[February 3, 2023: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
Living with Trauma Memories is a presentation (available on YouTube) by Dr. Diane Langberg, a Christian psychologist who we have featured in the past. In this presentation she discusses two phases that are necessary for recovery from trauma. Both trauma victims and those counseling trauma victims will benefit from her overview of these two phases so we have decided to highlight her presentation.
Diane begins by saying,
What I am going to talk about today is how to live with traumatic memories. And any of you who have trauma memories know that you really don’t want to live with them, you just want them to go away, or if you can’t make them disappear you would at least like to not have to think about them. But if you have trauma in your life you know the experience also of trying to sort of hide it from yourself so you don’t have to think about it and then something happens and it breaks through and there it is again. So you can’t get rid of it….because you can’t erase trauma memories. You cannot make them go away.
Trauma memories will not disappear from our minds because our brains are made in a way to not forget anything. It’s all in there. Sometimes we can’t find it. You know you want to remember something and you can’t find it, but everything is in there. So since we cannot erase them then we must learn to live with them so they do not poison us.
What I’m going to do is focus on the things that help us live with trauma memories and honor them as real events and still be able to live today in strong and creative ways.
Phase One: Looking to the past — talking, tears and time
Diane continues by introducing Phase One which includes three things that need to occur in order for people to begin to recover from trauma. She explains:
All three of them have to happen. If just one or two happens recovery will not occur. So we need all three of them. And the three things are this: talking, tears, and time.
Diane states that the talking, the tears, and time are like instruments that the survivor can use toward their own healing. And these instruments allow the survivor to look at the past — look back at the trauma and saying what is was and how it hurt them.
Phase Two: Looking to the Future — a caring relationship, purpose or work, and faith
Diane then presents the next phase of recovery which also has three components. This phase can only occur after talking, tears, and time, and is focused on the future. It helps the survivor shift from the past and start thinking about tomorrow.
Now there’s another phase of recovery and it also has three things in it….The second phase of recovery which has three things is more focused on the future. When you’re talking, tears, and time you’re looking at the past. Yes, you’re looking back at the trauma and saying what is was and how it hurt you. The second phase of recovery is looking (to the future) which you cannot do until you’ve (looked at the past). So (survivors) need to go through the talking, tears, and time and then (they) will shift and start thinking about tomorrow or next year or whenever. That’s the second phase of recovery.
Diane concludes her presentation introducing the three components of Phase Two of recovery: a caring relationship, purpose or work, and faith, and explaining how these three things help to reconnect people back to life.
Thank you to Philip Monroe for uploading this presentation onto YouTube. You can find other resources created or recommended by Diane Langberg at dianelangberg.com, and at Global Trauma Recovery Institute which she co-leads with another Christian psychologist, Philip G Monroe.
[February 3, 2023: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to February 3, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to February 3, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to February 3, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (February 3, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
17 thoughts on “Living with Trauma Memories — video presentation by Diane Langberg”
Yes, exactly right. Validates how I feel and where I am. Trying to get into future purpose and relationships, and grow in faith. Good validation here. So tired of faith-based folks implying there is something wrong with us if we can’t “leave it behind” and “cling to God only” yet.
Thank you for offering these links to Diane Langberg. She delivers with Christ-honoring compassion. (sigh)….so nice to witness another offer healing for the vulnerable.
Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog [Internet Archive link].
I needed this as these past 2 weeks have been extremely painful and the trauma memories are especially vivid….nightmares cold sweats and tremors. Thank you for helping me understand the steps I need to heal and move forward….blessings.
This is a great resource! It is so important to take time to heal after going through any type of trauma, including living in an abusive marriage. And allowing ourselves the time to talk and cry so we can process our past is the only way to come out the other side stronger than ever.
So many times abuse victims are just told to forgive and forget, move on, get over it, but it’s never that easy. Forgiveness is needed to set ourselves free from holding grudges and holding on to the past, but we will never forget, nor should we forget, what we walked through. Dealing with the past so it doesn’t hold us hostage is necessary, remembering our past keeps us from walking back into another destructive relationship.
I was very touched by this video and the compassionate message that Dr. Langberg shared.
I do have a burning question. Is it implied that in order to truly heal from trauma, you must first escape the things that are traumatizing you? It is a question with an obvious answer, I realize, and in war or other terrorizing traumatic situations it is implied that healing comes after you are safely out of danger. But what if you are still living with the person who caused the trauma? What if the trauma has occurred because of subtle abuse in your marriage and your husband doesn’t threaten your life? What if he’s made significant changes and is showing some true signs of repentance, but you are stuck in the past reliving the trauma he absolved himself of over and over again?
I ask because I am desperately trying to figure out God’s will in my life: whether I should stay and hope that I can work through the trauma while still living with the source of that trauma (i.e. my repenting husband) or if the ONLY way to heal is to pull myself away from it. It becomes confusing when you want to forget and forgive someone and you want to honor the changes they’ve made while at the same time wanting to protect and heal yourself. Because my husband has AS [Asperger’s Syndrome], he isn’t able to express his remorse for his past nor his deepest feelings for me, and that is not his fault. I know he is doing his best.
