What do you think of when you think of ‘trauma’?
When we think of trauma, this usually brings to mind life-threatening experiences, such as being robbed at gunpoint or serving in combat.
These are horrifically frightening experiences that are overwhelming and usually time limited.
Horrible car accidents, natural disasters and witnessing a mass shooting are also example of this type of trauma.
But less extreme situations can be just as, if not more, traumatizing. Events, such as chronic intimate partner violence, child abuse, being a prisoner of war, surviving a kidnapping or hostage situation, or defecting from a cult tend to be much more complex than single event traumas.
These experiences are often associated with interpersonal violence and tend to involve captivity over long periods of time without any means of escape, leaving the victim with an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness, that can interfere with day to day existence.
Because of this complexity, these types of traumas tend to skew a person’s entire viewpoint about the world (being unsafe), themselves (I am bad, or I am powerless), and others (all people are evil or can’t be trusted, will harm me). These views tend to be highly intractable.
For many, it starts in childhood.
Although I have helped clients with single event traumas, most of my clients have been negatively affected by traumatic circumstances and dynamics during childhood, such as growing up with a very critical parent, being bullied by peers, emotional, physical, sexual abuse and/or neglect, having a least one mentally ill or substance-abusing parent, or losing a loved one.
These circumstances are very difficult. When we are born, we are 100% dependent on our caregiver. Not only for food and shelter, but for developing a sense of self, the ability to withstand strong negative emotions, and the ability to develop trust with others. By age 3, these three areas are mostly fixed in a child.
During these critical 3 years, if we are abused, neglected, or criticized by one or more parents, our nervous system develops in a dysfunctional way. We may develop anxiety or negative beliefs about ourselves and others that carry on throughout our lives.
Although so much happens before the age of 3, our brains and nervous systems continue to develop throughout childhood. This, coupled with the inability, in most cases, to leave the home, leaves children particularly vulnerable to any abuse that occurs within, or outside of the family during this time.
And if at least one parent is mentally ill or substance abusing, that parent is not there for us emotionally. There can be a lot of chaos in the home or unpredictability, leaving the child with significant anxiety and feelings of helplessness.
Bullying can also be very difficult for children, as it occurs during a key time of child development – when in some ways the child’s peers become more important than the parent. If abuse happens during this time, it can dash a child’s self-esteem and rewire a child’s nervous system to be more anxious and fearful of others.
Regardless of the type of trauma, I know you are struggling.
Whether a life-threatening experience, less extreme but highly distressing situation, childhood developmental trauma, or some combination of these, I know the pain is real.
We may develop anxiety, depression, or low-self-esteem. We may turn to addictive substances or behaviors to cope. When this happens, we need strategies that can intervene at the nervous system level in order to fully heal.
Maybe your own efforts to ease the pain of these painful events through activities such as exercise or meditation have helped a bit. Or maybe they didn’t and a reliance on an addictive substance or behavior, such as overworking or pornography usage, has worsened your distress overall.
Allow me to help you…
I specialize in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and somatic psychotherapy.
These approaches can access and work through deeper memories of past disturbing events and subsequent nervous system dysfunction.
I sit face to face with you. I ask you to notice our body sensations, emotions, and negative beliefs as you bring up a painful memory. I hand you two small tappers-one for each hand. The tappers gently vibrate from hand to hand, enhancing right-left brain processing.
I ask you to “just notice” what comes up as you focus on the memories. You observe past memories, changing emotions, and sensations in your body. Over time, these change – you go from believing, “I am bad,” when recalling your mother yelling at you when you were a child to understanding your behavior was just that of a child and nothing terrible. Your anxiety subsides, your emotions settle.
In the treatment of single event traumas, such as a car accident or military combat, often just 2-5 sessions are all that is needed for a person to be completely free of PTSD.
For more complex trauma, such as childhood abuse or less than ideal dynamics with parents or bullying, usually the work is somewhat longer because of the complex nature of the trauma previously mentioned.
The healing you have waited for…
I have seen veterans walk out of therapy having put an end to the nightmares or flashbacks of their combat experiences…
… sexual abuse survivors release their shame and be able to truly connect sexually to their current partners—sometimes for the first time ever…
… people who have not been able to properly mourn the loss of a loved one be able to grieve and move forward with their lives.
You don’t have to be alone on this journey.
If you are struggling on your own to deal with the effects of the past and are ready to truly heal, call me today for a free consultation: (562) 375-4389.