The first part of these two articles described introduced Lifespan Integration and how it differs from other therapy modalities. This part describes how this healing therapy is effective for trauma and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
What is trauma? Trauma is the collective physical, emotional and mental effects of a damaging event or events. If we see a bruise on someone’s arm, we know that arm had more than usual force applied to it, and the tissue under the skin was damaged. Pressing on the bruise will produce pain, until the bruise is healed. The body naturally carries away the damaged blood cells and replaces them with healthy ones. We can liken mental and emotional trauma to a bruise. The difference is that the passage of time does not necessarily heal this type of hurt. It stays there, and when this emotional bruise is touched, or triggered, emotional pain is felt.
A traumatic memory could be childhood sexual abuse, or a car accident. Traumatic memories can also be caused by incidents or life situations from childhood or adult life, which, while not considered traumatic for most people, cause such distress and even dysfunction in this person’s daily life that they are debilitating. An example would be the sudden death of a family member.
Trauma need not be caused by an event or onetime experience. A continual situation where one is unsafe, either physically or emotionally, is considered trauma as well. Overall, any aversive long term situation can be seen as traumatizing.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that may develop after experiencing or exposure to a shocking or potentially violent event, or a sudden personal catastrophe. Symptoms of PTSD are hyperarousal (continuous high anxiety levels), which is characterized by frequent flashbacks, numbing, or avoidance of anything that could cause recall the painful events. Symptoms that continue over a month after the event are diagnosed as PTSD. PTSD causes the person to be “frozen in time”, because in many ways their body is still experiencing the intensely difficult event. The neural network of these body memories cannot stop firing when triggered.
Lifespan Integration, when used by a fully trained therapist, is effective with both the memories of the actual event and the bodily sensations triggered by the painful memories. The events can be in the recent or distant past. The therapist creates with the client a record of the difficult event, and what happened afterwards. Then the therapist takes the client through the timelines, always ending in the present. Numerous repetitions of the timelines, and several sessions are usually needed for deep trauma. The therapist’s training informs them of the kind and number of repetitions needed, and enables them to fully control the entire process of remembering.
Following a severe auto accident, many people are fearful of driving again. Most return to driving, hopefully carefully, as their apprehension subsides. But for some, the fear and panic do not subside—just getting into the driver’s seat triggers panic and fear. With Lifespan Integration, the therapist indirectly targets the fear by taking the client through a timeline of the accident and ending in the present. Just as driving a car can trigger fear and panic, convincing the body that it is in danger, the aim of this therapy is to “convince” the body that the traumatic auto accident is over. Arriving in the present after a timeline, the person knows, at a deeper than cognitive level of understanding, that they have survived the danger, and are safely in the present.
Childhood incidents, such as sexual abuse, can be cleared using Lifespan Integration. This does not mean the incident is forgotten, but that the emotionality of the event is greatly reduced, or eliminated. Most children who have experienced sexual abuse assume in some way that they were responsible for it happening, and experience extreme shame and isolation. Through Lifespan Integration, they can come to know they were not responsible for the event or events, the resulting shame can be cleared, and the negative and wrong attitudes they formed about their sexuality as a result of the abuse can be changed.
There are many kinds of trauma that can be cleared with Lifespan Integration. Many women experience quite severe emotional trauma when their partner’s addiction to porn or sexually acting out are disclosed. Revelations of a partner’s infidelity can trigger non-stop anxiety and a sense that one’s world is falling apart. This particular kind of trauma can continue for a while, and damage the relationship. Many relationships cannot survive infidelity and the resulting traumas; those that do survive can become even stronger.
Grief is a frequent trauma that responds to Lifespan Integration. A person may have experienced the death of a parent years earlier, not been able to grieve completely, or allowed themselves to grieve the loss. This has affected them as they formed new relationships, or made them avoid parts of life that seemed too painful to enter. As a therapist, I suggest to clients that those painful memories are isolated and detached from the rest of their life’s memories. Because the painful events were not talked over and dealt with in a healthy way when they occurred, the memories are now isolated, and the person has no context in which they can deal with the difficult memories. As we “pull” memories of the painful events into the mainstream events of the timeline of the person, those painful memories get normalized and lose their “sting.” Eventually the person going through Lifespan Integration is able to say about a very difficult event “Yes, that happened, it was so very hard, and it hurt a lot. But it is over, and I got through it. I live in the present now.” As I lead the person through the timelines of their life, they gradually become integrated. This integration, or the capability of dealing with all of one’s life in a meaningful and coherent way, is the goal of this kind of counseling. Integration allows the person to live fully in the present.
If you have difficult life events or trauma, or PTSD, counseling can help. Don’t hesitate to contact me.
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