Currently viewing the tag: "trauma"


What happened in the next moments happened in a blur, a blur which streamed so quickly that the memory of that moment was difficult for those present to recall accurately. –The Keeper of the Stone by Mr. J. E. Jardine

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a scene in which the conflict arises from the protagonist’s inability to remember things clearly.

Journaling Prompt: Write about a traumatic event that happened in your life.

Art Prompt: It was all a blur

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience how memories are affected by trauma.

Photo Credit: gideon ansell on Flickr

Mrs. M would never forget that day. She was walking along a busy road next to the vegetable market when two goons zipped past on a bike. One man’s hand shot out and grabbed the chain around her neck. The next instant, she had stumbled to her knees, and was dragged along in the wake of the bike. Thankfully, the chain snapped, and she got away with a mildly bruised neck. Though dazed by the incident, Mrs. M was fine until a week after the incident.

Then, the nightmares began.

She would struggle and yell and fight in her sleep every night with phantom chain snatchers. Every bout left her charged with anger and often left her depressed. The episodes continued for several months until they finally stopped. –Science Daily

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write the story of someone struggling with the aftermath of trauma.

Journaling Prompt: Write about a time when you were frightened and how you felt afterwards.

Art Prompt: Trauma

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the after effects of trauma.

Photo Credit: Andis on Flickr

The memories stored in our brain are either processed or unprocessed. If they are processed, it means that the brain has done its job and integrated a learning experience into our memory networks. Something happened that was disturbing, but I learned what I needed from it. I fight with a family member and I have a negative emotional and body reaction, but time passes and I think about it, talk about it, dream about it, and soon it doesn’t bother me any more. The appropriate connections are made in my brain and I might realize: “He’s been going through a hard time. We’ve had rough spots before and worked them out.” I decide what action to take and I feel better. In my memory network, what is useful is stored and what’s useless — like the feelings of anxiety or anger — is gone.

That is what the brain is geared to do: make the appropriate connections, “digest” the experience and store it in memory. But sometimes an experience can be so disturbing that the information processing system of the brain becomes imbalanced. When that happens, the experience is stored in an “unprocessed” form and still contains the emotions, physical sensations and beliefs that occurred at the time of the original event. So when I see the person again, instead of feeling OK, I have the same feeling of anger, hurt and anxiety. –Francine Shapiro, PhD

Writing Prompt: Write a character sketch for someone who has unprocessed traumatic memories.

Journaling Prompt: Write about a memory that continues to bother you.

Art Prompt: Memory

Photo Credit: Urban Woodswalker on Flickr


“We think children are born with a skeleton of general expectations about fairness,” explains Sloane, “and these principles and concepts get shaped in different ways depending on the culture and the environment they’re brought up in.” Some cultures value sharing more than others, but the ideas that resources should be equally distributed and rewards allocated according to effort are innate and universal.

Other survival instincts can intervene. Self-interest is one, as is loyalty to the in-group — your family, your tribe, your team. It’s much harder to abide by that abstract sense of fairness when you want all the cookies — or your team is hungry. That’s why children need reminders to share and practice in the discipline of doing the right thing in spite of their desires.

Still, says Sloane, “helping children behave more morally may not be as hard as it would be if they didn’t have that skeleton of expectations.”

This innate moral sense might also explain the power of early trauma, Sloane says. Aside from fairness, research has shown that small children expect people not to harm others and to help others in distress. “If they witness events that violate those expectations in extreme ways, it could explain why these events have such negative and enduring consequences.” –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a story, scene, or poem about children using the information in the study quoted above.

Journaling Prompt: What are your expectations about fairness and sharing? How do your expectations match up with the reality in your family? in your workplace? in your social circle?

Art Prompt: Children Sharing

Photo Credit: .jocelyn. on Flickr

Eyes in the sky

Here is a different take on PTSD with an interesting idea for how to heal the wound.

