Once is Enough

Correction – once is more than enough.

You or a loved one have experienced some type of trauma.  Physical abuse, sexual abuse, PTSD, the death of a loved one.  The list goes on and on.  If you’re reading this, dare I say if you’re alive, you’ve experienced some traumatic events.  Yet, does it have to continue impacting your life?  No!

Contrary to prevailing views, trauma can indeed be processed briefly, gracefully, and effectively.  Please note I did not say repressed.  Repression, or trying to repress trauma, simply doesn’t work.  It goes to the adage, “What’s resisted, persists.”  Trying to repress or block out a traumatic experience actually reinforces it.  So how do you move beyond trauma?

Traditional therapy often relies on session after session of talking about what happened, rehashing it, trying to understand or make sense of it.  While I have no doubt the therapist has the best of intentions, this constant, relentlessly rehashing the trauma is not helpful.  Paradoxically, it’s actually reinforcing the trauma.

The brilliant seminal thinker Ivan Illich coined the term “iatrogenic” to describe this inadvertent “Dr. induced illness.”  While the counselor didn’t initiate the trauma, you certainly don’t want the therapy process to reinforce and strengthen the trauma.

I work with a lot of Veterans who experience severe PTSD.  Often, it has negatively impacted all aspects of their lives; relationships, employment, health, etc.  One such Vet experienced horrific memories stemming from the Vietnam War.  He had been seeing counselors from the Veterans Administration for 32 years – to no avail.  The only change was the trauma had become more acute, more solidified and ingrained.

The above isn’t meant as an indictment against the Veterans Administration workers.    It’s the system, not the employees.  The system is often an unyielding and unresponsive behemoth.  The system is by and large broken.

A broken system doesn’t negate that there are compassionate and caring individuals who work there.  It means the system is so strong, so powerful, that timely and effective assistance is often nowhere to be found.  More about the power of systems in another post.

So what’s the answer?  Curl up into a ball and isolate yourself from life?  Self medicate into oblivion via food, substance abuse, pornography?  While the impulse to deaden painful feelings is understandable, these methods lead to an entire different set of issues.  Enough of the problem.  Once again, what’s the solution?

Re-patterning,  In a work, herein lies the solution.  Not suppressing the trauma.  Not relieving it via constantly talking about it session after session.  Re-patterning the trauma is the answer.

Our understanding of the brain and how it processes and stores trauma has soared in the last few decades.  Indeed, our understanding has grown exponentially.  Some thirty years I began using neurological re-patterning techniques in my work with Vets as well as physical and abuse victims.  It worked – gracefully, harmoniously, beautifully.  Back then, I saw it worked and relished in its effectiveness.  That was enough for me.  It had to be because there were theories why it worked, but no ‘scientific’ evidence why.  No matter to the clients.  All they cared about was feeling good and getting on with their lives.

Now, thirty some years later, the mental health field is benefiting (for those therapists who choose to embrace it) by hard core brain research.  Functional MRIs show, with great precision, how the brain handles trauma and how the brain evolves as the trauma is successfully re-patterned.

OK, I’m getting a little to technical here.  Unless you’re a dedicated therapist or neurologist you probably have no interest in the science.  All you care about may be helping a loved one evolve past a traumatic incident.

In a nutshell, there are available methodologies that a skilled and experienced counselor can employ to briefly and effectively treat all matter of trauma.  While I personally find NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) to be the most graceful, effective, and flexible,  there are other methods.  EMDR is one such.

Beware the therapist who says there is only one way to successfully treat an issue.  Run, do not walk, from this therapist.   There are other methods and I have no doubt more and more methods will be developed as our understanding of the brain grows.

In closing, know that your brain are eminently resourceful and resilient. You are  eminently resourceful and resilient, whether you feel so or not.   There are ways to gracefully evolve beyond any trauma, no matter how severe.  There is hope,  There’s more than hope, there’s help.

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