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Monday, June 9, 2014

Are You Acknowledging or Avoiding Your Trauma?

As I mentioned in an earlier article, The Trauma of Everyday Life: The Buddha's Loss of His Mother,     I recently finished reading Mark Epstein's book,  The Trauma of Everyday Life.  One of the themes in his book is that trauma and suffering are a part of everyone's life and there's no way to avoid it.  Dr. Epstein discusses how Buddha came to accept trauma as something that happened to everyone and, rather than try to avoid dealing with it, it's better to deal with the emotions through mindfulness.

Buddha's First Noble Truth:  Life is Suffering

Buddha's First Noble Truth:  Life is Suffering
According to Dr. Epstein, Buddhist philosophy centers around Buddha's Four Noble Truths.  The First Noble Truth is that life is suffering.  According to the First Noble Truth, we can't live life without enduring some type of suffering, whether it's physical, emotional, psychological and, ultimately, death.

It's understandable that no one wants to suffer, and most people are inclined to try to avoid dealing with their unpleasant feelings.  But when we try to completely avoid dealing with suffering, the effect is usually that we prolong it.

We can find all different ways to try to distract ourselves from our suffering, and we have many more ways now than ever before:  the Internet, TV, smart phones, computer games, etc.  But no matter how much we try to avoid emotions related to suffering, the feelings are still there.

Working Through Trauma in Therapy
Many people are afraid to go to therapy because they fear that they won't be able to tolerate dealing with their emotional trauma.

Rather than dealing with trauma in therapy, they keep pushing down their uncomfortable feelings so they don't have to deal with them.  Often, by pushing down these feelings, the feelings actually intensify and get worse.

Aside from distracting themselves, some people try to alter their mood by drinking excessively, using drugs, gambling or engaging in other mood-altering activities.  This only creates more problems for them.

Creating a Safe Place in Therapy to Deal With Trauma
When a psychotherapy client has a good rapport with the therapist and the therapist creates an emotionally safe place, the client is often surprised that the working through of trauma can be less painful than they expected (see my article:  The Creation of the "Holding Environment" in Psychotherapy).

Why is this often the case?

Well, people who have been emotionally traumatized expect that they will feel as badly in the working through process as they did when they experienced the original trauma.  But, often, during the original trauma the client had to deal with the trauma by him or herself.  Even if there were other people around who wanted to help, they might not have known how to help.

Creating a Safe Place in Therapy to Deal With Trauma

Also, if you're working with a therapist who has an expertise in trauma, the therapist usually knows how to titrate the working through process so that it can be worked through in a way that is more manageable for the client.

This doesn't mean that the client won't feel upset.  It means that, with help from an experienced trauma therapist, the client can work through the trauma so that they usually don't experience the same anguish they did during the original trauma.

An experienced trauma therapist can also help the client to separate emotions from the original trauma versus emotions that he or she feels now (see my article: Working Through Emotional Trauma: Learning to Separate "Then" From "Now").  This is very important because many people assume that they'll be retraumatized in therapy.

Getting Help in Therapy
The first step in working through trauma is getting help from a licensed mental health professional who is a trauma expert.

Getting Help in Therapy

My experience as a psychotherapist, who has an expertise in working with trauma, is that regular talk therapy doesn't always help people to heal from trauma and a mind-body oriented approach to trauma, like EMDR, Somatic Experience or clinical hypnosis is often more effective.

Emotional trauma can lie dormant for a while before it is triggered by an event in the present.  Then, it's often hard to distinguish between the old trauma and the current event.

If you've been avoiding dealing with your emotional trauma, you probably realize that it's not going away by itself.   So, you owe it to yourself to get help so you can work through the trauma and lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

One of my specialties is helping clients to overcome emotional trauma.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me:

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