you do!” This response is argumentative and lacks interest and empathy.

What to say: “Why do you feel that way?” This response creates safety and conveys genuine compassion.


“I wish I just wouldn’t wake up in the morning”

What not to say: “Don’t say things like that! You should be grateful for what you have!” This response is critical and judgmental (‘should’).

What to say: “It sounds like you are feeling really down right now. How can I support you?” This response interprets underlying emotions and offers unconditional support (be careful to keep interpretations general to avoid wrongful assumptions).


“Everyone would be better off without me”

What not to say: “Oh come on. You know that isn’t true I don’t know why you say these things!” This response denotes impatience (‘come on’) and is dismissive.

What to say: “I know I wouldn’t be. You are so important to me, I wonder why you don’t think so?” This response reveals honest care and opens the door for safe discussion.


“I hate my life”

What not to say: “how could you hate your life? Don’t you know that life is precious?!” This response sounds more like a lecture than support.

What to say: “Something really painful and challenging must be happening for you now. Can we talk about it?” This response is accurately interpretive and lacks judgment, creating a safe opening for discussion.


Saying the words “today, right now, recently, now etc…” appropriately can be helpful for those struggling with suicidal thoughts. It suggests that their feelings of despair are temporary, which is important as those contemplating suicide often maladaptively believe that their problems and feelings of hopelessness are permanent.


If you or someone you know has been contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for 24/7 support.


Each of us in unique and special. Nobody can ever be replaced.

You matter, and you are loved.


This article is written in loving memory of my brother, Daniel Friedman. 

To read more about Daniel, visit our legacy page



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Elana Friedman, LCSW, CCTP





Relational Trauma: Personality Disordered Partners and Those Who Love Them

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Have you ever met someone who seemed like the realistic manifestation of your dream partner? He or she said and did all the right things and everything felt….just so perfect? Thoughtful good morning text messages with heart and winking emojiis, small, meaningful gifts given to you just because, and carefully planned dates tailored to your tastes. You may have found yourself thinking ‘this is the best person I’ve ever dated!’ or even surprised yourself and thought ‘I think I’ve finally found the right person for me!’ after just a few weeks together, only for it to, seemingly out of nowhere, crash down on you like the proverbial ton of bricks? Suddenly, your seemingly perfect sweetheart becomes infuriated by something you deem to be trivial. You try to explain yourself. You remind your partner that you love them and didn’t mean to hurt them, but they are deaf to your entreaties. They curse you and verbally obliterate you with such hatred and blind rage, you are left stunned and frightened. They leave you in a state of shock and despair, reeling from the argument and complete emotional turnaround. And then, just as quickly as the fight began, they shock you once again when they suddenly ‘forgive you’ and behave lovingly towards you. You are left wondering if you imagined the entire thing due to some warped malfunction of your short circuiting brain. You want so badly to forget the whole horrible incident that, despite the little warning voice in the back of your mind telling you that your partner is somehow ‘off’, you accept your partner’s requests to ‘just move on’ in the relationship, eager for it to resume as it was: sweet, untainted, loving.

Only to have the cycle repeat over and over again.

Time passes and you helplessly feel yourself deteriorate as you remain with your partner, waiting in vain for them to ‘normalize’, desperate to experience that perfect love again. It never returns, and you are left stuck in the ruins of a dysfunctional relationship built on a complete and utter façade of ‘love’.

Sounds familiar? Then you have likely met and dated someone with Borderline Personality traits or Borderline Personality Disorder. 

WARNING: the remainder of this article is focused on addressing the struggles experienced by non-personality disordered individuals who are in relationships with those diagnosed with BPD (or undiagnosed but presenting with BPD traits). If you are diagnosed with BPD, you may not wish to continue reading this article as the material presented may be too emotionally triggering for you and does not address the unique needs of a diagnosed BPD individual.