‘My colleagues and I suspect that the greatest lasting harm is from moral injury,’ says Litz, director of the Mental Health Core of the Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiological Research and Information Center. He and six colleagues published an article on the topic in the December 2009 Clinical Psychological Review, in which they define moral injury as a wound that can occur when troops participate in, witness or fall victim to actions that transgress their most deeply held moral beliefs.

While the severity of this kind of wound differs from person to person, moral injury can lead to deep despair.

‘They have lost their sense that virtue is even possible,’ Shay says. ‘It corrodes the soul.’…
‘In traditional cultures, warriors always came back to tell their stories, to give witness and to do healing ceremonies in front of the entire community,’ Tick says. ‘The community witnessed the stories, felt the emotions, carried the burdens with their warriors and transferred responsibility for actions from the warriors to the community.’ -Miller-McCune

Writing Prompt: Create a ritual to help  your character heal from a moral injury.

Journaling Prompt: How do you heal your soul when you’ve sustained a moral injury.

Art Prompt: Healing

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Write about how our society deals with wounded souls

Photo Credit: The US Army on Flickr


There have always been bullies in schools, but now we are finally starting to understand the consequences of letting this behavior go unanswered. In today’s reading of research from University of Illinois psychology professor Karen Rudolph, we learn the strategies kids use when they are being bullied.

Consciously or not, children tend to adopt one of three approaches…

“Some are focused on developing their relationships. They want to improve their social skills. They want to learn how to make friends,” she said.

Others are most interested in “demonstrating their competence,” she said. They may try to demonstrate their competence by enhancing their status or seeking approval from their peers. “These are kids who say: ‘I want to be cool. I want lots of kids to like me. I want to hang out with the popular kids.’ “

Or they may try to demonstrate their competence by avoiding negative judgments. “These are the kids who say, ‘I’m not going to do anything that’s going to draw negative attention, that’s going to make me look like a loser, that’s going to embarrass me,'” Rudolph said.

…children who were most interested in developing relationships “had more positive perceptions of themselves and were more likely to say that they would cooperate and work to reduce conflict with other kids,” Rudolph said. When other kids harassed them, these children were “more likely to engage in proactive strategies to solve the problem,” she said. This might involve asking a teacher for advice, or getting emotional support. Students with these goals also were less likely to engage in other impulsive responses to harassment, Rudolph said.

Children who wanted to be perceived as “cool” or competent “were less likely to use those kinds of thoughtful, careful strategies” when dealing with harassment, Rudolph said. “And they were more likely to retaliate.” These children also had more negative perceptions of their peers, Rudolph said.

Those who wanted to avoid negative judgments were less likely to retaliate against their peers. “But they were also more passive. They just ignored what happened,” she said. This approach might be useful in some circumstances, particularly for boys who tend to be more physically aggressive and more likely to retaliate than girls, Rudolph said. But passive responses also may increase a bully’s willingness to “up the ante,” she said. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a scene in which a youngster is dealing with being bullied at school.

Journaling Prompt: Write about a time when you were bullied or you saw someone being bullied.

Art Prompt: Bully

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write an informative article or speech on how to handle bullies.

Photo Credit: Chesi – Fotos CC on Flickr


How do men manipulate women into acting against their own best interests, even against their safety?

Researchers listened to telephone conversations between 17 accused male abusers in a Washington state detention facility and their female victims, all of whom decided to withdraw their accusations of abuse. For each of the couples, the researchers analyzed up to about three hours of phone conversations…

Typically, in the first and second conversations there is a heated argument between the couple, revolving around the event leading to the abuse charge. In these early conversations, the victim is strong, and resists the accused perpetrator’s account of what happens…

In the second stage, the perpetrator minimizes the abuse and tries to convince the victim that what happened wasn’t that serious…
“The tipping point for most victims occurs when the perpetrator appeals to her sympathy, by describing how much he is suffering in jail, how depressed he is, and how much he misses her and their children,” Bonomi said.

“The perpetrator casts himself as the victim, and quite often the real victim responds by trying to soothe and comfort the abuser.”

