Life is filled with challenges and setbacks. We are constantly faced with obstacles to overcome and at some point in life we will each face rejection loss or defeat. Yet sometimes events occur that are so terrible, so shattering, they leave a trail of suffering that can last a lifetime. Traumatic experiences can destroy lives, leaving victims plagued by fear and anxiety for years, with no end in sight. A traumatic event leaves a mark that cannot be removed.
Severe psychological trauma often results in a condition known as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Events such as rape, violence, sexual abuse, war, or experiences of accidents or disasters can lead to the development of posttraumatic stress, as can the witnessing of a dangerous or tragic event. Sufferers of PTSD are tormented by inescapable memories of the trauma they lived or witnessed. When awake they are plagued by incessant flashbacks of the experience and haunted by nightmares while they sleep. Whereas they once lived a life of happiness and wellbeing, today the grip of pain, fear and anxiety is inescapable.
What can be done to help victims of trauma recover from the pain inflicted by the event and free themselves of the aftereffect which tend to haunt them day in and day out?
Like most mental health conditions, sufferers are prescribed medication and psychotherapy. Medication may ease their suffering, but medication is far from a solution. Emotional healing does not come in a pill. Add to this that talk therapy provides little respite for the victim of a trauma. PTSD leaves a mark for life, or does it?
There are those who experience a trauma, and recover. They have healed emotionally and have moved on with life. The live in the present, no longer haunted by a terrible past and free of anxiety and fear. Somehow they were able to free themselves of a horrific past and move on to a better future.
What is their secret? Do such people hold the key to treating suffers of PTSD?
Indeed, they do.
Sufferers of PTSD experience the traumatic memory or memories in a particular way. When they remember the trauma or experience flashbacks, it is as if they are there once again in the moment, looking through their eyes, re-experiencing it all over again. Every time they think of it, they re-experience the event in their mind as if it were occurring now. They relive it again and again, when experiencing it once was enough. Yet those who have recovered experience the memory in a very different way.
An individual who experienced a traumatic event but recovered will remember the event with one extremely fundamental difference. When they look back on the event they will see themselves in the movie. Instead of being there in the moment, they will be looking on as an observer, seeing the event as if it happened to someone else. It is the difference between being in a scary movie and watching a scary movie – the two experiences are far from the same. This way of encoding the memory gives them a powerful psychological distance. They have an empowering objectivity and the result is that they don’t feel the painful emotions they experienced back then.
In both cases, the actual event remains traumatic, but the way the memory has been encoded by the brain is different. In one case, the event is encoded in a way that leads to incessant suffering and constant fear. In the other, the event is encoded in a way that leaves the individual with a sense of resourcefulness and wellbeing. We can’t change what happened, but we can change how we feel about what happened.
Since we know this, we can guide a sufferer of PTSD to re-encode the memory of the traumatic event in a way that frees them from the endless pain and suffering. Through a psychological process known as V/K Dissociation (Visual – seeing the memory, Kinesthetic – the feelings associated with the memory), a method that is widely unknown yet highly effective for treating victims of trauma, in a number of minutes, an individual who has lived a trauma can be helped to experience the memory in a new way. This short process can provide the individual with an enormous sense of relief.
I had the opportunity to assist a young woman who has been the victim of a violent rape and beating not long ago. When she came to me she was unable to function, barely left her apartment, and was unable to work. After only four hours of work together she reported that the pain she had for years was gone. She was able to move and began working. In her own words, “I feel free now.”
Why should someone live in fear and pain for the rest of their life simply because something bad happened to them randomly? In just a few hours, one can make a major advancement towards emotional freedom. For a complete recovery and true healing to occur, further work is required. With the right methods, PTSD can be left behind and the door to wellbeing can be opened once again.
Yet this method is widely unknown. Sufferers of PTSD are prescribed medication as if it is the only solution and send for hours and hours of talk therapy in which they rehash the event they so badly want to escape from. As if reliving it every day wasn’t bad enough, they have to pay someone to talk about it some more. The belief here is that the more times victims of a trauma go over their traumatic experience, the better they will feel, but it simply isn’t so. To effectively treat PTSD we need to move toward a better future, not delve into a horrid past. Talking about a problem is very different from doing something that can lead to a solution.
In addition to V/K dissociation, there are a number of methods that can be used to treat posttraumatic stress effectively. Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) are becoming more and more popular as an alternative choice as is EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), a method that has made its way into conventional psychology. To optimize treatment and free individuals of suffering, a combination of such methods is the best approach.
Healing is possible.