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Dissolving the PTSD Fight-Flight Response After Abuse

When we experience repeated conflict, unpredictable reactions, and betrayal, our bodies become stuck in a feedback loop.

  1. Peace
    "Fear is the chronic sickness caused by abuse."

    - Meredith Miller; The Journey: A Roadmap for Self-healing After Narcissistic Abuse (pg. 173)

    This quote comes from one of my favorite books about narcissistic abuse. Meredith Miller is well known from her hugely popular YouTube channel (Inner Integration), and her book is equally as amazing.

    In addition to the red flags about Cluster-B disorders, Meredith covers the long-lasting damage left behind after these encounters. Drawing from her own personal experience, she describes in perfect detail the elevated fight-flight response that occurs after ongoing emotional abuse.

    When we experience repeated conflict, unpredictable reactions, and betrayal, our bodies become stuck in a feedback loop -- constantly trying to anticipate and avoid these dangerous situations. Unfortunately, in doing so, we often become cut off from the very things that we long for most in the world.

    Instead, many of us find ourselves trapped in patterns of people-pleasing, avoidance, perfectionism, and much more. What I love so much about Meredith's book is that it doesn't just describe narcissistic abuse or the aftermath. It actually offers a specific guide for thriving after these experiences (whether they started in childhood or in later relationships).

    And by thriving, I don't just mean "thinking positive" and glossing over what happened. In fact, the book starts out with this powerful quote:

    "The visceral acceptance of truth is what inevitably dissolves the trauma bond." (Page 17)

    Instead of running away, we are facing our greatest fears and wounds head on. Whether it be loneliness, rejection, worthlessness, shame, or something else entirely -- Meredith discovered many years ago that these wounds can be dissolved. But first they must be faced.

    Once we see them for what they are, we are able to start letting go of the beliefs that hold us back, and often find us mixed up in more of these low-energy, toxic dynamics.

    In the book, we move from powerless (victim) to empowered (survivor) to actualized (thriver). Many resources cover the first two, so I want to focus on the last. What does it mean to be actualized?

    One the words that jumped out to me in the final chapter was "Reconnection".

    We aren't just returning to our old selves and automatically trusting everyone, nor are we remaining detached and numbed out to protect ourselves. We are reconnecting to the world in a new and exciting way. We seek the same happiness and respect for ourselves that we always encouraged in others.

    As a result, the people surrounding us naturally begin to shift:

    "You're worrying less about people-pleasing because you are starting to value your wellbeing more than what others think." (91)

    Rather than changing others, we have changed ourselves. Most will be delighted or unaffected by this. Others will push back and try to restore the dynamic that worked for them. But as Meredith says: When we aren't focused on gaining approval anymore, it just doesn't matter to us anymore.

    We become more comfortable with being ourselves, and taking up a bit more space in the world. Not reducing ourselves in order to make room for everyone else.

    I have kept many copies of this book on my shelf for years, because I find myself giving it to friends very often. The tone of the book is so hopeful and so spot-on. You can tell that Meredith has gone through it herself, and come out the other side a changed person.

    And on a personal note, she is just one of the kindest people ever. She uses her incredible platform to help so many other authors, researchers, and contributors in the field. In addition to her book, I really recommend checking out some of her free videos!

    Here is her book:

    The Journey: A Roadmap for Self-healing After Narcissistic Abuse

    And our first chat :)

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Article Author: Peace