Feeling Trapped in the Maze - Part 1
By: Don Short, LPC, LMFT
EMDR is the acronym for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It’s an evidence-based mode of psychotherapy that is extremely effective at treating a variety of emotional, mental health and physical issues. It was discovered and developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. in 1990 and has been a life changing therapy for thousands of people over the years. There is a lot of information on EMDR Therapy at www.emdr.com for anyone wishing to review some of the extensive research that has been completed on this modality of therapy.
Let’s imagine for a minute that you have a cut on a finger. Not a cut that needs stitches but a minor cut with some bleeding. What would you do? What needs to happen for that cut to heal? These sound like simple questions with obvious answers. You are right! All you have to do is to clean the cut, along with the area around it and keep the wounded area in a clean and safe environment. It will heal itself automatically. It doesn’t matter who you are—male, female, black, white, Hispanic, religious or non-religious. The fact of the matter is that our bodies are prone to heal themselves when we provide a clean, safe, healthy environment. On the other hand if the environment is dirty and toxic then our finger will not heal. It will become infected; the infection will spread and make us sick.
The example of the finger cut parallels with hurts and wounds in the mental/emotional areas of our lives. We all have been hurt or wounded mentally/emotionally. Healing will begin to take place when we remove the toxins from our mind and emotions. How does one do this? Sometimes we feel life is going well, only to notice fragments of these issues from our past finding a nasty way of intruding into present life situations and relationships. We become tired and exhausted with these intrusions. We begin to feel stuck or trapped in a maze of emotional chaos. It’s a maze of fear, shame, panic, anxiety, grief and/or anger. You can’t find a way out of this maze. You have great difficulty moving forward with your life and relationships in peace. These past unresolved issues are represented as the proverbial ‘pink elephant’ in the room that we are not to talk about or the issues that are buried, only to be triggered at some unforeseen moment. How does one recognize these unresolved issues from our past or how do they manifest themselves in our daily life? Some of you already know the answer to this question. For you, it has been those intensive feelings/thoughts that you have been trying to conceal for years. It’s a day-to-day struggle to keep these past thoughts and feelings from intruding into the present. It’s a cycle you want to break. A roller coaster you want to get off of and never get back on again.
One way to help patients is by helping them identify these issues from the past that are intruding into the present by using a Level of Disturbance Scale of 1 to10 (1 meaning no disturbance and 10 representing the highest level of disturbance). The way this works is that when you are experiencing emotions of anger, fear, or anxiety, which are all normal emotions, you are feeling that emotion at a level 10. You look at the situation you are in and realize that the level should only be a 3 or 4. Why is the level of disturbance you are experiencing so high? The answer is that an unresolved issue or a wound from your past has been triggered. EMDR Therapy can help identify these past issues and is very useful in resolving them. You don’t lose the memory of the issue but by processing the disturbing memory with EMDR Therapy the memory loses its capacity to interrupt and interfere with your life in the future. This old wound will be healed and will no longer be triggered or becomei intrusive again.
EMDR Therapy is considered by many to be a breakthrough therapy. It can bring about quick and lasting results/relief for most types of emotional distress. In EMDR Therapy we use bilateral stimulation. This could include right/left eye movements, sounds or tactile stimulation. In doing this, we are activating the opposite sides of the brain, which allows for the releasing of emotional experiences that have been “trapped” in the nervous system. This mind/body connection frees itself from blockages and then reconnects itself in healthy ways. It transforms troubling images and feelings into a more peaceful state, along with the resolution of the identified issue and the healing of old wounds. During this process we replace issues related to anxiety and fears with positive images, emotions and thoughts. When the toxic issues are addressed and removed, the healing process flows naturally. As the therapist, I am a partner with my clients on this journey. Together we find the healing, peace and the new life my clients desire.
EMDR Therapy has been found effective with a variety of conditions. These include: the loss of a loved one, a car accident, rape, natural disasters, childhood abuse, anxiety and panic attacks, fears, childhood trauma, PTSD, anger and relationship problems. Sometimes we get used to carrying our “stuff”, our “baggage”, our pain and shame. No matter your age, it is never too late to find healing for toxic issues from your past. Sometimes we need help in dealing with the difficult and destructive issues in our life and removing the old toxins that have been poisoning our minds, spirits and relationships.
About the author:
Don Short has a Master’s degree in Counseling and has been licensed as a Professional Counselor since 2003 (lic. # 2669). He is also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (Lic. # 648) and has served as a Regional Director of Gulf Coast Social Services for over twenty-seven years.
Mr. Short is the owner of After Hours Counseling located in Lafayette, LA. His practice focuses on clients with marriage, relationship and family issues. He is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors.
Contact After Hours Counseling 337-781-4565 or www.afterhourscounseling.com