Trauma is more common than people realise. Over the last eight years I’ve helped dozens of people suffering from trauma – with lives blighted by over-whelming, intrusive memories and panic.
Most recently I helped Bella (not her real name). Bella had spent close to twenty years suffering from flashbacks and nightmares following a prolonged period of terrifying bullying at school. The chronic stress had taken a toll on her physical and emotional wellbeing. She wanted the flashbacks and nightmares to end and to be free of the stress, to start enjoying life.
When I asked, “Bella, when you recall the bullying you suffered at school, does it make you feel frightened in the here and now to remember it…? Just do that for a few seconds… just recall that old time,” she instantly turned pale and burst into tears, a clear sign that this memory was traumatic. I quickly encouraged her to refocus her attention on me and the present moment so that the memory went from her mind. My follow up question was, “You’d know if that response changed wouldn’t you?” She said “Yes!”
What is Trauma?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that often develops after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal – one in which intense physical harm occurred or was threatened. PTSD can also result after someone has witnessed an event that is disturbing, distressing, or dangerous. Sufferers of this disorder have persistent, frightening thoughts and memories of their ordeal.
In the normal course of events, memories are laid down as immediate impressions in the brain, and then organized in a coherent way before being stored in long term memory. This process makes a remembered event a ‘narrative memory’ – something you can talk about, something that feels in the past, and eventually fades with time. However, when people are exposed to a traumatic event, and traumatised, this memory process can get blocked, and the traumatic memory may never get turned into a ‘narrative memory. So the memory doesn’t fade with time.
The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in some of the following ways:
- Distressing recollections of the traumatic event(s). These cause the body and mind to experience the same or nearly the same degree of fear and horror as the original experience.
- Recurrent distressing dreams/nightmares of the traumatic event(s).
- Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event(s) are recurring in the present moment (flashbacks). This can occur in the form of hallucinations or when feeling disassociated from reality during the day.
- Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that makes them think of the event
- Irritability, aggressive behaviour, angry outbursts
- Feeling guilt, shame, or worry about the event
How to become de-traumatised
For many years PTSD was considered treatable only through long, painful exposure therapy, and in some cases, not at all. Being drawn back through the traumatic experience over and over again is a highly unpleasant thing for a traumatised person to have to do.
Research has found that the better techniques for de-traumatising people are those that don’t require a person to retell or relive the trauma such as REWIND, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Havening. These are non-intrusive, non-voyeuristic, and safe techniques.
The technique I used with Bella was the Rewind Technique and over the years I’ve found it to be highly effective in the majority of trauma clients I’ve worked with.
The first thing I did was help Bella shift into a state of deep relaxation before guiding her through the REWIND process. The whole process was completed without my needing to know any of the details of the traumatic event. We just called it The Event.
The technique took about thirty minutes, from start to finish. Afterwards I asked Bella to think about those memories again. She looked at me with a puzzled expression.
“I’m guessing something has changed,” I said.
“Yes” Bella said with a smile. “It’s seems far away.”
Bella was able to think about her ordeal at school without the intense emotional reaction she used to experience. I followed up with her this week and she had been sleeping better and had no nightmares or flashbacks since the session.
When a person has experienced a number of traumatic events the REWIND is used to de-traumatise each event. This can be done in one session or over a series of sessions.
Like all treatments the REWIND doesn’t work for everyone. When this is the case I switch to one of the other two techniques – EMDR or Havening.
If you are suffering as the consequence of a trauma then the Rewind Technique could help free you to live in the present, rather than as a prisoner of your past. To learn more about effective help for trauma contact me today – 021 056 8389 or email me – firstname.lastname@example.org.
REMEMBER – “When you change your mind you change your life.”
Tony helps people of all ages live their lives free of unnecessary stress, anxiety and depression, and be happier, healthier and more fulfilled.