Things happen in life sometimes that we cannot explain or anticipate. When these events are painful, it’s hard to let them go.
Maybe you’ve said this before:
“If I only would have known.”
“Wait, what happened?”
“How did I not see this coming?”
“This cannot be happening.”
When something out of the ordinary occurs it feels like a tsunami hits us and we become flooded. The flood in our heads caused by overwhelming events becomes frozen in our brains. Trauma begins an ice age in our brains. In order to begin melting the ice within, these scary events need to be told in stories. Stories help unthaw the frozen terror that we bury deep under the surface of our lives.
When we are unable to make sense of an event, we become haunted by it. These hauntings are untold, unarticulated stories called trauma. Trauma haunts us until we are able to put it into words and discover its meaning. It keeps us frozen in place until we use words, images, and stories to unthaw it.
If it was just one event that would probably be something we could handle, but the reality is that for some of us we have layers of frozen stories inside us keeping us from the life we are made to have.
Some examples of traumas we may be aware of are:
• Experiencing combat or war
• The death of a friend or loved one
• Physical or sexual abuse
• A house fire
But some more common issues can also cause our hearts to freeze in certain areas:
• Physical injury
• Financial devastation
• A tough breakup
• An affair
• A significant life transition
A type of therapy called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) helps create the connections between the frozen lake within and our ability to tell stories about it. In a nutshell, EMDR helps us put words to our traumas and talk about our deepest pains and tell our stories again.
It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR people can more quickly experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma, much like the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes.
EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, counselors help clients activate their natural healing processes.
Christen Johnson, MA, is a therapist at Sage Hill Counseling in Nashville. Christen earned her Masters in Counseling from Trevecca University.