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Trauma and Professional Coaching: The Use of Emotional Training

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While professional coaches are not in the business of providing psychotherapy to men and women suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), they need to know about this challenging condition, given that they are often working with coaching clients who have suffered from trauma. Dror Green offers a new approach to working with traumatized men and women—an approach known as Emotional Training. This approach is based on a different model of the emotional process. Instead of the vague definitions of ‘normality’ and ‘pathology’, Dr. Green suggests two other poles of emotional health: one is ‘anxiety’ and the other is a ‘safe place’ (or ‘secure frame’). Anxiety is the natural response to dangers in reality, and especially to death that we all meet during our life circle. The ‘safe place’ is a frame we create in order to protect ourselves (a house, a family, religion, country, culture, etc.). When the ‘safe place’ is not strong enough, our anxiety increases correspondingly. All emotional damages are actually a manifestation of a low level of ‘safe place’ and an increasing level of anxiety. Severe trauma, such as shell-shock or a rape, is a manifestation of extreme anxiety and almost a total lack of a ‘safe place’.

Anxiety, Safety and Trauma

Anxiety and a ‘safe place’ are not natural situations, deriving from our organic system, but acquired skills that enable us to cope with reality. Therefore, we cannot ‘cure’ anxiety and expect that the ‘safe place’ would also be rehabilitated by itself. Traumatic damage means that our skill of creating a ‘safe place’, which we had acquired slowly during our lives, does not function any more. Instead of ‘curing’ the trauma we can improve our emotional skills, through which we can create a ‘safe place’. This is the purpose of Emotional Training.

The trauma of being aware of the trauma

The traumatic damage increases with every new traumatic experience. Unfortunately, when one becomes aware of the trauma, one experiences a new traumatic process that may increase the trauma or postpone the appropriate treatment. Contrary to the psychoanalytic assumption that awareness relieves or decreases the traumatic symptoms, awareness to a traumatic event does not bring any relief. Veterans who realize that they suffer from post-trauma must cope with more difficulties and new kinds of traumatic pain.

The reason for this phenomenon is simple. Self-awareness of the trauma shakes the foundations of one’s biography and forces new understanding of the personal history. Post-traumatic victims are forced to re-evaluate their whole life system, their choices, their values, their professional career and their family and personal relationships. It is no wonder that many veterans who recognize their trauma lose their jobs, divorce and draw away from their social circles.

PTSD victims often experience the first awareness of their symptoms with even more traumatic reactions. Some of them become violent and aggressive, and have to cope with disemployment and divorce. Others, who are still serving in elite military unites in their reserve service, refuse to face their symptoms. Their wives and partners speak of their panic attacks, about nights without sleep and about emotional difficulties that damage their family lives.

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