According to the National Institute of Health, over 4 million Americans, male and female, are currently diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (and that does not include individuals who meet some but not all criteria for BPD). While the average American’s number of romantic partners can be difficult to accurately assess, a census performed by the CDC in 2002 suggests that the average American woman reported having 4 partners in her lifetime, while the average American man reported having 6-8 partners. Given these statistics (especially considering that the census took place 16 years ago, before the popularity of dating apps exploded and likely raised these numbers) it is likely that mingling singles might find themselves dating a personality disordered partner.


As a psychotherapist, I treat a substantial number of clients who suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder, and an even more substantial number of those who are in relationships with them. While those who suffer from BPD and seek treatment for it can make progress in managing their harmful behaviors and learning healthy coping skills, their loved ones require their own unique treatment approach in order to address the traumatic injuries suffered during the course of relating with a personality disordered individual.

It is imperative that I articulate an important distinction here. In addressing non-PD partners and their unique traumatic experiences, I am distinguishing between dysfunctional BPD partners and functional BPD partners. I am by no means discriminating against this population. A diagnosis does not ever encapsulate one’s value and identity and should never be considered as such! It IS possible to have a healthy relationship with a diagnosed BPD partner. However, in order for such a healthy relationship to occur, the diagnosed partner must be aware and in agreement with the diagnosis AND fully engaged in mental health treatment to address their behaviors. Additionally, the undiagnosed partner (you!) must possess a healthy sense of identity and self-respect, strong assertiveness skills, and solid personal boundaries.

Little has been written and studied about the unique struggles and healing processes of those in relationships with personality disordered individuals, despite the plethora of research aimed at exploring the epidemiology and treatment of those diagnosed with the disorder. This is especially unfortunate because while personality disordered individuals tend to lack insight and therefore, a sense of personal responsibility, those who relate with BPDs tend to be insightful, self-reflective, analytical and overly conscientious. This can result in the development of chronic self-doubt in a non-PD partner, family member or friend, leading to feelings of low self-concept, a loss of identity, depression and anxiety.

However, due to their sharp insight and curious self-reflection and analysis, this population tends to make excellent progress in therapeutic treatment. By exploring their codependent roles, non-PD partners may learn why they attracted a partner who is personality disordered and why they remained in the relationship despite suffering abuse and/or neglect. Through the course of treatment, they develop self-respect and assertiveness skills, establishing and reinforcing their boundaries to protect their rights and needs, a practice they may struggle to master due to being ‘others’ focused during the course of their relationship, to the point of sacrificing themselves. With commitment to change, effort, and time, non- PD partners can enjoy a healthy self-concept, assertive communication, and healthy, loving relationships.

So if you are in a relationship like the one I described at the beginning of this article, firstly, know that you are not alone. If you began to speak about your current or past experiences in a relationship like this, you’d likely find someone who has experienced something similar. Secondly, know that you deserve to invest in yourself to heal from the traumatic relationship experiences you’ve endured, in order to enjoy healthy, reciprocal, self-affirming relationships with yourself and others.

P.S. One of the most common requests I receive from those who have healed from a relationship with a dysfunctional personality disordered partner is: how can I spot someone with borderline personality traits early on in the dating game, in order to avoid partnering with someone dysfunctional again? Listed below are some (but by no means all) early warning signs to look out for! But before you read the list please note that the most important thing to do in order to avoid ‘going down that road’ is….

Become the healthiest you because….


Healthy people attract healthy partners and codependent people attract disordered partners.

The second most important way to avoid dating a dysfunctional BPD partner is to:


I have included common instinctual thoughts and feelings in the list below that one may have when faced with these red flag signs and behaviors. Never ignore your instincts. If you experience these thoughts and feelings, trust them and assert your boundaries. If that is difficult for you and you find yourself ignoring your instincts, seek the help of a professional psychotherapist who is experienced with the BPD population.

Please note: the starred behavior may also be exhibited by healthy individuals. It’s important to examine an individual comprehensively in order to determine if they may be unhealthy for you.

And now, the list!

