Treating Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) with Meditation

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  • Post published:September 30, 2022
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Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) describes the condition of someone who has symptoms of PTSD in addition to other compounding symptoms such as difficulty regulating emotions, feelings of anger or hopelessness, and a lack of trust in others. It is caused by repeated, prolonged exposure to traumatic events, often early in life or in other situations in which escape from a traumatic environment is not possible. Recent research has begun to explore the connection between trauma and attachment.

Treating trauma is normally done in three phases.

Stabilization is the phase of establishing safety.

Processing traumatic memories, which can involve telling the story of what happened in new ways.

Integrity of self and wellbeing; reconnecting with others.

Many take the position that until stabilisation occurs, it is not possible to process and ultimately heal trauma. This may be because the body and mind are in a state of hyper-vigilance, perceiving immediate danger. Safety is required to open up to what emotions are present and to process them.

Ideal Parent Figure (IPF) Protocol is a visualization meditation developed by Dan Brown to treat insecure attachment and trauma. In a study of participants, IPF was found to significantly reduce CPTSD symptoms and improve the quality of life for research participants practising the method within 5 weeks; these results held after an 8-month follow up. The researchers noted that meditative approaches like IPF can result in “fast and stable improvement for individuals with CPTSD”.

We have written before about how visualization exercises create emotionally corrective experiences that lead to transformational healing and a change in attachment (https://attachmentrepair.com/articles/can-you-change-your-attachment-style-and-if-so-how/). In the context of trauma, it can be said that bringing to mind imagined figures like the Perfect Nurturers cultivates the safety that is essential to stabilisation so that processing can take place.

IPF is one of the main modalities that inspires Attachment Repair.  Many of the meditation techniques we teach draw on similarly imagined Perfect Nurturers. By first creating a feeling of safety that is directly experienced, processing becomes possible. As an imaginal practice, a visualized scene with the Perfect Nurturers can be altered at will to create an experience of being attuned with, being soothed, and feeling supported in doing what one finds meaningful when traumatic symptoms no longer cause overwhelm, giving one an arena to work towards integrity of self and healing.

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