You thought you’d come past it. There was a time when it entered every waking thought and too many dreams, but that was long ago. Last month, it started coming back to you. While walking your dog along the trail, a child on a bike rode by and the memories came back with a vengeance. You could see, hear, and smell everything as though you were there again. Why now? Why after so long? Can’t you make it go away?
Our minds and memories are powerful things, but they often act without our control. We walk past a house where someone is cooking dinner, and the scent brings us back to childhood. We hear a song and smile as we remember a long-gone friend.
Sometimes, our minds protect us. Bad things happen, and our minds do their best to push them aside so we don’t think about them all the time. Unfortunately, they don’t go away. They hide in some corner of our brain and leave us alone until something triggers their return. That’s how trauma often works. We manage to get through it at the time, but when we least expect it, it returns to fill us with anxiety, fear, depression, or outright dread.
The good news is science has learned a lot about how our brains process trauma and psychologists are using that knowledge to find effective treatments. One approach that’s helping millions of people heal from trauma is called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy. Therapists use EMDR to help people deal with traumatic memories that they haven’t processed and replace negative feelings with more constructive emotions.
The science behind the approach is complicated, but it uses what doctors have learned about the role of rapid eye movements (REM) in sleep. As a therapist manages a patient’s eye movements, he or she guides the patient through the memories and replaces the negative associations with positive ones. For example, someone who was sexually abused as a child can move from thinking of herself as a bad child who deserved to be abused to an adult who is worthy of real love. Clinical studies indicate that EMDR produces lasting results in less time than many other approaches.
If memories of past trauma are interfering with your ability to enjoy life and relationships, you may benefit from EMDR, and several Care to Change professionals are trained in this approach. We’ll be happy to discuss your situation and determine whether EMDR may be the right way to help you put the past behind you. Contact us today.
Jean Crane is one of Care to Change’s professional team members and certified EMDR therapist. She has been helping those affected by trauma for more than 20 years.