Tag Archives: helplessness


How do you write about something that people are afraid to see? How to you expose an undermining, but insidious, practice? How do you change peoples’ minds? How does a civilization heal from the wounds of abuse?

The following is courtesy of David Baldwin , licensed Psychologist practicing in Eugene, Oregon.

“Traumatizing experiences shake the foundations of our beliefs about safety, and shatter our assumptions of trust. Because they are so far outside what we would expect, these events provoke reactions that feel strange and “crazy”. Perhaps the most helpful thing I can say here is that even though these reactions are unusual and disturbing, they are typical and expectable. By and large, these are normal responses to abnormal events.

Trauma symptoms are probably adaptive, and originally evolved to help us recognize and avoid other dangerous situations quickly — before it was too late. Sometimes these symptoms resolve within a few days or weeks of a disturbing experience: Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD. It is when many symptoms persist for weeks or months, or when they are extreme, that professional help may be indicated. On the other hand, if symptoms persist for several months without treatment, then avoidance can become the best available method to cope with the trauma — and this strategy interferes with seeking professional help. Postponing needed intervention for a year or more, and allowing avoidance defenses to develop, could make this work much more difficult.

We create meaning out of the context in which events occur. Consequently, there is always a strong subjective component in people’s responses to traumatic events. This can be seen most clearly in disasters, where a broad cross-section of the population is exposed to objectively the same traumatic experience. Some of the individual differences in susceptibility to PTSD following trauma probably stem from temperament, others from prior history and its effect on this subjectivity.

In the “purest” sense, trauma involves exposure to a life-threatening experience. This fits with its phylogenetic roots in life-or-death issues of survival, and with the involvement of older brain structures (e.g., reptilian or limbic system) in responses to stress and terror. Yet, many individuals exposed to violations by people or institutions they must depend on or trust also show PTSD-like symptoms — even if their abuse was not directly life-threatening. Although the mechanisms of this connection to traumatic symptoms are not well understood, it appears that betrayal by someone on whom you depend for survival (as a child on a parent) may produce consequences similar to those from more obviously life-threatening traumas. Examples include some physically or sexually abused children as well as Vietnam veterans, but monkeys also show a sense of fairness, so our sensitivity to betrayal may not be limited to humans. Experience of betrayal trauma may increase the likelihood of psychogenic amnesia, as compared to fear-based trauma. Forgetting may help maintain necessary attachments (e.g., during childhood), improving chances for survival; if so, this has far-reaching theoretical implications for psychological research. Of course, some traumas include elements of betrayal and fear; perhaps all involve feelings of helplessness.”

Tami Boehle-Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBBCH, HTP, a licensed psychotherapist in Boulder Colorado at has challenged herself in 2016 to post weekly about the unpopular topic of abuse. Learn more about Tami at


artwork by Chilton Artwork 8

This week you might notice some good opportunity for making some solid advancement, even if it is only in your head. Don’t underestimate the power you have over your own mind. You can think anything you want to think. You can believe anything you want to believe. This can be good to remember, because we also have Jupiter in Virgo, Saturn in Sagittarius and Neptune in Pisces forming a mutable T-square until early September. This T-square will weave through the next 5 months causing us to be confronted with keeping good perspective.

As Tim Robbin’s character, Andy Dufresne, in The Shawshank Redemption tells us, “Geology is the study of pressure and time.” We may be no different then a rock, after all, we are made up of carbon. It sounds indomitable, though, pressure and time. What can we believe to endure pressure and time? What beliefs will fortify us, so that some day we resemble something as sturdy and formidable as stone? What could we believe that will support feeling worthy and dignified through challenging times? What do you believe in order to free your mind from living imprisoned in hopelessness or helplessness?

A belief is a thought that you tell yourself over and over again, until it is one of the most important thoughts that you think. What do you belief? You might be surprised on inquiry to discover that you aren’t as sure as you thought you were about what you belief. A belief is a thought that can become so important, that it seems worthy of sharing. And when a growing number of people are contemplating an important thought, it can become a shared belief. What beliefs were you raised on? Life is a struggle? Work hard and you will be rewarded? Follow your dream? Belief in yourself? Honor your mother and father?

Be sure that whatever it is you believe, that it does – without a doubt, support you through pressure and time. Be sure your beliefs include ideas of abundance, influence, and collaboration. Mind believing in anything that limits your possibilities to contribute to the rock solid foundation of your and the universe’s evolution.

Go ahead and do it. Jot down 10 of your beliefs. What do you think of them? How do they make you feel? Now, recall some of the more challenging times in your life. Go ahead and discern which of your beliefs supported you through those times. Do you have beliefs that are outdated, that no longer support you, that never supported you? Are you willing, like our friend Andy Dufresne, to allow the integrity of living to supersede your old beliefs and inform your new ones?

1. Check out what you believe.
2. Let your beliefs support your ability to keep good perspective through the thick and thin of it.
3. Know that pressure and time are simply part of the evolutionary process.

Tami Satterfield is a licensed psychotherapist who practices solution-oriented healing from a deep ecological perspective.  Her specialities include hypnosis for anxiety, performance, and creativity.  Sessions on-line or in Boulder, Colorado include cutting edge brain therapies that will change the way you think.  Learn more at