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Thriving Beyond CPTSD: Transforming Pain into Power

Darly Sebastian
Darly Sebastian

"Darly, a seasoned Licensed Professional Counselor and life coach, empowers individuals to navigate life's challenges, fostering mental well-being and personal growth."


“Embrace your trauma journey as if it’s a rollercoaster ride. Hold on tight, let out your fears, and relish the exhilaration of recovery”-Darly

This blog, “Thriving Beyond CPTSD: Transforming Pain into Power,” navigates the profound and pervasive nature of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). It acknowledges the complexities of trauma, initially illuminated by Dr. Judith Herman, a celebrated psychiatrist and trauma expert, through her groundbreaking book, “Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror” in 1992. She once amused that if CPTSD were a diagnosis, the DSM would be but a pocket-sized manual.

My blog is a celebration of human resilience, an exploration of the transformative power hidden within the trauma journey. Although it’s a path not easily understood by others, survivors emerge as thrivers, harnessing their pain as a source of strength and personal growth. Join me on this rollercoaster of understanding, healing, and empowerment.

What is C-PTSD and how is it different from PTSD?

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), also known as Childhood PTSD, stands apart from conventional PTSD. Unlike PTSD, which is linked to specific traumatic incidents, CPTSD emerges from enduring exposure to trauma that’s prolonged, often stretching from childhood and extending over many years, sometimes even decades. This crucial distinction lies in the longevity of the trauma, so consistent that it may be perceived as the ‘normal’ state for many individuals affected.

CPTSD manifests through a complex web of symptoms that reach far beyond classic PTSD. It profoundly impacts one’s self-concept, their ability to nurture healthy relationships, and their overall quality of life. Though CPTSD isn’t universally recognized across all diagnostic systems, numerous trauma experts underscore its significance as a concept for comprehending and addressing the profound consequences of continuous trauma.

“CPTSD and the Altered Brain: Unravelling Trauma’s Profound Impact on Your Brain”

Reactive Brain And Responsive Brain

In understanding the trauma brain, it’s essential to focus on two critical areas: the Reactive Brain (comprising the Reptilian and Mammalian brain) and the Responsive Brain (the Executive Brain or Prefrontal Cortex).

The Reactive Brain is responsible for rapid emotional responses like fear and anger. It takes center stage during stressful situations, activating survival instincts and emotions, leading to responses such as fight, flight, freeze, or fawn, while releasing stress hormones.

Conversely, the Responsive Brain manages decision-making, emotional regulation, and planning. It comes into play once the stressful situation is resolved, offering a sense of control and rationality.

This seamless transition between the reactive and responsive brain occurs in individuals without Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). However, for those dealing with CPTSD, this shift is disrupted. The overactive reactive brain maintains a constant state of fear and anxiety, hindering the smooth activation of the prefrontal cortex. This imbalance can lead to symptoms resembling those of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Depression. It underscores the critical need to address unresolved trauma as an integral part of the healing process.

Brain In Trauma

Symptoms of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD)

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a complex tapestry woven from a range of emotional and psychological threads. These symptoms, often interconnected, create a profound challenge for those affected. Here are some clusters of symptoms often observed in individuals with CPTSD:

Cluster 1:

1. Internal Turmoil AKA Perpetual Discontent

CPTSD often manifests as a perpetual sense of discontent and inner emptiness, causing perpetual distress. Individuals may resort to impulsive or self-destructive behaviors to escape this relentless discontent.

2. Phantom Feelings – Where Emotions Roar Unseen

This phenomenon, known as ‘Phantom Feelings,’ involves the body harboring hidden memories, leading to an undercurrent of unhappiness, exhaustion, and unexplainable emotional outbursts. It’s as though the body remembers what the conscious mind cannot quite grasp.

3. Emotional Dysregulation – Struggling to Steer the Uncontrollable

Individuals with CPTSD experience an emotional rollercoaster, with intense mood swings. Managing these emotions becomes a delicate ballet, akin to walking a tightrope.

Emotional Dysregulation in CPTSD

Cluster 2

4. Hypervigilance – The ‘ILL at Chill’ Phenomenon

Hypervigilance in CPTSD often traces back to feeling unsafe or unloved during formative years. This constant state of watchfulness can be diagnosed as ADHD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, OCD etc.

5. Hyper Productivity – The ‘Human Doing’ Syndrome

‘Hyper Productivity’ results from family dynamics where overworking was praised, often leading to an imbalance between work and personal life, straining relationships as work takes precedence.

