It is normal to want to avoid dealing with painful issues and memories. Often people try to simply push unpleasant experiences from their minds, believing that if they just don’t think about them they will be okay.
Avoidance might indeed appear to work for the short term. In the long term, however, avoidance actually creates anxiety and generally makes one’s symptoms worse. That which one avoids holds power over him or her.
People who have experienced trauma in their lives are often prone to avoidance. Many of these people have symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder or panic attacks.
Often the person believes that he or she could not tolerate the feelings that might surface in talking to someone about what happened. Therefore, the person begins to believe that the feelings themselves are dangerous and should be avoided no matter what.
Suppressing emotion is known to contribute to both psychological and physical illness.
In therapy, a person learns that he or she is not “crazy” for wanting to avoid the pain of dealing with hurtful memories or for the present symptoms that might be occurring.
In fact, the person generally learns that the symptoms he or she is having make sense given the loss or trauma that happened to him or her.
Picture a full bottle of soda. If it is shaken up and then the cap is removed all at once, the soda will explode all over the place. However, if it is shaken and the cap is opened a little, closed, then opened a little more, etc., it will not explode.
Within the safety of a trusting relationship with a therapist, a client is encouraged to “remove the soda bottle cap” at his or her own pace.
EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensiti-zation Reprocessing, is a highly effective method of dealing with traumatic experiences and loss.
EMDR is a powerful psychotherapy approach that has helped more than an estimated 2 million people of all ages deal with psychological distress. During an EMDR session, a therapist works with a client to identify a set of incidents or “targets” that will become the focus of the session.
Together, the client and therapist also make a list of coping skills and resources a person can utilize in and between sessions.
Individuals who have participated in EMDR often express to the therapist that they finally experience relief from symptoms that have paralyzed them for months, years or decades.
If you are interested in finding out more about EMDR, contact a therapist who is trained in EMDR. Sample EMDR sessions can be viewed on YouTube.
Mary Bieda, MS, LPC is a licensed professional counselor and pastoral counselor in private practice in Old Town Bluffton.