I’m trying to come to a place of doing what is right and aligning myself with God’s will, but I am confused, dissociated, and not healing from my trauma. Seeking earnestly for peace and direction from above.
I’ve really found refuge here and have felt so much validation.
Sorry to ramble on! Thank you for giving me a safe place to share my thoughts.
[Paragraph break added to enhance readability. Editors.]
Hi, Cagednomore, I’ll respond to your question later, when I get the space and time.
That is a very good question.
My tentative thoughts are that it may be possible that you and your husband are making too many excuses for him because of his AS. I’m not an expert in AS, and have only a little personal experience of individuals who have that diagnosis, but it seems to me that if he is absolving himself of his past conduct towards you while not being willing to listen and be compassionately present for you while you are remembering and processing the trauma he caused you, he has been granting himself ‘cheap grace’ — absolution without any consequences.
Christians muddle this stuff up a lot, and abusers often take advantage of this muddle that Christians are in. God offers us absolution for our sins because Jesus bore all the penalty of our sins on the Cross. But sins against other people, although they may be forgiven and absolved by God, often have ongoing unpleasant consequences in the life of that sinner. King David’s sin with Bathsheba is the perfect case study here: God forgave David’s sins when he truly repented, but there were many consequences in David’s life that were not magically wiped away. The child he had conceived in adultery with Bathsheba died in infancy. David’s sons were at each other’s throats for decades. One of his sons raped David’s daughter Tamar, and the payback for that went on and on, and Tamar was never given any shred of justice. One of David’s son’s committed mutiny and seized the throne for David and shamed David by sleeping with David’s concubines in the public view of all Jerusalem.
When a person sins against another person, there may be long-lasting consequences. Your trauma symptoms are part of the consequences which your abuser ought to be willing to face and endure and not mock or quash you for. He caused the trauma: if he is sorry for it he ought to bear the consequences of his sin humbly. You are not ‘rubbing his face in it’ or ‘being unforgiving’ by experiencing and wanting to express and work through your trauma memories. You are simply doing what is healthy — wanting to heal. And as we mentioned only recently on this blog, in a post about Diane Langberg, tears, talking and time mark the first stage of healing. If you husband is not allowing you to feel safe to go into the tears, talking and time (as much time as you need) then he is NOT sufficiently changed to be a safe person for you to live with.
I also suggest you read chapter 14 of Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He DO That? [Affiliate link]. He starts that chapter with a story about a man who cuts down a tree belonging to his neighbours. The story is an analogy of the process of change and what change would really look like if an abuser were to truly change. It’s a brilliant analogy, and Lundy then spells out the key steps in an abusive man accepting responsibility:
These nine points are each amplified by Lundy in his book. So I encourage you to read the chapter to get the full impact.
I can’t comment on Asperger’s Syndrome authoritatively, but we do have some posts about mental illness in abusers which you may find helpful.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a insightful response. You brought up some very wise points about repentance being separate from consequences. I really appreciate that, as I’ve felt tremendous guilt for continually experiencing the effects of trauma without getting better. I thought, at some point, the fault became mine for holding onto the past and not humbling myself to heal from it, especially when he’s tried to improve his behavior. More and more it becomes clear that part of healing is working through the trauma, not shutting it out or trying to force ourselves to forget.
I have read Lundy Bancroft’s book “Why Does He DO That?” and it was extremely validating to know exactly what I had dealt with all of those years. My husband has never fully admitted to his wrongs. He tells me that he had no idea that his actions and words were abusive, and in his mind this means that he is justified. Now that he knows he is trying to stop the abusive behavior. He has started to apologize for present hurts and fits of anger (which are becoming less and less common), but he has not apologized for the past, or admitted he was wrong. He agrees that it will take time for me to heal, and he respects this. Things are not perfect by any means, but there have been changes on some levels.
He is not comfortable seeing or hearing my tears, nor is he comfortable expressing empathy for what I am dealing with. Much of this has to do with his AS, because he doesn’t know how to express empathy and is overwhelmed by emotions.
I feel he’s a good man in so many ways, but I am not healing from my trauma yet. The safety, trust, and emotional connection needed within a healthy marriage is simply not there. I feel that I could stay and work with him as best as I could as a fellow parent to keep our family together, but in order to do so I would have to take the risk of never fully healing and being triggered often from the past sexual, emotional and verbal abuse. It would have to be a mission of sacrifice and compassion, where I would give up my need to be emotionally connected and loved and focus on keeping my family together. It would require a leap of faith to hold on and hope that by doing so, it would lead eventually to happiness and healing.
Sometimes it’s hard to consider leaving as an option because I do feel selfish when he’s doing the best he can given his limitations. But I’m also aware that God wants us to be happy.