(Pronouns have been used interchangeably to reflect both male and female personality-disordered partners):




Going out of his way after meeting with you/talking to you once or twice in order to plan dates that you would enjoy without regard for, or mention of, what he likes or needs.*

Example: You happen to mention during your initial text conversation that you love pink roses, Italian food and prefer to be indoors in the summer since you hate the heat. For your first date, he arrives with a dozen bright pink roses and takes you to an upscale Italian restaurant with indoor seating and beautiful outdoor views.

This date is incredible! Maybe my best date ever! I have finally found someone who really listens to what I like!

Happiness, excitement, attraction, hope, appreciation

Doing the behavior above and jokingly (read: passive aggressively) dropping hints afterwards about desiring a preconceived amount of appreciation for the date. In an argument, he may declare that he ‘wasted’ his money or effort on providing you with the perfect date(s) as you are unworthy of such a thoughtful and generous partner as himself.

Example: You receive a text the day after your amazing date that reads: ‘Did you enjoy our date? I wasn’t sure…you didn’t say much about it’

A week later during an argument he says ‘I can’t believe I spent all that money on taking you out because you are such a selfish person. You don’t appreciate anything.’

Have I behaved ungratefully? Do these dates have ‘strings attached’? I can’t believe he would use a date he chose to plan as a verbal weapon against me in an argument.

self-doubt, shame, guilt, disappointment, deceit, betrayal, self-loathing

Saying ‘I love you’ within the first 8 weeks of dating you. Feeling disappointed with you, or pressuring you directly or indirectly, to return the sentiment, regardless of your true feelings.*

Wow that was fast I wouldn’t have even thought to say the L word yet. I’m touched but I’m not sure I feel the same yet. I hope he isn’t insulted that I’m not saying it back. Should I spare his feelings and say it anyway? I would hate to hurt him or make him feel I don’t like him. I wish he hadn’t said it so soon…I don’t feel ready but I also don’t want to lose him. How can he expect me to say I love you when we barely know each other?

self-doubt, shame, anxiety, guilt, anger, fear

Inviting you to meet her closest friends and family after dating for less than two months.*

It’s kind of odd that she wants me to meet her mom when we’ve only been on a few dates. Are we committed already? Will she want to meet my inner circle of friends and family so soon too? This isn’t a pace I’m comfortable with but she’s so excited, how can I disappoint her or hurt her? I really want to get to know her more, instead of getting to know her parents. I don’t feel ready.

self-doubt, shame, anxiety, guilt, fear

Giving expensive or very sentimental gifts to you during the early dating period.*

We’ve only went out on two dates and she’s already given me an expensive watch and this beautiful love letter. I feel weird about accepting these gifts, almost like I’m making some kind of commitment to her by doing so. At the same time, when I told her I couldn’t accept she pouted and suggested I don’t care about her. I don’t want to hurt her feelings but this is a lot, very soon.

Self-doubt, anxiety, guilt, discomfort

Asking you what your music/clothing/food preferences are and stating that he too has all of the same preferences.

What are the odds? It’s like I found my perfect match!

Happiness, excitement, attraction, hope, appreciation

Speaking about others in very ‘black and white’ terms. Her cousin is the devil and a whore, her father is the best man that ever lived. In an alarmingly short period of time, her feelings about the same people can change dramatically but continue to reflect extremes.

I’m glad I’m on her good side! I just hope things remain happy between us. She seems to get so intense sometimes and I don’t know how to calm that down.

Worry, fear, concern, relief

Communicating multiple times in rapid succession, even and especially when you ask her to give you space.


13 text messages in a row, 7 missed phone calls within 2 minutes, 3 consecutive voicemails. Becoming upset or enraged when you fail to or are slow, to respond to attempts at digital communication.

I don’t know if I can do this for much longer, I feel like I need to answer right away or she will get mad. Maybe she is just so in love with me so she wants to speak to me all the time? This just doesn’t feel right.

Anxiety, worry, fear, concern, engulfing, drowning, suffocating

Verbalizing vicious comments or threats when angry with you that would constitute verbal/emotional abuse. Becoming physical toward you or toward inanimate objects.


