The Challenge Of Healing Emotional Trauma

I just got back from therapy.

One thing I asked while I was there was what to do with the emotional pain I experience between sessions. I certainly realize that there is no way to get immediate relief from all that I’m trying to work through and process. But in between sessions, I wanted to know if there was something productive and helpful that I could do. I may not be able to process and heal faster, but if I’m able to do something to help the process along, that somehow seems to make me feel better about the larger process.

Just about all the therapist suggested are things I’m already trying to do. Most, of not all, are things I’ve written about.

One challenge, perhaps the biggest one, is to actually do the things I know will help. I’m sure that sounds odd. If I know there is something that will help and make me feel better – even if that’s much further down the road – why the hell wouldn’t I do it?!

The problem is that there’s a part of me which, emotionally, doesn’t believe that things will ever get better. Emotion is raw and in the present. Emotion brings the past into the present and has no concept of “then” and “now.” Emotions, simply, are. Because of this, there is no future of feeling better. With my emotions, “now” is all their is and all there ever has been. From this perspective, when something is triggered, I’m still that same 6 year old boy who went through anything. I have no experience, based in the future of things I haven’t yet experienced, which would convince the emotional part of me that I’ll ever feel any different or things will every be any better. Emotionally, I simply have no experience or reference to any of that.

Intellectually, my thinking mind sees the difference and the possibilities, but the logic / reasoning of the thinking mind and the logic / reasoning of the emotional mind don’t translate and are non transferable. To feel better emotionally, I need to have present, conscious experiences of what it’s like and what it means to feel safe and at peace. This is something which takes time. This is something that my thinking mind can help create, but it’s not something that my thinking mind can relay or invoke for the emotional part.

Emotional pain is a state of being, it’s a way of perceiving and living. In order to help ease and dissipate it, I need to be mindful, conscious and aware in surroundings of safety and peace. The challenge is that in being mindful and conscious, there are a thousand emotional triggers all around me which invoke intense signs of warning and danger; a certain sent that I smell; the color of a shirt; the mannerism of someone who reminds me of one of my parents or something violent and harmful that they did; anyone involved with a confrontation; someone acting aggressively or contemptuously. There are tens of thousands of triggers I come across every day. Each one signals violence, danger and harm. To heal, though, I need to be conscious and aware of all these things (and more) and work to find a process or path to peace which will ease the signals and reactions, if not dissipate them completely.

This is a challenge because I’ve spent my life disassociated and daydreaming in order to escape from the world which surrounds me. The point is that it hasn’t been safe to be conscious and make an effort to self sooth. It hasn’t been safe to be conscious. The trouble is that the one thing I always used to help keep me safe (or at least unaware) is the very thing which I now need to stop doing. Rather than trying to find shelter and hide, I’m supposed to go out in the middle of the typhoon, and work to calm the terrifying swirl of winds and destruction.

This is a bit of a challenge and will take a bit of time…okay, more than a bit of time.

With the help of therapy, the techniques I’ve learned over the years, a deliberateness of determination and the assistance of my thinking mind to help set it all up, I can create the conditions which can make emotional healing possible. My thinking mind can’t “tell” emotions to heal, but they can help create the conditions which my emotions can then use to heal themselves.

One more thing, which is vital. I need to actually live in a safe place with calm conditions, in order to, slowly, at various degrees and levels, gradually ease the power of the raging storm outside. This isn’t easy. This takes time. This won’t be done in one fowl swoop or even at smooth, consistent increments. It will be done (if I’m able to do it at all) in fits and starts, with sometimes my not being able to summon the effort or determination at all.

If, however, I’m going to heal, I need to be conscious, aware, and make the effort. I need to learn (somehow) to create a “normal” which isn’t emotional agony and the terrors which underlay it. Psychologists (with classical conditioning) call this “extinction” and it’s a rather difficult thing to achieve. Not only that, but it’s apparently rather easy to “reacquire” the responses even after “extinction” is achieved.

At first, I can only do very little and only make tentative efforts – efforts which at first may only be symbolic rather than actually helpful. Getting to the point where I may notice some actual process and easing of the pain is months, likely years, away. There is no magic pill. There is no miracle method. All that exists is doing the best I can at any given moment. For some moments, that may mean there is nothing I can do but just get through the day.

We’ll have to see how it all works out.

Be Well, My Friends
Theseus

(P.S. One suggestion I’ve found helpful is regulate the music I listen to and give myself a regular “dose” or “helping” of something peaceful and positive at regular intervals.

My music of choice is Vince Guaraldi. He’s the guy who did all the music for the Charlie Brown cartoons. His music is upbeat and “peppy.” Stay away from any depressing, sad or angry music!!!

I couldn’t find a link to the specific album, so here’s a link of the album “The Definitive Vince Guaraldi” on Amazon)

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