Resolving the traumas of life

After becoming aware of the problematic behaviors in your life and identifying the underlying trauma, it is possible to work through it and ultimately change these behaviors and the way you feel.

After becoming aware of the problematic behaviors in your life and identifying the underlying trauma, it is possible to work through it and ultimately change these behaviors and the way you feel.

by Stephanie Levitt — 

Trauma is everywhere. We bear witness to it on our TV screens as we see the aftermath of a horrendous school shooting and worry about the safety of our own children. We hear stories about wars, people being killed, raped and tortured, and we have friends or family who are in abusive relationships.

Then there is the trauma that we may have endured in our own childhood or past. Most of us have experienced trauma in some form, whether we identify it as such or not. Some people have had “big” traumas in their lives that continue to affect them.

Others have experienced trauma that flies under the radar so to speak, because it consists of a minute event, such as the time no one wanted to be your friend in third grade. Most likely, the small traumas that happened in our lives continue to affect us, but those effects are just less obvious.

Our past experiences shape many of our present day behaviors, beliefs and feelings. Therefore, if we have unresolved trauma from our past, it may continue to affect us negatively in our lives today. Depression, anxiety, unhealthy addictive behaviors and eating disorders are among the many symptoms of unresolved trauma. Upon further examination, such life struggles often began in the aftermath of a traumatic event.

Trauma all too often goes unidentified and undetected. People do not realize the extent and severity of their trauma or that they have even been a victim of it — either by having personally experienced it or vicariously witnessed it. Thus, their lives may bear the earmark of trauma, and the unwanted feelings and behaviors take over. Without identifying the underlying trauma, the undesirable cycle continues.

Fortunately, there is help for people who have experienced all levels of trauma. After becoming aware of the problematic behaviors in your life and identifying the underlying trauma, it is possible to work through it and ultimately change these behaviors and the way you feel.

One such method, developed by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro, is extremely effective in helping people reprocess traumatic images and memories. It is called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

When performed by a trained therapist or clinician, EMDR has been thought to be one of the most effective and thoroughly researched methods ever used in treating trauma. Within three to four sessions, most people who have been treated for a traumatic incident find relief from post-traumatic emotional symptoms. EMDR is different from traditional talk therapy, and many will feel positive results in as little as one session.

It is believed that EMDR works by permitting the patient to access traumatic memories and then process them both emotionally and cognitively, which allows for their resolution. The trained therapist may utilize a variety of rhythmic stimulation and/or facilitate eye movements in the person during the treatment.

It is believed that when traumatic memories are accessed in a safe environment, the processing of such memories is heightened and new links are made between the traumatic memories and more adaptive information. As a result, new information is processed, leading to the reduction and/or elimination of current problematic behaviors and feelings, while new insights about the memories are developed.

With such an effective treatment available for the reduction of traumatic memories and their aftereffects, it is imperative that people know about EMDR. The elimination of anxiety, depression, addiction and other such destructive behaviors and negative feelings is possible. Suffering does not need to be a lifelong process.

 

Stephanie Levitt, MA, LPC, NCC, is the clinical director and owner of Pathways Counseling Services, PLLC in Scottsdale, Ariz. She has undergone advanced training in EMDR and utilizes it in combination with various other treatment modalities. For a free phone consultation or appointment, call 480-235-1682.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 32, Number 5, October/November 2013.

 

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