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#67273 - 08/10/03 06:25 AM Helping those who (at least try to) help you . . .
LovingPartner Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/08/03
Posts: 26
***Just as a precaution: I am a woman. I am married to a survivor. I feel you are the most capable to answer this question, so that other friends, spouses, family members, etc, know how to help you. If you are uncomfortable reading this knowing the above, feel free to stop reading now. This post was started to help us learn how to better help you. Thanks, LP***

Now, I hope everyone here has at least one person who helps and supports them. (partner, spouse, famlily memeber, friend, etc.) Being on boards like this one and doing LOTS of reading, I have found that "potential supporters" (people who want to help but don't know how), don't know what to do to help out. (like during flashbacks, etc)Do they put their arms around you? Do they talk to you to keep you "grounded" so you don't get taken over by memories? Do they just leave you alone? Do they try to (verbally) reassure you? Does it work or just make it worse? We are clueless sometimes, ok?
I gues what I'm asking is: Do you have someone (like locally) who supports you? Are they family, friend, spouse, etc? What do you find helps soothe you during flashbacks and when emotions run high? What would you like them to do for you during those times?
I am sorry if I have been intrusive. I am sorry if I have upset anyone. I am just trying to understand things better. Any replies would be benificial to all us supporters out here. Thanks guys! \:\)

#67274 - 08/10/03 09:56 AM Re: Helping those who (at least try to) help you . . .
Sick Puppy Offline

Registered: 03/30/03
Posts: 300
Loc: Nowhere Land
Maybe this would have been better in the Family & Friends forum?

I'm not a mod so I don't know, though.

Anyway, to answer your question (or in an attempt to, anyway): I would think that it varies from person to person. I know that for me I need the person to understand what it is that I am feeling so that they can comfort me. Of course, responsibility falls on me as well to express to them how I'm feeling so they know how to respond.

One thing I have noticed that no one ever knows how to respond to (and I never want to tell them, because it seems somehow... wrong (I don't have a better word... maybe too self-aware?) to tell someone how to react to you when you're in a specific state) is when I get too frustrated and hurt I start to lash out at people, usually verbally, which is a very wrong thing to do... but I don't do it out of anger; I am not a hateful person. I do it out of pain and I think that a lot of other survivors do this as well. In such a case (for me at least) you shouldn't argue with the person or get angry back, it just makes it worse and increases his sense of isolation. Recognize the pain behind the anger and comfort him instead. Make him feel safe and loved so that he won't hurt and be angry anymore.

I think I am being less than helpful now so I will stop... but I can only speak of my own experiences since I've never lived in anyone else's head.

And one day we will die
And our ashes will fly
From the aeroplane over the sea
But for now we are young
Let us lay in the sun
And count every beautiful thing we can see

Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

#67275 - 08/10/03 03:40 PM Re: Helping those who (at least try to) help you . . .
outis Offline

Registered: 02/27/03
Posts: 2261
Loc: Maryland USA

Thanks for starting this discussion. Whether it goes to Family & Friends or not, I think it's important to get some of this out in the open.

But I'm not sure what to add to Josh's post. We are all different. I know that sometimes when I get the inappropriate anger it doesn't help at all if my wife retaliates, because then I can concentrate on the anger, not the "real" feeling that started it. It justs plays right into the avoidance technique that brought on the anger by giving me something to dwell on besides whatever really bothers me.

Still, saying something like, "You're upset over your abuse," or some such wouldn't (initially) get a much better response. Maybe a question like, "Do you think this anger is the right response to this situation?" I have to ask myself that kind of question when I catch myself, but I really don't know how well I would react to hearing it from Susie when I hadn't caught myself. Nowadays I think I'd recognize she's right, but not long ago any attempt to get me to look at my real emotions and consider their source would have stoked the fire.

I don't have a clue how someone could help me during a flashback. I'll be keeping an eye out for whatever other responses come.



"Telemachos, your guest is no discredit to you. I wasted no time in stringing the bow, and I did not miss the mark. My strength is yet unbroken…"—The Odyssey, translated by W.H.D. Rouse

#67276 - 08/10/03 05:58 PM Re: Helping those who (at least try to) help you . . .
LovingPartner Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/08/03
Posts: 26
I am sorry if I upset anyone by initially posting this in the Male Survivors forum, but I put it there so it would be seen, as that is who I hoped would answer this post. I started this post because I know when my husband and I were starting to deal with his SA and the memories started surfacing, I felt helpless to do anything for him. I didn't know whether to try to comfort him or if that would just make things worse. Once I realized he wanted me there with him during the flashbacks and bad memories, I didn't know what to do besides just sit there with him. Now I know a lot of things that I can do to help him. (hold him, rub his back, talk softly to him, etc) But I know other supporters might be unsure of what to do, as I was unsure at first myself. (Wanting to help but not knowing what we could do is one of the things that led me to this site.)

That said, I know that how partners can help calm survivors depends on what is going on at the time. During my hubby's flashbacks he likes me to rub his back, hold him in my arms, and has asked me to talk to him and sometimes ask him questions. (He is still trying to piece together the "memory puzzle") It helps me to better understand what he went through. Talking is a big thing, I used to get online and look up info on SA and PTSD and then we'd get together and talk through whatever info I got. It helped us both better understand what we were dealing with.
Josh and Joe- Thanks for replying. Your replies have given a good look at how a survivor may react to certain words/actions that may be common among new supporters. Thanks again guys. I look forward to what everyone else has to say. (if they reply.)
Best of luck, I admire your strength and honesty.
Loving Partner

#67277 - 08/10/03 11:01 PM Re: Helping those who (at least try to) help you . . .
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
I tend to be very erratic in the sort of response I'd like.

Sometimes I go quiet, and it's hard for my wife to know whether I'd like her to stay quiet as well.

When I get anxious, it's usually more obvious so she knows how to deal with that. She's just 'there' for me.
But I can hide that extremely well, and still do because I don't want to upset her.
The crazy thing is that I know that if I let these anxiety attacks continue then I'll end up using my old defences to ease them off, porn & masturbation being my usuall method now - it was acting out.

Even crazier is the fact that I know that all I have to do is say that I can feel it starting, and she'll be 'there' for me.

I know she can help me, and she want's to help.
So why do I treat her as though she's a mind reader ?

Beats the hell out of me........


Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

#67278 - 08/11/03 01:14 AM Re: Helping those who (at least try to) help you . . .
Green Offline

Registered: 07/13/03
Posts: 115
Loc: NYC, NY
Dear LovingPartner:

Because of what happened, when I feel vulnerable I instinctively hide. The last thing that I want is someone helping me. In general, my wife knows to wait until I come to her.



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