Shattered Security


By Sue J. Daniels │March 15th 2020 │Trauma

All names, places and identifying details have been changed to protect the client.

Under Attack
Anthony Johnson who worked as a Retail Outlet Security Officer, self-referred nine months after he had suffered an unprovoked attack in the shopping centre where he worked. The client related the following details of what happened:

The shopping centre had closed, Anthony was doing the routine checks, ready to lock up and go on to a party with his family, it was New Year’s Eve.

As part of the normal routine, Anthony had to lock five sets of doors and then go and check and lock the public toilets before locking a sixth set of doors. He checked the ladies which were all in order. When he got to the gents, a customer who had been in the café earlier, confronted him. Anthony said it was time he left and the customer replied in an unexpectedly friendly manner

 ‘Ok mate, am on my way.’

Later, Anthony stated that it must have been in that split second as he turned his back, that the customer grabbed him from behind to attack him, because he could only remember glimpses of where he had become conscious, on the floor in the toilets, then on the floor in the corridor, at one point he remembered the putrid smell of a toilet where his nose had been so close to it.

He also remembered that he had been in and out of consciousness as the psychopathic customer continued his attack, punching, kicking and banging his head on the floor in a violent and brutal frenzy. After a while, the attack just stopped and the customer ran off. Somehow, bleeding and semi-conscious, Tony managed to get the strength to dial 999 from his mobile that had been tucked away in the inside of his security jacket.

The police arrived quickly as did an ambulance, Tony was blue lighted to hospital where he spent the next ten days, four of which were in intensive care, his condition was critical, only stabilising two days before he was allowed home.

Physiological Changes
Adrenaline had been released from his adrenal glands (situated above the kidneys). Red blood cells flooded within him to carry oxygen, blood was diverted to wherever it was needed. His breathing would have become rapid to provide more energy. His lungs would have dilated to give him more oxygen. His sweating was increased and he may have wanted to vomit, urinate or loosen his bowels (all in a bid to make his body lighter for purposes of flight) his muscles would have tightened and he would have been like a coiled spring, blood pressure racing higher while his mouth would have no doubt been very dry. All of this was happening to him in a split second even though it probably felt and seemed much longer.

Nine months after the attack, Tony Johnson was referred to our service – his psychological symptoms were as follows:

PTSD Associated Symptoms present at Initial Assessment 

Presenting Issues

·         Hypervigilance – constantly on alert, triggered by reminders.

·         Disturbed sleep pattern – REM (rapid eye movement) unable to process.

·         Anger – underpinned by emotional pain at being let down.

·         Low self-esteem – conditioned self-loathing.

·         Inability to get involved intimately – fear and mistrust of others Panic attacks – unknown triggers.

·         Depression and Anxiety – fear of the past and of the future.

Secondary Issues

·         Repeated disturbing memories during the day and at night when able to sleep has nightmares, flashbacks and frightening dreams of the incident.

·         Constantly reliving the incident

·         Extremely distress when exposed to any reminders of the incident

·         Numbness

·         Avoidance of going out, talking to or meeting people

After eighteen sessions of EMDR (Eye movement desensitisation reprocessing), four sessions of BSP (Brainspotting) at a Poly Vagal level, extensive empowerment exercises and had an introduction to using mindfulness techniques to assist him with future reactions. When he was ready, Tony chose the right time for him to start again properly. Alongside the psychological therapies he also engaged in some Reiki, Bowen Technique and other energy therapies which he reported helped him to see a new future and move forward towards post traumatic growth.

Therapists View
Working with clients who have been subjected to a violent assault can sometimes be extremely difficult. It is a fragile process that differs from person to person. The physical wounds can be healed, however, the inner pain, the psychological agony, the fact that they were defenceless, these are the internal scars that people can’t see, that often takes the longest to work through.

The good news is that, it can be achieved and millions of those affected, live normal lives because of the excellent psychological processing interventions, available across the globe.

There are a number of conditions that are considered crucial in establishing whether or not a person is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This condition is determined by factors such as exposure to the event/s, response, and consequences for the individual affected. These can present as minimal such as temporary sleep disturbance, or they can be further reaching, influencing thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Symptoms of this may present as continued ruminating over the event again and again so that it takes up valuable thinking time; individuals may experience a sense of overwhelming fear, intrusive images, thoughts, colours, smells and memories connected with the incident. Avoidance plays a part with some people, carefully avoiding talking, thinking or allowing triggers into their life that remind them of the assault.

After being attacked in such an alarming way, the body as well as the brain remembers every second of the assault, hardwired to react to external and/or internal reminders. If a person has been exposed to an incident in which their life was threatened, their brain and body then works instinctively to keep them safe by reminding them of the dangers faced on that day, whether that was being involved or as a witness. It is a perfectly normal response and is in fact, the body keeping itself safe from further harm.

Sue J Daniels
MBACP & UKRC (Snr. Accred).
EMDR Practitioner
Professional Counsellor &
Trauma Specialist

The following books supporting this article are available on Amazon and all major high street and online book stores…

Trauma Therapeutic Workbook: 80 Key Points for Working towards Post Traumatic Growth (Therapy Workbooks)

The Blanket: A Guided Visualisation for Those Affected by Disturbed Sleep Patterns

Trauma client handbook




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About the Author: Sue J. Daniels