Holistic Depth Psychotherapy - Nicole Ann Ditz, MA CMHC

The Invisible Faces of Complex Trauma

"Like the sun's rays that cause the seed to stir within its husk, love's radiant energy penetrates the facade of the false self, calling forth resources hidden deep within us. Its warmth wakes up the life inside us, making us want to uncurl, to give birth, to grow and reach for the light. It calls on us to break out of our shell, the personality husk surrounding the seed potential of all we could be. The purpose of a seed husk is to protect the tender life within until the time and conditions are right for it to burst forth." ~ John Welwood


K. Streeter

"'I wish I knew who I am,' I whispered to the stars in Baya's eyes. Slowly, Baya shook his head. 'Oh, Dust Girl, that is the hardest wish of all. Not even Baya can give you that one. That one you earn.'"

~ Sarah Zettel


Kate comes striding into her session with a buoyant gait and a beckoning smile. Her hair is flowing loosely like a dark river pouring over the banks of her face. Her cheeks are ruddy and flushed. She carries a backpack instead of a purse as she brings in so much she is excited to share with me: journals, sketchpads, symbolic items. She teases me amiably about one of my eccentric garden statues then plops down in the recliner, leaning back so her feet are raised up comfortably. She yawns luxuriously, sprawls out, and playfully arranges her accouterments. She tosses the pillow without a second thought to the floor and lets out an exuberant exhale-"Oh, what a week, I have so much to tell you; I am so proud of myself as I made another break through!!"

Kate's eyes shine with a radiant glow, reaching out to mine as she holds up one tan hand and exclaims: "Look, another broken nail from gardening. It might be time to cut these down to the nub!" She laughs heartily, spontaneously throwing her head to one side. I watch her whole face dance, all her features gliding together smoothly without her former frozen members and lockjaw parts. She dips heartily into my Kleenex box with gusto. Her whole being is focused on what she feels like doing in the moment rather than how she believes I want her to act. She carries on like a free and secure child who knows she is safe and that she will be accepted regardless of her expressions. She is now delegating a majority of her energy toward exploration and self-becoming rather than contorting herself into "an acceptable" counterfeit face.

Kate has been in depth therapy with me for many years. Her symptoms of trauma have significantly improved. She no longer vigilantly creeps through life as though trapped in a land mine. She catches herself re-engaging in old dysfunctional behaviors and is able to relate to herself compassionately with firm self-support and redirection. She, more and more of the time, trusts what she experiences and understands the process for capturing and translating her interior self. She feels a growing entitlement to being heard and treated with respect. She understands her pain and struggles realistically in the context of her trauma history. She can weep and rage on behalf of herself. She is learning to accept what has been but not rely on her former ways of managing these transgressions. She no longer treats herself like a persona non grata, a dispossessed human being, deprived of her true home.

Woman in field of butterflies


"So the being grows rings;
Identity grows robust.
What was fiery and furtive
like a fling of grain cast into the air
and blown hither and thither
by wild gust of life from every quarter
is now methodical and orderly
and flung with a purpose..."

~ Virginia Woolf

Although she may seem contrived, Kate is an accurate representation of the type of high functioning 'invisible' adult survivor of trauma whom I see in my practice. Many clients come to therapy initially denying they suffered trauma during their formative years. They have been culturally conditioned to believe that if they weren't grotesquely physically or sexually abused then they have no right to this designation. Moreover, they are often admired by others as very likable and successful people, and the word "trauma" is incongruous within the "very together" outward face of their current lives. They experience understandable cognitive dissonance.

Frequently, the invisible faces of trauma have been socially rewarded for wearing the masks of sacrificers, saviors, stoics, and saints. They often are seen and sought after for being "wise, empathic and competent" but these attributes have been adopted prematurely and have become toxic to their own internal beings. Their acquisition has been totally out of sync with healthy developmental needs, resulting in excessively "catabolic" states : depleting reserves of energy, stunting psychological growth, and significantly compromising overall wellness. Depth therapy seems to go against the grain of everything learned in a traumatizing family and pathological culture. It promotes introspective self-awareness in a society oriented toward denial, avoidance and superficial distractions; assertiveness, reinterpreted especially in women as being 'bitchy'; vulnerability, translated as weakness; healthy intimacy, foreign in a culture built both on combative individualism and crippling codependency; genuineness, in a society slick with artificiality, pretense, and glib communication.

For me, these amazing people clawing their way out of post traumatic imprisonment and societal straitjacketing are nothing short of being heroic. It is an act of immense courage for the survivors I work with to say: "I am worth this expenditure of energy, time and money." It goes against the very twisted narrative of their compromised self-esteem to make such a bold, pro-self choice. I cannot think of a more noble, worthy and responsible endeavor than individual healing and transformation. Every life touched by such an ensouled and de-husked individual is a life enhanced whether this is consciously known or not. These people often go on to help so many others to evolve: children, partners, family, colleagues, friends, students, clients and others they touch distantly-as they finally grow to inhabit their own natural and naked faces.

"And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself?" ~ rumi

Nicole Ann Ditz, MA CMHC, Holistic Depth Psychotherapist

Voice Mail: (401) 573-6396  Email: info@holisticdepththerapy.com

Serving Rhode Island and Southeastern Connecticut