During an argument, your boyfriend calls you a ‘slut’ and yells at you for a long time. On another occasion, after demanding a response from you, he angrily punches a wall in the bedroom, creating a fist-sized hole.

I don’t even recognize this person right now! I can’t believe he would say those awful things to me, the girlfriend he just said he loved more than anyone else this very morning! This person is scary and unpredictable.

Fear, insecurity, anger, hatred, sadness, disbelief, shock

Just as quickly as the fight erupted, your partner is eager to ‘make up’ and begins acting very sweetly and apologetic toward you. The apologies do not reflect true ownership of the behavior.

Example: You receive a text reading: Please answer my call. I didn’t mean to say that stuff to you. You just seemed distant to me so I started to worry that maybe you were seeing someone else and it makes me crazy to think that you might be! It’s because I love you so much that I do this stuff…I feel so strongly about you! I hope you forgive me so we can move forward. We are so perfect for each other. I don’t want to lose you.

It sounds like an apology but it also seems like he’s blaming me for the incident. I can’t get him yelling at me out of my head, how am I supposed to accept this ‘apology’ right now? But if I don’t answer, I feel like he won’t stop messaging me. I just feel so confused and stuck.

Sadness, hurt, anger, confusion, relief, anxiety, concern

He exhibits highly sexualized behaviors very frequently and at inappropriate times.

Example: 10 minutes after a fight between you and your boyfriend ends, your boyfriend attempts to initiate sex. After you explain that you are still recovering from the fight, he pressures you further, insisting that it will strengthen the bond between the two of you. When you insist you are not going to have sex with him, he pouts and sulks, ignoring you for the rest of the evening.

I can’t sleep with him right now, especially after what he just said to me. Why would he even ask me that? Doesn’t he feel bad about our fight, too? I hate feeling so much pressure to do sexual things with him all the time. I hate having to suffer the emotional consequences when I say no, or my internal conflicts when I say yes even when I don’t want to. I feel like this is a lose-lose situation.

Sadness, confusion, anger, fear, worry, anxiety, hurt, lost, used.


Best Regards,

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Elana Friedman, LCSW, CCTP



Elana Friedman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional. Elana graduated Summa Cum Laude with her Masters of Social Work degree from New York University and has since worked as a primary therapist providing individual, couples, family and group therapy for a full caseload of diverse clients at community mental health clinics in New York City. Her clients have struggled with depression and anxiety as a result of trauma, as well as adjustment difficulties involving parenting, aging, young adult issues, and relationship difficulties.

Elana founded her private practice, Daniel's Place Center For Healing in Nassau County, NY and provides individual psychotherapy, individual teletherapy, couples psychotherapy, and family psychotherapy.


Trauma Responses: The Value of Understanding Above Fixing


It happened on an ordinary Wednesday morning. I was driving to college, my brain on autopilot, lost in thoughts of upcoming academic obligations and the daily minutiae of deciding what to cook for dinner. After stopping at a red light, I saw the passenger door open in my peripheral vision. Before my brain could even fully register what was happening, a middle aged man I’d never seen before, reeking of sweat and urine, entered my car and sat down in the passenger seat next to me, closing the door behind him.

“Take me somewhere right now! Take me now!” He yelled at me. I could actually feel the adrenaline flood my body, my face and hands felt clammy as my heart pounded. Initially frozen in indecision, I suddenly remembered a TV show that I once watched, in which a police officer stated that if anyone is ever held against their will in a vehicle, the best course of action is to either refuse to move (if the victim is the driver), or to escape the vehicle (if the perpetrator is the driver). The officer had reported that the victim’s survival rate rises exponentially when they refuse to travel by car with the perpetrator.

