Are You Tired of Carrying the Pain of the Past?
After surviving a deeply distressing or even life-threatening experience, are you struggling with worry, sadness and fear? Are intrusive flashbacks and disturbing nightmares making it difficult to truly believe that the danger has passed? Although you may go through the motions and get through each day, perhaps you avoid certain places, people or experiences that might trigger overwhelming memories. It may be you are hyper vigilant, always anticipating danger around every corner. As you attempt to protect yourself physically and emotionally, you may feel unable to trust anyone or anything, even yourself. Do you lack a sense of security and stability in every aspect of your world? Do you wish you could find relief from the ongoing worry and dread, engage in the present and claim agency over your life?
No matter how long ago or how recent, a traumatic experience can shake your sense of self and make life seem unpredictable, dangerous and out of control. You may frequently feel helpless, guilty and unable to navigate the world the way you’d like. It may feel as though you are stuck in a loop, reliving the past through painful memories, falling victim to unbidden and disturbing images and thoughts and alarming physical sensations. You might be struggling with stomachaches, headaches and chest pain, as well as panic attacks that leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. You may feel intense shame or guilt about what happened to you, about your inability to resist or retaliate, or your responses to the traumatic event. Or, you may feel a vague, distracting sense of uneasiness, as though something is “off.” Perhaps you drink, use drugs or engage in compulsive behaviors in an attempt to find any kind of calm or escape. Regardless of the particular trauma symptoms you are struggling with, you may long for lasting relief.
There Is No “Wrong” Way to Survive Trauma
Studies show that an estimated 70 percent of American adults have experienced something traumatic, and that 20 percent of those people will develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). While trauma can and does impact everyone, regardless of identity or background, women are twice as likely to develop PTSD than men, with one in 10 women developing PTSD at some point in their lives.
Trauma can take many forms. For some, it might be a single incident, such as an assault, a car accident, or a natural disaster. First responders and those in the armed forces may develop trauma after ongoing exposure to violence and danger. Others experience prolonged verbal, emotional, sexual or physical abuse, perhaps in childhood.[KJW1] For others still, scolding, bullying, rejection or a sense of failure can be deeply traumatic, even if they were never in physical danger. Trauma can stem from any experience that shakes your sense of self and breaks your trust in the world, yet no matter what you’ve gone through, you are not weak or unintelligent if you are struggling today. You are not broken or alone.
Because the mind can’t process the traumatic event when it occurs, all of the overwhelming emotions and sensations get stuck in the mind and body. It can be helpful to think of trauma like a wound that has healed on the surface, but not underneath. You may feel fine for a long time—especially in the case of childhood trauma—until the wound gets bumped, and suddenly the pain radiates through your body again, locking you in a state of fight/flight/freeze. As time goes on, you can start to feel as though the past is controlling your life.
Thankfully, there is a way to heal the wound beneath the surface. With the help of a compassionate, qualified trauma therapist, you can reframe and reprocess trauma, come to trust in your innate strength and develop a new sense of empowerment and hope.
Trauma Therapy Can Help You Take Hold of Your Life
Although the lingering effects of trauma can make you feel broken, if you are here reading this page, you have already done the hard work of surviving. In truth, you are not broken, and with help and support, you can do more than just survive. Pathways to Wellness offers a secure, accepting, nonjudgmental space for you to address the aftereffects of trauma, return to your body and claim your life.
With self-compassion and care, and without judgment or shame, you can acknowledge all of the coping methods that have brought you to this point and come to recognize your resilience. You have survived in the best way you knew how, and it makes sense that you may have sought ways to avoid and escape distress. As you grow more confident and secure, you and your therapist can identify new coping mechanisms that allow you to live in service of your deepest wants and values. You can begin to navigate the world as a freer, lighter version of yourself.
Our trauma therapy sessions are tailored to your unique needs, personality and therapy goals, and your therapist will draw from a variety of effective approaches to find what works for you. For example, your therapist may use Graduated Exposure therapy or use Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, a highly effective approach that can help you reprocess and release traumatic memories so they no longer feel overwhelming and intrusive.
Your therapist might also use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help you reframe thoughts and emotions and shift the way you respond to distress. You might also practice calming techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing, to help you connect with your body and soothe physical trauma symptoms. And, your therapist will not push you to try a therapy tool or strategy if you don’t feel ready. Most importantly, you don’t have to go through an aspect of the healing process alone.
Trauma is something to move through, not get over. Your therapist’s goal will not be to erase the past or your memory of it. Instead, during trauma counseling sessions, you can reduce the emotional power of the past and discover what you need to move forward. Remember, you have already survived. With compassionate guidance and a willingness to embrace change, you can begin to thrive.
You still may have questions about trauma treatment…
What if I can’t make the memories stop?
The goal of therapy is not to eliminate the memories altogether. The past happened, and we can’t erase that. However, your therapist can help you understand that the past is behind you, and you are safe and okay today. What you experienced did not break you or make you “lesser” in any way. And, while the pain of the past might never be completely gone, it can be softened. That pain does not have to control your life. You can find that you become less and less reactive to memories, images, body sensations, etc., as you “process” your experience(s).
That said, EMDR therapy is highly effective. If you have tried other therapy methods in the past, but not EMDR, don’t give up. EMDR may help you find greater healing than you ever thought possible.
Won’t talking about what happened just cause more pain?
Many people worry that they will be forced to relive their traumatic experiences during trauma treatment. However, it’s likely that you are already reliving the trauma every day. Therapy can help you break free of the past and live in the present.
With EMDR therapy, you do not have to immerse yourself in the trauma. Instead, you can look at what happened objectively, with one foot in the memory and the other in the present. Through this process, you can decrease the emotional charge that memory carries, preventing it from taking over whenever you encounter a trigger. You can store the memory firmly in the past.
And, no matter what approach your trauma therapist utilizes, the goal is always to reduce pain, not increase it. Your therapist will be there at you side, helping you on the path toward healing.
Do I really need trauma therapy? Why can’t I just get over this on my own?
Trauma becomes stuck in the body, and it can impact you in ways that are difficult to recognize. It can be useful to think of trauma as emotional shrapnel. Although the wounds have healed over, the shrapnel is still there, causing flare-ups of distress. It’s okay to need help removing that shrapnel. And, it’s a sign of strength—not weakness—to ask for help when you need it.
You Can Live With Greater Ease
It is possible to move through the pain of the past. We invite you to call us at 714-432-9856 today to set up a trauma therapy appointment in Costa Mesa, CA.