If you’ve been through something painful or traumatic, I’m sure you want to forget it. You may have run into obstacles in this process and the reason largely boils down to this: the brain remembers.
Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk wrote in his quintessential work on trauma, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma:
“while we want to move beyond trauma, the part of our brain that is devoted to ensuring our survival (deep below our rational brain) is not very good at denial.”
Once you’ve been through a significant hurt, your brain continually anticipates the smallest indication of danger, fears you may once again get into a painful scenario, and therefore, desperately tries to shield you from this torment. A minor argument with your partner or a perceived slight from a friend, as some examples, are all a traumatized brain needs to activate into protection mode.
What happens to your brain after a painful experience?
If you go through something traumatic or painful this is what happens to your brain:
- You become much more easily alarmed, irritated, and angered
- There is a flood of stress hormones, which make you feel, well, stressed
- You struggle to differentiate critical from unhelpful pieces of information, which makes it difficult to make the most appropriate decisions
To summarize, trauma changes the brain, and therefore our emotions, thoughts, perceptions, social interactions, and beliefs in dramatic, and often profoundly negative, ways.
If it sounds like I’m describing you, I want you to know there’s absolutely hope for a significantly improved reality with support and therapy.
How to Help Our Brain Forget
Here’s how we help the brain forget and to live a much happier, peaceful, and hopeful life:
- Talk with someone whom we trust, such as a trauma and EMDR therapist, about these past negative experiences. When you develop the courage to share what you’ve been through and detail it in a safe and comfortable way, it reduces the hold these memories have on you.
- Show your mind and body that the threat you experienced in the past is no longer present. “For real change to take place, the body needs to learn that the danger has passed and to live in the reality of the present” (Van Der Kolk, p. 21). To accomplish this, you want to engage in more instances of courageousness. Partake in experiences that counter the fear, anger, and frustration that trauma imparted to you. Then you can begin to replace them with ones that instill confidence, competence, and hope. Once your mind and body recognize that not only is the threat no longer there, but great things are happening and can continue to happen, you’ve changed your brain for the better!
- Along these lines, one way to accomplish this is to notice and resist your mind’s attempt to live in a wounded past state. Instead, work to live in the present. A traumatized brain is one that continually believes it is in the past negative experience(s). It takes continual work, at least early on, to teach it, and yourself, that you’re actually in the here and now, and you’re safe.
Are You Ready to Overcome Past Painful Experiences With EMDR & Trauma Therapy in San Diego, CA
At Stress Solutions, I can help you understand the impact of past difficulties. As a San Diego trauma and EMDR therapist, I provide a space for you to share and overcome the memories that are causing those difficulties. EMDR and trauma therapy allow your body to learn that it is no longer in danger so you can live the life you deserve. To get started follow these steps:
- Give me a call at 561.214.4113 and we’ll discuss how I can help
- Schedule your first appointment to start addressing painful memories
- Enjoy living in the present without the weight of traumatic memories
Other Therapy Services I Offer in San Diego, CA
I specialize in men’s mental health and couples therapy. Through individual counseling, I offer support for stress, anxiety, and personal addictions. All of these services are available through online therapy in San Diego, California, Oregon, and Florida.
About The Author, A San Diego Trauma Therapist
Jordan Zipkin, LMFT is an EMDR and trauma therapist located in San Diego, CA. He is the owner of Stress Solutions and began helping others through psychotherapy in 2010. Jordan is dedicated to helping individuals recover from painful and traumatic experiences.