I immediately knew what to do. I turned to face this invading stranger, my anger rising, my heart pounding, and while my foot pressed down tightly on the brake as the light turned green, I screamed back “Get out! Get out of my car!” beating him in the shoulder with my fist. At first, he continued to yell at me to “take him somewhere!” I responded by screaming at him to get out of my car and hitting him as hard as I could. I even leaned over to open the passenger door and shove him toward the exit. Maybe it was my panicked screaming, maybe it was the cars angrily honking behind me as I remained rooted to my spot on the road, maybe he thought I had simply lost my mind, but for whatever reason, he left my car at that very moment, returning to stand on the sidewalk and watch me through the passenger window of my car as I hurriedly drove away.

While the stranger had left my car, and my life, for good, the experience, like many of the traumatic experiences my clients report, stayed with me, through subtle subsequent changes to my internal responses toward my external environment.

This part of the trauma process is often a mystery to trauma survivors, and it absolutely shouldn’t be. We must have an understanding of our physiological traumatic responses in order to fully appreciate our selves and learn how we can heal.

Take for example, a person diagnosed with Diabetes Mellitus. Now imagine if that diabetic patient had no understanding of how this disease process progressed and no knowledge of its effect on the body. How can he understand what is happening for him physiologically? He can’t! And if he can’t understand how his body is working and why, how can he properly treat his symptoms and care for himself?

You guessed it. HE CAN’T.

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For trauma survivors, as with those diagnosed with a medical condition, the understanding of traumatic physiology, which eventually may lend itself to the appreciation of the self, ultimately paving the way for survivors to experience true, lasting recovery, is fundamental and integral to the healing process . And yet, those diagnosed with Diabetes meet with their primary care physicians, endocrinologists, nephrologists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists, and nutritionists who explain the inner workings of diabetic physiology. The disease process information is transmitted to the patient to further the goal of optimal self-care. But for trauma survivors? Not only aren’t there professional round table discussions between providers and patients for the purpose of education and treatment, but we often aren’t even aware that the collection of symptoms we are experiencing are the direct result of physiological traumatic response. We are left to essentially fumble around in the dark, dismissing our anxiety and depression, explaining away our memory loss, covering up our ‘embarrassing’ hypervigilance. If we do acknowledge our symptoms, we do so without an understanding of why we are experiencing them and what is actually happening to us, and often try to treat ourselves off of friends’ suggestions, late night WebMD searches, or our own blind journey of trial and error.

So what actually happens to us in incidents of trauma?

During a traumatic experience, the brain senses that the body is in danger and immediately shuts down all nonessential physiological activity. The sympathetic nervous system ‘takes over’, increasing the body’s stress hormones in order to prepare the body to respond to the perceived threat. When the threat ceases, the brain and body return to its normal, parasympathetic nervous system functioning. The brain registers that the threat is over, stress hormones are reduced to pre-threat levels and normal functioning resumes.


For those with sustained trauma symptoms and PTSD diagnoses, the brain and body do not return to pre-threat functioning after the traumatic incident. Instead, the brain continues to register perceived threats long after the threat is over, has difficulty mediating traumatic memories for the purpose of distinguishing past threats from present ones, while the body struggles to self-regulate its biological and chemical imbalances caused by sympathetic nervous system reactions to perceived threats that continue to present long after the traumatic incident.

According to Bremner (2006) and several other studies on the subject, activity in select areas of the brain and subsequent chemical and biological stress responses of those who suffer from PTSD as compared to those who do not, are structurally and functionally different, long after the traumatic event(s) took place. So while our brain may be preparing us for survival (it really means well!), it doesn’t do the best job of distinguishing real danger from the imagined. That is why trauma survivors may feel disturbed by trauma symptoms such as being easily startled, loss of memory, nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, phobias, depression, insomnia, social withdrawal, guilt, shame, anger and more, even when there is no real danger or threat.

Now to circle back to my trauma narrative:

I had never considered it a possibility that a stranger would enter my car uninvited. Because of that, I had always driven with my windows rolled all the way down, my doors unlocked. I allowed myself to get lost in my thoughts, my level of vigilance toward my environment was low. I felt safe.

