Is the Past Present in Your Life?
It Feels Like It Was Yesterday
The aftermath of symptoms – both physical and emotional – following trauma or abuse can be extremely difficult to navigate. This is particularly true if the trauma was at the hands of someone else.
You may feel as if your life is out of control and full of chaos. Often this is because your body and brain are still living as if the traumatic event or events are continuing in the present time.
Trauma Therapy with EMDR Can Help
I am trained in a unique and proven alternative to talk therapy for treating trauma called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, otherwise known as EMDR.
This process will help your brain make sense of the experience and store the trauma in your past, where it belongs!
EMDR typically helps a client reach his or her goals more quickly than typical talk therapy – saving you time, energy and money. By no means does that mean it’s easy, but it is highly effective. I always tell clients – if you lived through it once then you can live through remembering it.
To understand EMDR, I am going to give you a sentence and notice the first thing that pops into your mind:
Roses are Red, _______________________
The odds are that the first thing to come up was: Violets are blue. For people born in the U.S., it’s basically the equivalent of a knee-jerk response. This is an important concept, since mental responses are based on physical reactions. Your brain is programmed to respond in the same way as the rest of your body. Regardless of age or gender, when your knee is hit in a certain way, your leg will jerk. Similarly, regardless of intention, your mind also reacts automatically.
Our Brain Stores the Past
When we “learn” something, the experience is physically stored within networks of brain cells called “neurons.” These networks actually form our unconscious mind, determining how our brain interprets the world around us and governing how we feel from moment to moment. These memories include experiences that took place years ago, and our conscious mind is often unaware that they have any impact on us at all.
The Past Automatically Influences Us
Since these memories are physically stored in the brain, they can color our view of every new situation we encounter, just as they pop up outside our control in response to “roses are red.” They can cause us to feel unattractive when we’re not. Depressed when everyone else around us is happy. And they can leave us feeling heartsick if someone leaves us – even if we know consciously that the person is terrible for us and continuing the relationship would be a big mistake. Basically, many of the feelings and actions that undermine our happiness are symptoms that stem from this memory system that forms the unconscious.
There's Always a Reason
Reactions that seem irrational are often exactly that. But irrational doesn’t mean that there is no reason for them. It means that the responses come from a part of our brain that is not governed by the rational mind.
The automatic reactions that control our emotions come from neural associations within our memory networks. For example, people with PTSD clearly have the negative experience stored in their brain in a way that is highly disturbing.
The Past is Still Present
When a combat veteran with PTSD thinks back to an event that happened in Iraq or Afghanistan three years ago, he can feel it in his body, with the thoughts and images that were there at the time of the event. The veteran who came back from the Vietnam War can think of something that happened more than 30 years ago, and the same thing happens. A Marine who has gone through many tours of duty and witnessed many casualties can be haunted by one particular death. When he or she thinks about it they can feel the same helplessness, pain, sorrow and anger they felt at the time. And they respond to the world around them with those emotions.
The Past is Still Potent
When negative reactions and behaviors in the present can be tracked directly back to an earlier memory, we define those memories as “unprocessed” – meaning that they are stored in the brain in a way that still holds the emotions, physical sensations and beliefs that were experienced earlier in life.
Re-Store Your Past to Restore Your Life
EMDR targets the unprocessed memories that contain the negative emotions, sensations and beliefs. Meaning what is useful is learned, what’s useless is discarded, and the memory is now stored in a way that is no longer damaging.
Unprocessed traumatic events of the past can negatively affect your present, but Trauma Therapy with EMDR can help you file those events away properly and finally put the past behind you where it belongs.
Take Action Today
EMDR can be a great fit for most any issue you may have faced, not just trauma!
If you find yourself facing the effects of a traumatic experience, or other difficulty from your past, contact me to learn more about how EMDR can help you!
*Excerpt taken from “Getting Past Your Past: Take control of your life with self-help techniques from EMDR therapy.” By Francine Shapiro, PhD.