Hyper Vigilance (ILL at Chill) in CPTSD

6. Hyper-Independence – The Lonely Struggle

Hyper-Independence stems from early beliefs fostered in the family system, leading individuals to wear self-reliance like armor. Healing involves dismantling these walls, learning selective trust, and recognizing one’s worthiness of support and connection.

Cluster 3

7. Attraction to Emotionally Unavailable People – Familiarity Leads to Chaos

This tendency is deeply entwined with CPTSD itself, rooted in haunting memories of emotionally deprived family systems. Sub-consciously, individuals seek partners who echo the emotional unavailability they once knew.

Emotionally Unavailable Partners in CPTSD

8. Fear of Abandonment – Love as a Tightrope

For those navigating CPTSD, this fear casts a long shadow over every relationship, becoming a relentless companion and hindering intimacy.

9. Tumultuous Relationships – Navigating Emotional Waves

Relationships often become emotional battlegrounds, marked by constant emotional fluctuations, hindering self-esteem and personal growth.


10. Self-Blame – Unmasking the Silent Adversary Within

Individuals grappling with CPTSD often direct frustration towards themselves, rooted in self-blame and harsh self-judgment.

11. Binary Thinking – The Dulling of Life’s Palette

Dichotomous thinking and rigid inflexibility often cast a shadow over life’s vibrancy, constraining every facet of life.

Dissociation in CPTSD

12. Dissociation – Drifting from Within

Dissociation emerges as a coping mechanism, causing individuals to feel like distant observers, detached from their own bodies.

13. Somatic Whispers – CPTSD’s Unspoken Language

Somatic messages in the form of chronic pain, digestive troubles, and headaches convey buried trauma, disrupting daily life.

Understanding these complex clusters of symptoms is vital for individuals navigating CPTSD, allowing them to embark on a journey towards healing, self-acceptance, and well-being.

How can we heal from CPTSD? Is it even possible?

In the journey to address Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), the path is anything but linear. Recognizing and addressing CPTSD often requires a specialized approach informed by trauma modalities that understand the profound intricacies of this condition.

Neuroplasticity: Amid the complexity, one shining light provides hope: the brain’s incredible capacity for change. Although changes to the brain may appear distressing and indicative of permanent damage on the surface, it’s important to recognize that all of these alterations can be reversed. The goal is to reprogram the dysregulated trauma brain, taking advantage of its plasticity (neuroplasticity), so that the responsive brain can act harmoniously alongside the reactive brain.

Psychoeducation: The journey begins with psychoeducation, a crucial first step in understanding CPTSD and recognizing its symptoms within ourselves. Once identified, we need to grasp how these symptoms affect our daily lives and different areas of our well-being.

Regulating the trauma brain: To allow the responsive brain to take over more often and let the reactive brain come into play as needed, various tools and measures are employed. These include taking breaks and relaxing after difficult tasks or stressful situations so that the responsive brain can do its job effectively. It involves consciously affirming that you’re okay and safe, avoiding multitasking, being present in the moment, and maintaining a clear separation between work and personal life.

Holistic Approach:True healing requires, incorporating talk therapy, specialized somatic practices, customized dietary plans, and, when needed, medication or herbal remedies. Support from understanding friends, family, and partners is also invaluable as you navigate this complex terrain.

SoulSync Coaching: At the heart of this journey lies “SoulSync Coaching,” a transformative modality founded by Darly. Developed through years of dedicated exploration and understanding, it has proven to be one of the most effective methods for personal growth and trauma healing. SoulSync Coaching is designed to empower individuals to embark on a transformative journey of self-discovery and alignment, with a focus on nurturing two pivotal aspects: clarity and congruence.

Clarity: This involves delving deep into the depths of one’s being, addressing the often shadowed impacts of trauma. By asking fundamental questions like “Who am I?”, “Where am I now?” and “Is my current situation in alignment with my true desires?” individuals begin to unravel the veils of confusion and trauma-induced fog that obscure their genuine selves.

Congruence: is the art of harmonizing inner aspirations with external reality. It involves aligning thoughts, feelings, and actions with one’s authentic self. This alignment restores inner coherence, leading to a profound sense of control and relief.

In SoulSync Coaching, Darly guides individuals through these processes, offering compassionate support and valuable tools. Through self-inquiry, introspection, and deep healing, clients are empowered to break free from the shackles of trauma, rediscover their true selves, and navigate life with newfound clarity, congruence, and fulfillment.

If you’re facing the challenges of CPTSD or any other life hurdles, feel free to reach out to us. Your transformative journey awaits!

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