What lies beneath…
A woman comes to therapy after surviving a car crash. She has refused to drive since.
A man comes to therapy to address commitment issues. His history reveals he was sexually abused when he was 10 by his 22-year old neighbor.
A woman comes to therapy tortured by obsessive thoughts of hurting others, although she, a very caring person, has never been violent a day in her life. It turns out that her father was an alcoholic growing up and she is terrified of losing control.
A young man comes to therapy because he has a hard time saying “no” to any request from others. He grew up in a home with a critical and controlling mother who punished him whenever he disagreed with her.
What do all of these stories have in common?
They are different reactions to traumatic circumstances.
You may wonder why we have these reactions.
The answer to this lies within our nervous systems.
When we experience overwhelming, distressing events, our brain goes a little haywire. We are all born with the ability of our nervous system to respond to highly difficult situations.
However, when these situations are particularly bad…
… like in the case of a horrific car accident, or last a long time, such as in the case of abuse in childhood, having an alcoholic parent, or having a highly critical parent, our brains and nervous systems actually get rewired to behave in dysfunctional ways.
This can create things like anxiety, low-self-esteem, depression, and chronic loneliness.
We then try to cope as best as we know how to do. We may try to do helpful things, like yoga, meditation, talking to friends, or deep breathing. And those may help a bit. But if our issues continue, we may become discouraged. We may drink more alcohol to lower the anxiety, or engage in pornography or affairs to soothe the loneliness. Or we may work too much, to distract ourselves from the pain.
No matter your story, EMDR can help.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a unique therapy. It helps us to work through distressing past memories that are the cause of current problems. With EMDR, our brain is able to reprocess these memories, so that they are better integrated. This integration allows the mind, spirit, and body to let go of problematic feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, so that that you can heal.
The young man from above sits in front of me. He tells me of a recent experience in which he made separate plans with his girlfriend and his parents for the same night, out of fear each would be upset if he said no. He is now terrified of what will happen and can’t decide what to do.
I ask him to notice what sensations he has in his body, as he brings this recent situation up. He identifies nausea in his stomach and tightness in his shoulders. I then inquire as to his emotions, negative beliefs, and the image he sees when he bringing up the recent situation. He feels fear and overwhelm, sees an image of himself staring at the phone in anticipation of having to call either his girlfriend or parents to cancel, and identifies the negative belief of, “I am bad”,
Now that he is more deeply connected to the recent memory, I ask him to hold a small “tapper” in each hand. These tappers have a soft, gentle vibration that alternates left and right while he recalls this distressing experience. This is a neurobiological intervention. This left-right pattern works to lower distress when a person recalls a disturbing experience. Once the distress is lowered, the brain automatically, with continued right-left vibration, begins to associate the disturbing experience in a different way.
The young man finds himself able to connect this double booking with his childhood memories of the seemingly constant disapproval from his mother when he did something she was not in agreement with. The fear and overwhelm dissipates and he realizes he is not “bad, but rather someone who is just dealing with childhood trauma. Now his shoulders are lowered, as the muscles relax and he feels warmth in that area. The nausea is gone. He is able to make the decision to cancel his plans with his parents.
Somatic therapy integration…
I often combine EMDR therapy with somatic psychotherapy for optimal results.
Many memories are explicit in nature. This means we are able to specifically recall them and talk about them.
But research shows that most of our memories are actually implicit… meaning they are unconscious or automatic. They have no language. We are often unaware that they exist. But they are there. They show in the way we move, our facial gestures, our posture, our body sensations, how slow or fast we walk or talk.
Included in implicit memories are memories that occurred prior to age 3 – those that impacted the development of our self-esteem, capacity for emotional bonding to others, and ability to manage strong emotions.
To access these memories, I will ask you to notice your postures, facial expressions, mannerisms, and sensations you experience in your body during EMDR therapy. I may even mirror them back to you by using the same postures, facial expressions, and gestures. This deepens your awareness of emotions and the feelings in your body, so that you can work through any painful memories, even those you can’t specifically recall, so that you can genuinely heal.
Let’s work together for your better life…
Whether you have been diagnosed with something serious like PTSD, OCD, or depression; have anxiety and low self-esteem; or are dealing with dysfunctional patterns of behavior, such as addictions, codependency, people pleasing, or perfectionism…
I will help you to get your life back!
Reach out today for a free phone consultation: (562) 375-4389.