For many people, the thought of meeting a stranger and sharing the worst, most painful, and most challenging experiences of their lives feels daunting, overwhelming, grueling, uncomfortable, genuinely terrible. You know, not something you would really want to do.
A lot of people think that this is what therapy is. And, it *can* be a part of what we work on in therapy, but therapy is so much more than spilling out all of the hurt you have gone through.
If anything was negatively impacting your life and ability to function, you would probably call in extra support to be able to deal with it- whether that thing is plumbing, electrical work, learning how to cook, learning how to organize, etc. The harder or more complex the problem, the more you might need expert or professional help.
As a therapist, I help you in processing what you’re going through with your past and how that is shaping what you are going towards in your future.
You get to decide what we talk about, when, and for how long. My job is to act as a guide and a resource for navigating what is important to you.
Experiencing an emotionally distressing event at an early age can impact our emotional growth. If a distressing event is not processed in a healthy way, it can rewire the neural pathways in our brain. As a result, the distressing event plays a role in influencing our perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors.
Distressing and traumatic events have the ability to overwhelm our body and our brain. In fact, both our bodies and our brains are where our memories are stored. These memories can have a lasting impact on our mood, our ability to connect with others, and our sense of self long after the distress has ended.
When we have strong reactions to stimuli connected to the distress - while we’re unaware of it at the moment - we’ve been triggered or, in other words, our brains have been hijacked back to our earlier experiences leading to a cascading effect of responses going through our body (heartbeat, sweating, muscle tension), thoughts (how we interpret what happened), and feelings (what emotions come up in response).
For most of us, we develop coping skills as children and carry them into our adulthood. If we never learned healthier coping skills or healed from our experience(s), this causes issues in our relationships, careers, and within ourselves. With the right therapist, treatment, and support, we can begin putting the puzzle pieces together to better understand our emotional responses and behaviors.
Common signs and symptoms of unresolved distress may include:
-temper tantrums (yes, even as an adult)
-poor impulse control
-unstable interpersonal relationships
-feeling emotionally overwhelmed
-fear-based behaviors, anxiety, or controlling behavior
-knowing what you want in life, but feeling like you can’t get there
-difficulty maintaining close relationships
Most people associate the term “trauma” with the military, catastrophic natural disasters, and school shootings. However, trauma can also come from events that we didn’t even register as significant at the time. Each individual’s response to a given situation is unique. Two people can experience the exact same event - one could identify it as a scary or difficult moment that they went through that does not define them while the other is emotionally and mentally impacted by the event as it shapes their understanding of the world and their place in it.
When we look back, connect the dots, identify patterns, and uncover how intense emotions triggered by passing thoughts are actually learned responses to past pain and discomfort, that’s when we regain the power to heal from those memories. This is called memory reconsolidation - when we revise the emotion and/or belief that is linked to a distressing memory with a more adaptive emotion/belief.
Because our memories are not fixed, we’re able to update our neural pathways. Corrective emotional experiences challenge how we view our past, the way we interact with others, and how we view ourselves.
It can feel overwhelming to explore your childhood from a different perspective. It can produce a sea of emotions, and that’s okay. Your therapist is there to support you along the way. By exploring how our past has affected us, we are given the opportunity to gain a better understanding of ourselves and our needs and make more positive decisions for our future.
Maybe you or someone you know wants help but may not even know where to begin or aren’t sure if you (or they) are even ready to try. Maybe you are struggling or know that when you have tried in the past, you have struggled with what to say or how to say it. If this sounds like you, try reaching out to speak with a therapist and see if they can be the help you need to heal.
Brooke Gibson, LCSW is currently on a waitlist for new client referrals. To get scheduled with her, please reach out to email@example.com