By Sheri Khan, LPC
Many people struggle with the weight of past painful experiences and traumas. When things in the past remain in your mind unsettled, it can be extremely difficult to move wholly onward and impossible to not have those hurts impact today. Healing can occur when our beliefs about past hurts shift to a healthier viewpoint.
If your life experiences include childhood trauma, for example, you may hold the negative beliefs that you are not good enough and/or you are not loveable both which generate from that trauma. These deeply held beliefs can show up for you today through feelings of insecurity in relationships and in your career goals. You may unwittingly focus on all of the evidence in your life that continues to support these negative beliefs, thus, the beliefs must be true. If you argue with your partner and separate — Proof you are not loveable. If you experience career setbacks — Proof you are not good enough.
While we can never change what has happened, and accepting this can take time, a healthy response you are free to choose is to embrace healing so you can move onward. Oftentimes with childhood trauma for instance, you may hold shame and gently can begin to understand that you were a child, and, by that definition, are harmless. This understanding never lets perpetrators off the hook nor does it minimize what has happened. It can, however, empower you, who continues to suffer today, to intentionally shift the beliefs you hold about these past experiences. Shifting your beliefs has nothing to do with others; it is all for you.
One powerful and extensively researched therapy technique that can help shift these negative beliefs is Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR). The primary goal of EMDR is to help alleviate the suffering you feel today because of those past experiences. EMDR can be described in many ways as a “brain massage” because it allows your brain to release blocked feelings in a way that it likely has never before. At its’ core, EMDR utilizes left-right simulation, and as an EMDR trained therapist, the simulation I use is moving my fingers on one hand from side-to-side in front of you. As your eyes follow my fingers back and forth, you hold a traumatic memory and simply notice your response to it. Every so often I ask what you notice until the distressful memory is no longer as distressing because your thoughts and feelings about it begin and continue to shift. Oftentimes, clients explain they feel anger from past experiences, and EMDR uncovers deep sadness which can be surprising to many.
Truly, our goals with the therapeutic process include accepting what has happened and choosing a healthy response. This process can look different depending on both the therapist and the techniques used, and EMDR is one of those techniques that I see the healing power in everyday with my clients.