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The Emotional Effects Of A Break-in

Excerpts of this material were published in the Jamaica-Gleaner. Here is the link to the article:

A break-in always attracts a post traumatic stress reaction which can manifest differently from person to person and can take up to a few months to dissipate. The sooner a person or family who experienced a break-in deals with the emotional undercurrents, the easier it is to recover. Ignoring what we feel will only increase the effect, as the strength of our feelings might surprise us and usually the symptoms can become physical. It is normal to experience a mix of feelings and they will be more intense in the days after the break-in up to the first three weeks. If your feelings will overwhelm you or it might be strange to feel this way (especially if it is the first time when something traumatic happens) please understand that not only your house was robbed and you did not only loose material things.

Your privacy, your safest and most intimate place in the world was violated and this will have a strong effect on your emotions and feelings. We tend to put so much emphasis on the material things, but in cases of break in the suffering doesn't come from the missing of our laptop, tv or tablet, but it is generated by the violation of our most personal, sacred and safe place - our home. Something inside you will be broken so take care of your internal wound as you would with a physical pain. If you feel any of the below, give yourself time and allow these feelings to be. This is the time to feel them, you are entitled to. It is ok if you feel:

  • Frightened … that the same thing will happen again, or that you might lose control of your feelings and break down.

  • Helpless … You feel helpless, vulnerable and overwhelmed.

  • Angry … about what has happened.

  • Guilty … You may feel that you could have done something to prevent it.

  • Sad … particularly if something of emotional value is missing (old jewelry)

  • Ashamed or embarrassed … that you have these strong feelings you can't control, especially if you need others to support you

  • Hopeful … that your life will return to normal. People can start to feel more positive about things quite soon after a trauma.

After a break-in do you ever feel safe again?

Yes, you can feel safe again in the following months if you are being aware of all the emotional drama taking place inside you. Accepting what it is and giving yourself time to slow down and feel all those strange feelings that might not be familiar to you will make you aware of your human side and in the end you will not only feel safe again, but also empowered.

Being vulnerable, knowing we can not control everything around us, offers us fear and awareness in the same time. After a break in experience, someone who was very materialistic might approach a new spiritual side of life that will bring a sense of peace which was unknown before. Does being home during the break-in make it harder to get over than if you were not?

This traumatic event would be felt more intense than if the person weren't in the house at the moment of the break-in. In this case it is a life threatening situation and many of us would freeze (which is normal) or run (which also is normal).

The proximity of the danger makes this moment harder to digest and it requires psychotherapy to manage. Some of us may forget right away the exact order of events (the brain protects himself by erasing the memories), but the body will always remember the trauma, hence the panic attacks with no reason that might accompany the person for the rest of their life.

Psychotherapy, Family Constellations, clinical hypnosis and other body-mind therapeutic methods are very good at dealing with this kind of trauma situations. Talk therapy can release the emotional pain at the beginning but it requires something more powerful to transform the trauma. How long does it take to overcome the fear?

For a person who will start a therapeutic process might take up to ten weeks or a few months depending on the type of therapy. Brief therapy, clinical hypnosis, experiential therapy, systemic constellations will be more efficient. For someone who deals with this on his/her own, the fear might never disappear, it will decrease in intensity, but the discomfort stays with us.

There are people who might seem to cope very well with traumatic events on their own, but in time we could see that they project all their fears onto others - children, family, business. These are the type who would appear very strong, never showing their emotions, but might be overly controlling with their children, almost imprisoning them emotionally. And the root cause of this behaviour might be the break in event that happened to them 20 years ago and left them with the belief that "life is never safe, always something bad can happen".

So the best way to overcome the fear is to acknowledge it and allow it to be even if this seems the opposite of what anyone would do. This is why therapy works, because fear is transformed into something productive. What are some of the things that people can do to reclaim that feeling of home?

Ask a person who moved house or bought a house how long it takes to feel at home in this new territory. It takes a while, it requires time and different personal rituals to feel at home in a new place. When a stranger breaks in that personal place, the feeling of violation is very strong and many people will reject that house and will even try to move away if they afford to.

A wrong thing in my opinion, because they are trying to run away of something which is felt inside them, so the anxiety and fear will be present in a new house, hotel or any new place they might move to. In order to feel again home, I suggest to use personal rituals that will make the person feel good inside the house. Ask yourself what brings you comfort and what makes you shine?

I know this is a bad time and you only feel frightened, avoid dark and feel suspicions at every noise, but try to imagine yourself in 6 months from now - what would bring you joy? So give yourself these answers and then act on them, make your house a partner in this project. You will soon start to notice how the energy of the house changes. Some of the rituals that I use are: taking time to serious clean every week with relaxing music on the background; redecorating after the event, if you can afford it, give your house the look you always wanted, and if you cannot invest in this way, move furniture and find some DYI websites that can offer some free or cheap ideas to change the outlook of your house.