Thank you again for your thoughtful response. I will read the posts about mental illness in abusers. This site is such a priceless resource!
Thank you for pointing out this lecture on recovery from trauma. I got out many good points such as not letting the trauma govern my life / be like a poison. Diane Langberg’s compassion and care are truly soothing.
I also came away with 2 thoughts:
1) The traumas she talks about such as war, genocide, sexual abuse, etc. sound like one-off big incidents in people’s lives. But the reality with abuse especially within a marriage is much more intricate and challenging because the trauma goes on repeatedly, subtly over years and sometimes many years, and is perpetuated by a so-called Christian and often affects a whole family (spouse and children). Then when the abuse victim is trying to extirpate [extricate?] herself from it all, she is re-traumatized over and over by some of her own siblings, friends and church, the abuser’s allies, the incompetent counselors, etc., until it seems the trauma now is worse than the one then with the abuser. Healing from the whole thing is difficult and complex.
Let’s take for instance a woman who is raped by a stranger once in a street, and now a woman who is raped by her own husband at home over a period of time. We are talking here about chronic and exponential trauma and it takes a different and specific approach to even begin to heal / care.
2) Toward the end, Diane Langberg, when talking about God and faith, ought to have named the author of evil and trauma, i.e. Satan. Yes there is an arch-enemy out there who contends with God, and sometimes it pays to explain or being reminded of the bigger picture, the Cosmic struggle. The book of Job relates just that and unveils the forces and what is at stake.
Excellent thoughts, Innoscent!
[…] Source: Living with Trauma Memories — video presentation by Diane Langberg […]
Thank you for this. I just watched the video and I love what Ms Langberg said that is so important to people like me who feel like we are constantly battling with God.
I take everything to God and that means EVERYTHING. He already knows my mind, heart and thoughts, so why not? I’ve deeply loved Him and deeply hated Him and yet He’s still the same. He has taught me that my anger is the right response to so many lies and so much emotional and spiritual rape and that He can handle it all. He honors my struggle because as I’ve posted [commented] before — when I’m battling with Him I’m turning to Him — I’m looking to Him for help and answers.
Praise Him! Currently reading “When women speak: domestic violence in Australian churches” published by St Marks Theological Centre, Canberra. I can only read a little at a time. Very triggering.
There is a huge elephant under the carpet in my church and my home community is making me out to be mad. That I’m the only one who needs help. In Jesus you help us all. You totally validate who I am and where I am in Christ. Please know how much I love and appreciate the way He works through you.
Thanks for your comment, and welcome to the blog. 🙂
I gather you are a victim of domestic abuse and your church and community are more or less siding with the abuser…. This is so so typical of how churches respond to domestic abuse.
I haven’t read that edition of St Marks Review you referred to yet (the edition titled When women speak: domestic violence in Australian churches) but I will probably do so soon. And while we are pretty cautious about mentioning resources on this blog before we have vetted them, I’m fairly confident that When Women Speak…. would be good, as I have tracked the Australian discussion on this topic closely — see my post Church Controversy with Domestic Abuse: an annotated bibliography.
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PS I live in Melbourne and Julia Baird interviewed me in the 7:30 Report program on domestic abuse in churches.
I started watching the video, but got the non-physical “itches”, indicating something might be “off”. I shelved the video for the night — it’s late and I’m too tired to accurately decipher the sensation.
In reading the comments generated, I resonated with Anonymous’ comment. I hadn’t considered my struggle with God as turning to Him, yet the truth of it is obvious. I’m not quite sure if that is freeing or confusing. I suspect the answer is freeing. I need His help reaching the answer.
His advantage is knowing how trauma has affected me, knows the optimal route through the minefield. If only I could soak that knowledge / understanding into the areas of struggle and confusion. If only I could know the mind of God.
Adding on to my comment from last night….
I understand the source of the light, non-physical “itches”. Diane frequently changes between using “I”, “you”, and “they”. I can follow the conversation, maintain the context, understand her points. In a sense, the question arises when / where she might be including or excluding herself.
Reading my comment from last night, maybe the confusion emanates from how she might relate to me. Teacher? Fellow survivor? Caregiver? A combination?
Diane sometimes generalized, not an uncommon practice.
Combining the potential role confusion with generalizations could lead to erroneous assumptions.
I learned things about myself, both as a trauma survivor and healer. In each case, the insights are from hindsight, information / experience flowing back and forth.
Diane’s presentation contained many valuable tid bits, including various styles of communication, of processing, of reaching out, of repetition. I have never heard the concept of trauma being united with Christ on the cross. Yes, I know the Gospel story. Placing the horrors of crucifixion in the context of trauma allows me closer relationship to Christ.
I recognize I have placed the “negative” before the “positive”, a reversal of the “standard” practice. Perhaps the need was similar to trauma, processing the pain to reach the strength.