…In the third stage, after the accused abuser has gained the sympathy of the victim, the couple bonds over their love for each other and positions themselves against others who “don’t understand them.”

The fourth stage involves the perpetrator asking the victim to recant her accusations against him and the victim complying. Finally, in the fifth stage, the couple constructs the recantation plan and develops their stories.

“They often exchange very specific instructions about what should be done and said in court. They seal their bond as a couple and see themselves as fighting together against the state, which they view as trying to keep them apart,” Bonomi said. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a scene involving psychological manipulation. (If you are interested in learning more about the psychology of the abusive relationship, read Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
by Lundy Bancroft and The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships
by Patrick Carnes.)

Journaling Prompt: Describe a time when you’ve been manipulated. How did that feel when it was happening? When did you become aware of what was happening? 

Art Prompt: Psychological manipulation
Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about how manipulators work and how they can avoid falling prey to them.

Photo Credit: conmike12 on Flickr

kids playing volleyball on the beach

It gets ugly when a parent starts living through their kid. Here’s a scene from real life.

“Later, we sat in the sand as the other kids my age played a game of beach volleyball. My father must have seen an opening of some kind, because to my great embarrassment he stood up between matches and asked if I could join in. I tried to refuse, but there was no way to do so with­out seeming like even more of a loser. I was a decent athlete—I’d played lacrosse and hockey in Baltimore—but did not understand the most basic mechanics involved in keeping a ball up in the air with my forearms.

“While the other kids set and dug and belly flopped for shots, I stood in the corner of the court, praying that the ball would miraculously avoid my jurisdiction. Finally someone spiked the ball right at me, and I did something tragic. I caught it. I glanced at my father, still clutching the thing to my stomach. His eyes were squinched up, fixed somewhere near my feet, as if he couldn’t stand to look me in the face. It took me a second to realize he was staring at my legs.

“At the time, my father’s shame was overshadowed by the disgrace I felt in front of my teammates. Now, though, when I’m watering the plants or jogging around the reservoir near my house, I’ll think of my father’s face that day and feel the punch of that ball in my stomach. I’ll fantasize about all the things I might have done, like clock him in the teeth. Perhaps—at least I tell myself this, I insist on it, because the memory still hurts me deeply—he was really making the face at himself.” -Eric Puchner, Schemes of My Father

Writing Prompt: Write about a parent living vicariously through their child.

Journaling Prompt: Write about a time when your parent lived vicariously through you OR when you lived vicariously through your child OR when you observed a parent living vicariously through their child.

Art Prompt: Vicarious

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell a touching story about living vicariously.

Photo Credit:  Guernsey Sports on Flickr


explosion of red

It was the day my grandmother exploded. -Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road

Writing Prompt: Use the first line provided and write a story or a scene.

Journaling Prompt: Write about a time one of your relatives got so angry that you were scared.

Art Prompt: Explosion

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about a time when your temper got the best of you and you exploded.

Photo Credit: Krassy Can Do It on Flickr


I’m a big fan of the fetal position when I’m in pain, so I was surprised to read this study about how posture affects your perception of the intensity of the pain.

While most people will crawl up into a ball when they are in pain, Bohn’s and Wiltermuth’s research suggests that one should do the opposite. In fact, their research suggests that curling up into a ball may make the experience more painful because it will make you feel like you have no control over your circumstances, which may in turn intensify your anticipation of the pain. Instead, try sitting or standing up straight, pushing your chest out and expanding your body. These behaviors can help create a sense of power and control that may in turn make the procedure more tolerable. Based on previous research, adopting a powerful, expansive posture rather than constricting your body, may also lead to elevated testosterone, which is associated with increased pain tolerance, and decreased cortisol, which may make the experience less stressful. – Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a scene about a character dealing with severe pain.

Journaling Prompt: How do you deal with pain?

Art Prompt: Pain
Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Give your audience some strategies for coping with different kinds of pain.

Photo Credit: Unfurled on Flickr