Enter my traumatic incident, after which my entire driving experience changed due to organic traumatic response.

For several months following the incident, I felt scared and unsafe when entering or leaving my car (traumatic fear). I locked the doors immediately after sitting in the driver’s seat, and checked all 3 mirrors religiously (hypervigilance). I used the A/C more and rolled the windows down less. I chose a longer, circuitous route so as not to travel the same road as I had before (avoidance). I felt physically and emotionally uncomfortable while driving and found myself to be surprised when each driving trip ended without incident. All of these symptoms were caused by lingering traumatic physiological responses.

Understanding my traumatic physiology and appreciating how my brain and body were working to keep me safe were an integral part of my own traumatic recovery, as it is for many trauma survivors that seek healing.

Essentially, many behaviors that present as manifestations of physiological traumatic responses resolve as a result of trauma focused psychotherapeutic treatment, which essentially trains the mind and body to respond to external stimuli as though the survivor is currently safe.

With the passage of time and the application of trauma focused therapeutic exercises, my symptoms lessened and my physiological, cognitive and emotional responses began to reflect what they had been pre-traumatic episode. I felt more confident in my car. I lowered my window a bit more. I waited a moment before locking the car after climbing inside. I still checked the mirrors, but was no longer surprised at not finding anything suspicious or alarming. I never forgot my terrifying incident, but with the assimilation of cognitive therapeutic skills and relaxation techniques, I was once again able to navigate my world comfortably.

Differently, but comfortably.

And that’s good, because striking a balance between healthy self-protection and awareness and a sense of emotional regulation and calm is an excellent goal for those who have experienced trauma. We are working WITH our biochemical makeup to maintain our safety, while reducing traumatic responses which interrupt our healthy day to day functioning.

So are trauma responses good for us, or are they something we need to fix?

I’d answer that with the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

People are incredibly strong and adaptive, and we learn quickly to integrate traumatic experiences to help us formulate new blueprints illustrating how to protect ourselves from environmental dangers. Our sensitivity and responsiveness to the environment reflects our evolutionary ability to survive despite countless physical and psychological threats to our well-being. There may be a lot of things we can think of fixing, but our protective responses in the face of trauma shouldn’t’ be on the list.

So what does it mean when psychotherapists discuss ‘treating’ traumatic injury?

It means that we want to encourage clients to examine their physical, mental and emotional processes to understand and appreciate human adaptability and strength, and to guide and manage the traumatic responses that make them feel uncomfortable and cause dysfunction in various arenas of day to day life, such as in relationships and workplaces.

At Daniel’s Place Center for Healing, physiological understanding of traumatic stress provides the foundational education upon which appreciation of the self is built. Ultimately, from the lens of learned self-love, I help guide clients along the healing process through the transmission of individualized skills and techniques that aid recovery. Some of these practices include utilizing relaxation techniques in order to facilitate emotional and physiological self-regulation, a challenge for trauma survivors whose biochemical processes continue to reflect a crisis of imminent threat. Cognitive techniques involving reframing, examining and challenging self-talk, assist clients with shifting their automatic thoughts over time from alarmist and exaggerated cognition to adaptive, reality-oriented reasoning.

There is no one size fits all answer in trauma treatment, as no two traumatic histories are the same, which is why each healing approach is unique and customized to meet the needs of each individual trauma survivor.

When it comes to trauma, we can’t, and one may argue, shouldn’t, seek to ‘fix’ our natural responses. Instead, understanding why we feel and react the way we do increases our self-love and acceptance, ultimately setting a healthy stage for learning how to achieve equilibrium by balancing our natural responses with our learned skills.

And in the spirit of appreciating our stunning survival abilities, check out the Destiny's Child song posted below for a shining example of the human ability to survive. Just as  Beyoncé, Kelly, and Michelle can survive performing their dance and musical number while trapped on a tropical island, perhaps we too can survive life's adversity (although maybe not while sporting 6-pack abs)!



Best Regards,

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Elana Friedman, LCSW, CCTP