Self-Acceptance and Complex PTSD

June 21, 2019 Traci Powell

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) makes it easy to continually beat yourself up when you have challenging moments and struggles. This just leads to getting stuck in a trap of self-defeat that falsely makes you believe there is no hope for overcoming PTSD. One of the essential things needed for you not to find yourself stuck, however, is self-acceptance.

I found myself back in that self-defeated space this week. I've come a long way in learning to manage when I am triggered, but this week, I fell short big time and had one of the biggest panic attacks I've had in a while. This led to me beating myself up for having panic at all (note: no self-acceptance), which then led to falling into a depression about how I'm woefully inept I am and that I'll never overcome my complex PSTD. Ah, that lovely downward spiral.

Of course, the extra bonus of having complex PTSD as a result of childhood trauma is once the spiral of self-defeat starts, emotional flashbacks soon follow. The story I start to tell myself is not the true one of a woman who has overcome much and learned to manage complex PTSD. Instead, my inner critic feeds off of the emotional flashback, and my narrative is that I shouldn't bother trying anymore and have no right to think I should even show up in the world. This just leads to me beating myself up even more.

It took my therapist to remind me of something I needed that I had gotten pretty good about remembering during the hard times, but completely lost sight of this week -- self-acceptance.

Defining Self-Acceptance with Complex PTSD

Just to be clear, I'm not talking about suddenly loving yourself and saying, "Okay, I'm over whatever bad thing happened to me."

I'm not asking you to look in a mirror and tell yourself 100 times a day how great you are. Tried that, it didn't work. Subconscious fear responses and shame-based beliefs take some work to overcome. That's why self-acceptance is so important.

Maybe like me, you forget to use self-acceptance in your PTSD recovery. You might beat yourself up for not letting go of the past. Then, when your complex PTSD flares up, you shame yourself for being triggered again or having another panic attack. The more you try to push yourself to move forward and tell yourself that you should just get over it, the more you feel like you're running on a hamster wheel, getting nowhere.

We judge ourselves for being stuck, and we want to push ourselves out of the discomfort we feel, but healing from complex PTSD isn't as simple as merely deciding today is the day you're over it. The most important thing is to give yourself compassion during the hard times because when you judge yourself, you then add a level of shame to it by saying you shouldn't be sad or anxious or angry or whatever else shows up for you, which makes it even harder to dig out from those feelings.

If in the moment of your struggle, when you stop "shoulding" and shaming yourself and accept that it's okay to feel what you're feeling because you went through some really awful things and now live with complex PTSD, you open yourself up to moving through the feelings, rather than getting stuck in them. Doing this adds self-acceptance to your PTSD recovery.

Finding Self-Acceptance with Complex PTSD

Self-acceptance is so crucial for healing from complex PTSD. The path can be hard at times. We all will have good and bad days, but when you can start to accept yourself in the moment, and not beat yourself up for being a certain way or for failures you may experience, little by little you will gain more control and continue forward movement.

Flashbacks, anxiety, and depression can suck you into getting stuck. Thanks to my therapist's reminder, I changed my attitude from one of self-defeat to one of self-acceptance. The truth is, the past few weeks have been very busy for me in my business, plus I'm working a full-time job. Those two things alone can stress a person out, and when you add a level of complex PTSD, it makes perfect sense that I was starting to lose it. Once I gave myself permission to feel what I was feeling and took a little bit of time for myself to acknowledge I have a right to feel like I do, I was able to see my circumstance more objectively and stop self-judging.

Getting unstuck from the past takes time, but the good news is that it's entirely possible. The unhealthy subconscious habits and thought patterns that we developed as childhood abuse survivors are entirely possible to change, but it starts with self-acceptance, even with PTSD. When you begin to you accept yourself as you are in the moment, scars and all, you can start making better choices for coping and begin to find healing from the past.

APA Reference
Powell, T. (2019, June 21). Self-Acceptance and Complex PTSD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 19 from

Author: Traci Powell

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