“Healing comes when our story is raw, bone-deep and full of hunger for what only Jesus can offer.” Dan B. Allender
by Diana To, LMFT, LPCC, Certified Therapist in EMDR | San Francisco Center
When we think of trauma, we often think first of things like car accidents and other life-threatening injuries, or the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that many combat soldiers and veterans suffer from. But trauma is in fact much broader than that. It is any deeply distressing or disturbing experience that overwhelms our capacity to handle the impact of it on us. In the fallen world that we live in, trauma has become part of many people’s lives. It can take the form of childhood physical or emotional abuse and neglect, bullying, severe relational issues, death of a loved one, and countless other difficult life situations. Damage can be caused even by something as simple as a careless comment: “The words of the reckless pierce like swords” (Proverbs 12:18).
If not healed, trauma can produce deep and debilitating psychological damages to survivors for a lifetime, negatively affecting how they see themselves, as well as how they relate to others, to the world, and to God. It can interfere with daily functioning in many ways by affecting our brains and our bodies. The symptoms are widely varied but often include hyper-vigilance and fear on the one hand, and emotional numbness on the other, in the forms of greatly diminished capacities for joy and connectedness with the self and others. Symptoms of anxiety, depression, acting out behaviors, addiction, personality disorders and other mental health issues can often find their roots in trauma. Through negative core beliefs about the self, others and the world developed through traumatic experiences, many of which may be unconscious, unhealed trauma can often play significant roles in marital and family problems, extending the impact from one generation to the next and creating a continuing cycle of trauma. Physically speaking, trauma can also weaken the immune system, causing stress-related illnesses. When the impact is severe, the survivor’s ability to function can become very limited. With unhealed trauma, a person may feel “stuck” in his/her unhealthy patterns and unable to move on.
The good news is that trauma can be healed. There are generally 3 basic stages to the trauma healing process:
1. (Re-)establish sense of safety
2. Process traumatic experiences
3. Integrate into daily life
Several evidence-based treatment methods are available, one of which is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). At Christian Counseling Centers San Francisco, we have 2 therapists (Jennifer Andrews and myself) who have undertaken specialized training in this treatment method. Through treatment, a sense of basic safety and stability is first established, after which traumatic experiences can be more adapt-ably reprocessed by the brain and its negative impact on daily life be helped to diminish. EMDR can also be used in a way that directly incorporates clients’ spirituality into the process, enabling them to connect their beliefs about God’s goodness with their emotional wounds, right where they need them the most, and experience His healing in a deep and lasting way. If you see that you or someone you care about is in need of such healing, give us a call or email us. We are here to help.
Disclaimer: This article is intended as an educational resource only, and is not intended to be a replacement for treatment. For evaluation and treatment, please contact a qualified mental health professional.