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How EMDR Can Help You With Unresolved Trauma

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Unresolved trauma can lead to a life overrun with anxiety, fear, loneliness, unfulfilling relationships, problems at work, and disconnection from others and the world around you.

This is a miserable way to live. Especially, when you have already experienced events that have devastated your past. It feels as if the destruction never ends.

You're not even asking for anything unreasonable. You just want to reclaim your life. You want to reclaim your future. And more importantly, you want to reclaim yourself.

How does unresolved trauma hold you back?

Traumatic memories that harbor negative beliefs about yourself and your place in the world are the culprit to disproportionate anger, depression, and anxiety. They can also be responsible for pervasive problems in work, relationships, sex, money, and anything else important in life. Traumatic memories are the inspiration behind self-sabotage and defeatist thinking.

Traumatic memories, especially, have a way of containing information and an understanding of the event that is necessary for your survival during an unsafe time. But once that unsafe period is over, the containment of that information becomes maladaptive and creates with it a maladaptive way of being: all the things you probably say you hate about yourself and life, and wish you could get rid of immediately.

Because you’re not trying to survive anymore, but just trying to live your life without everything always falling apart and needing so much work to hold together, you’re left with constant feelings of frustration and confusion.

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Unresolved trauma continues to complicate your life even though it may be 20, 30, 40 years into the past that anything happened.

If it happened so long ago, why am I still stuck???

Yeah, that in itself is traumatic. With the passage of time you think “I’ll get over it” or “I’ll grow out of it.” Years and decades later, it’s still there, contributing to a belief that it will never be over, or “I will never be okay.” That’s really defeating.

Trauma is a shock to the system. It is an event that we can’t make sense of, that goes beyond our understanding intellectually, emotionally, physically, and psychologically.

Trauma overwhelms our capacity to navigate rationally, because it is an irrational occurrence -it doesn’t belong, it doesn’t fit into the human experience. And yet, we are forced to find a way to make it fit.

To do that, the brain remembers all things necessary to survive the event, so that it can be repeated to keep you alive and as safe as allowable to that situation. As the trauma was unfolding -and even after- there wasn’t time, nor were there resources, to process what was happening to you. This was about survival, and it must be stored as such. The emergency of it allows for it to be triggered repeatedly throughout your life in an effort to make sure you are always safe -even when you are years and miles away from what was harming you.

Because of this, once that survival response no longer serves you, you have to go back through the memory to reset the information stored to become less intrusive.

So how can EMDR help?

Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy relies on the brain’s ability to adapt and change, called neuroplasticity. Memories do not have to stay permanently charged and sensitive to environmental triggers. During and after an EMDR session your brain will be busy making new connections to override the old connections. In this way, you will know if EMDR is working and if you have resolved the issue you came to therapy to resolve.

EMDR has an amazing track record working with unresolved trauma. The treatment typically uses side-to-side eye movements, or bilateral stimulation (BLS), to access the deeper content of memories (think: emotions, sensations, beliefs) that are necessary to the reprocessing that will reset them to a more functional connection in your brain.

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To be clear, work with EMDR does not remove the memory, but reduces its charge and, ultimately, its hold on your life. The elements of the memory are thoroughly attended to, which is done at your pace, and does not go beyond a level that you can handle. Though guided by your therapist, you determine where and when to stop, as well as how much of the memory you want to go into with your therapist. It is never about reliving, but about observing the memory.

For more information, please see What Does an EMDR Session Look Like.

If you are a Texas resident and think EMDR therapy would help you, call 254-374-6141 to schedule an appointment.

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