A Simple Technique to Overcome Emotional Trauma

How to Overcome Emotional Trauma

Going through emotional trauma or grief—both of which are being experienced by millions of people these days—can leave a lasting imprint on the brain and can cause a laundry list of symptoms. You may feel sad, unable to concentrate, edgy, anxious, or irritable, and may have trouble sleeping. Often, grief is mislabeled as depression, ADD/ADHD, panic disorder, or other psychiatric conditions. And post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which affects many people who experience trauma, is often misdiagnosed as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) because they have overlapping symptoms.

This is problematic because if you’re misdiagnosed, psychotropic medications can get in the way of healing and in some cases, can prolong grief and emotional trauma. If you experience lingering symptoms related to trauma or a loss, consider doing grief work before taking medication.

BREAK THE BONDS OF THE PAST

One of the most powerful “feel better fast” techniques to overcome emotional trauma or grief is called “breaking the bonds of the past.” It stems from the belief that negative feelings and behaviors are often based on past memories that are either toxic or misinterpreted. This technique requires only 5 simple steps.

Whenever you have a painful or disruptive memory or feeling, write out the answers to the following questions:

  1. When was the last time you struggled, had the painful or disruptive memory or feeling, or felt suffering? Write down the details.
  2. What were you feeling at the time? Describe the predominant feeling.
  3. When was the first time you had that feeling? In your mind, imagine yourself on a train going backward through time. Go back to the time when you first had the feeling. Write down the incident or incidents in detail.
  4. Can you go back even further to a time when you had that original feeling? Write down the details of the original incident.
  5. If you have a clear idea of the origins of the feelings, can you disconnect them by reprocessing them through an adult or parent mindset, or reframe them in light of new information? Consciously disconnect the emotional bridge to the past with the idea that what happened in the past belongs in the past, and what happens now is what matters.

Here’s an example of how this can work.

HOW A TEEN LEARNED TO LEAVE THE PAST BEHIND

Nate, 15, came to see me at Amen Clinics because he was suffering from panic attacks. He had several episodes a day when he felt like he was choking or drowning. His breathing became shallow, fast, and labored. His heart raced, he broke out in a sweat, and he felt as though he was dying. Nate hated these episodes, and the fear of having them became so overwhelming that he stopped going to school. During his second session with me, I went through the following steps with him.

1. When was the last time you had a panic attack?

Nate said it was the day before. He was eating dinner when all of a sudden, he felt like he was starting to choke. He couldn’t get air, his heart started to race, he was sweating, and felt as though he was going to die.

2. What you were feeling at the time? Describe the predominant feeling.

Nate said he felt as though he was going to die.

3. In your mind, imagine yourself on a train going backward through time. Go back to a time when you first had the feeling that you were going to die.

The teen sat there for a minute and then started to choke. It looked like he was having a panic attack right in front of me. I asked him to breathe slowly and tell me what was going on. He slowed his breathing, wiped his brow, and told me about a time when he was 6 years old. He was sitting at a lunch table at school and accidentally swallowed a plastic wrapper from a candy bar. He started to choke on the wrapper. Initially, no one saw him. He said he started to turn blue. He couldn’t breathe, and no one noticed. He thought he was going to die. After what seemed like an eternity, a teacher saw him and did the Heimlich maneuver on him, dislodging the wrapper. Nate said he had forgotten about the event until now.

4. After he settled down and composed himself, I asked him to go back even further in his mind to see if there was an earlier time when he had the feeling he was going to die.

He closed his eyes and said he remembered a time when he was very young. He was coming out of a very dark place into a place filled with bright lights, lights that felt hot. People were moving around. He felt fear. He couldn’t breathe, and something awful covered his face. He felt as though he was going to die.

To my amazement, Nate had just described a birth experience. When he opened his eyes, I asked him if he knew anything about his birth. He said no, no one had ever talked to him about it. I invited his mother to come into the room and asked her about his birth experience. She told me that he was a meconium baby, where the infant’s feces get into the amniotic fluid, which is very dangerous for the newborn. He was born blue and had to be resuscitated by the doctor. His mother said she had never talked about it with Nate. She didn’t want to worry him.

5. Break the bonds of the past through an adult or parent mindset or reframe them in light of new information.

With Nate’s mother in the room, I took him back to both of those times. First, with the birth experience, I had the grown teenage Nate go back and explain to the baby what had happened. The baby was in trouble for a short time, but the doctors helped clean him up so he could breathe normally. I then took him through the candy wrapper incident and had the teenage Nate tell 6-year-old Nate that he is grateful to the teacher who helped him and that he is alive, well, and healthy (and he needed to stop eating candy wrappers).

After that session, Nate’s panic attacks disappeared. I saw him a few more times, but essentially disconnecting his present symptoms from the past sensitizing event took care of them.

WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM BREAKING THE BONDS OF THE PAST?

I have seen this technique work with people who have experienced all kinds of emotional trauma or grief and who are suffering from symptoms, such as panic attacks (like Nate), anxiety, PTSD, alcoholism and other addictions, and even sexual impotence. Be aware that this process can dredge up painful memories. If they don’t go away in a short period of time, seek professional help from a licensed psychotherapist.

Emotional trauma, PTSD, and the bothersome symptoms they cause can’t wait. During these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever and waiting until life gets back to “normal” is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time.

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.

5 Comments »

  1. thank you…i see and feel the experiences which bring growth

    Comment by Kimberley Wolfe — October 21, 2020 @ 3:17 AM

  2. C-PTSD can add a layer of complexity to this technique due to childhood memory loss. When it gets to step three “when was the first time I had this feeling” often there is s void in one’s memory. There is no memory of the first time that one had the feeling. This can lead to a feeling of helplessness because the feeling appears to have come from nowhere.

    Comment by Andrew — October 21, 2020 @ 3:26 AM

  3. I am interested in learning more about your Anen Clinics and if there is one in the Tulsa. Oklahoma area. Thank you for your kind assistance. Also, tell me if you have a clinic in Central Florida near the Orlando area.

    Thank you.

    Comment by MaryAnn McDowell-Miller — October 21, 2020 @ 4:49 AM

  4. Sir you don’t seize to give practical advice, your blogs are filled with insight that are relevant. Thank you

    Comment by Lerato Moloi — October 21, 2020 @ 6:54 AM

  5. My question is I have been through more than 40 yrs off trauma!! Can it be dealt with to bring out the true cause!???

    Comment by Dawn Mcgill — October 21, 2020 @ 8:30 AM

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