Revisiting Brian’s Life Timeline and Trauma Narrative Example Copy

Life Timeline Review

In this module, Brian and his therapist discuss his trauma-related thoughts and feelings. In Session 5, the therapist and Brian clarified some of his trauma-related emotions both in his life timeline and trauma narrative. Overall, Brian demonstrates a clear understanding that there are some positive and neutral events in his life as well as negative ones, and was—with adequate prompting—able to relate some of the emotions tied to particular life events.

Select each icon to see what he felt and thought about these events:

Trauma Narrative

Brian and the therapist also identified some of the additional emotions and thoughts in his narrative, such as:

When mom comes home drunk: 

1) Feelings: “worried” and “lonely,” “it wasn’t a nice experience,” “scared”

2) Thoughts: “she doesn’t love me,” “she will hurt me,” “she will hurt herself,” “she will die, and I will be alone”

3) Behavior: now smashes objects when worried about mother dying (“provides some relief”)

The therapist also clarified some of the emotional states, such as feeling “bad” and “awkward,” that can have multiple meanings depending on context:

“Bad” = angry, sad, scared

“Awkward” = anxious, worried, confused

Brian’s Narrative

I live with my mom in a small town. My mom works at the gas station during the day and at a local pub in the evening. She drinks a lot, and often comes home late at night and under the influence. She often sleeps in and can’t wake up for work.

We are at the gas station, her workplace. The manager starts yelling at her, accusing her of stealing some money. He fires her. It is her day off, we are supposed to spend the day together. He is yelling and calling her names. He is telling her she is a ‘drunk thief’ and lots of other names. I feel embarrassed and awkward. Everyone is staring at us. When we come home, mom yells at me and beats me up.

We mostly eat canned food. There is not much food around.  Sometimes me and my mom go to the grocery store and steal some food. Mom says that it is bad, but we need to survive. The security guy catches us, mom yells back, and he lets us go.

I often stay home alone; my mom locks me up so I can’t run away. It is scary when it is dark. I can’t remember what happens next, it is blank in my mind. 

Someone tells Social Services I am home alone. They come to visit us. One lady is nice, she hugs me. Others are scary and serious. I am afraid they might take me away from my mom. When they are gone, mom is upset. She is yelling, throwing things and she beats me very hard. I have bruises all over my body. I deserve it, because I am no good. I am scared. I might lose her. Sometimes I throw things back. I feel lonely and sad, because nobody loves me. 

We are in the city. The city is gloomy. The apartment is small. Mom’s friends and boyfriends are there. They drink and take drugs. Her boyfriend offers me drugs. Mom yells at him, he beats her up, then me. There is no place to go.

My grandma is always angry at me, she keeps telling me things like “You are just like your mother—a lazy, worthless loser, no good will come from you’. And my aunt tells me all those things, too. I feel bad, I am a loser. I am dumb and lazy. But I want to be like my mom when she is OK and not taking drugs or drinking.

Possible Cues

In Session 4, the therapist also identified possible cues, cognitive distortions, and memory gaps. In Session 5, the therapist made sure that list is complete and clarified it with Brian for accuracy (in red color).

  • Yelling
  • Arguing
  • Loud sounds
  • Wine/beer/liquor bottles
  • Name-calling/swearing 
  • Kitchen/kitchen items
  • Being in the dark
  • Sound of smashing glass

Cognitive Distortions

  • I deserved it
  • I was responsible
  • I’m a loser. I’m no good
  • Only bad things happen to me
  • Mom doesn’t love me
  • Something might happen to mom. Mom can die at any moment
  • Mom was stealing because of me
  • I shouldn’t have been born
  • Mom might leave and never come back
  • I have to live on the edge all the time/Something bad might happen at any moment