EMDR Healing Negative Beliefs

Traumatic experiences can leave a person with negative beliefs that impede them from having a fulfilling life and may contribute to feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness. However, there are therapies that can successfully heal a person.

I work with many people who have experienced some form of trauma. What is trauma? –  “A deeply distressing or disturbing experience.” Traumatic experiences can contribute to a person being stuck in the healing process and can affect a person emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Many people who experience the effects of trauma do so with intrusive thoughts and negative beliefs. They can also dissociate and feel like they have difficulty focusing and paying attention.  There are also people who have preverbal trauma from a very young age and can have body memories or have a negative belief that they feel has always been there but do not remember any traumatic event. A person may be triggered in the present moment by a past traumatic experience and feel as if it is occurring right now.

They may feel depressed or anxious and do not know why.   Some experience a defense mechanism called dissociation or feel foggy at times and “check out” when triggered. At the extreme end of this continuum, Dissociative Identity Disorder or DID, which was previously called multiple personality disorder, is created so that the person can cope with extremely distressing circumstances.  It is a normal reaction to an abnormal experience.

People can be traumatized by emotional or physical abuse or neglect at a young age.  Early attachment disorders can contribute to feelings of not existing or extreme fear of abandonment which significantly limits a person from having healthy relationships.

There are many experiences that contribute to the effects of trauma and the creation of negative beliefs.  There are times that people have no knowledge of anything that has happen in the past to contribute to their issues or negative beliefs.  This is why we explore the touchstone event with a float back to the first time the person remembers having this negative belief or feeling.  It is important to understand that there are people who are highly sensitive and can react to emotional circumstances that would not emotionally harm someone else.

So how does a person recover from any type of trauma (past or present), the intrusive thoughts or body memories, and negative beliefs that it has created? I believe that EMDR and Ego State Therapy  are proven therapies to heal. I utilize these therapies with great success and help those who have been suffering heal.  Ego State Therapy can help a person integrate parts that may be frozen in time. Many of us have made statements such as, “I feel like I acted like a 2 year old”.  This may be a part of ourselves, that when triggered consciously or unconsciously, gets activated and the adult self is not in charge anymore. This is different than Dissociative Identity Disorder because the person usually remembers the incident and does not have lapses of time in which they do not remember their behaviors.

There is so much involved in helping someone heal, but I would like to focus on the negative beliefs that traumatic experiences can create.  When we are stuck in our lives, it is frequently a negative belief that plagues our recovery. For example, “I am not good enough”; I am powerless; I am not in control or need to be in complete control; I am not safe; I am unworthy, etc.  Most of these are illogical to the person stating them but they feel true.  The reason is that  these beliefs originate in the past which is why EMDR always looks at the origin of the belief or feeling even if a person comes in for a present trauma, i.e., car accident.

Core beliefs, both negative and positive,  can originate in our early development. Developmentally from birth to around 2 determines safety and trust or mistrust and this is when we develop drive and hope. From 2 1/2 or 3 the child begins their first step towards separating, and they either learn autonomy or shame and doubt and learn self-control, courage and will.  From 3 to 5 we work on initiative vs. guilt, and this is a time to develop our purpose.  From 6 to 12 we develop industry vs. inferiority and work on being competent. These early developmental stages, when not met well, contribute to negative beliefs about the self.  What is interesting is that up until adolescence our development depends upon what has been done to us, and once we hit adolescence our development depends upon what we do. This is the good news because that means all these stages can be reworked to a successful outcome.

How does someone change a negative belief and have a positive belief feel completely true?  To begin with, it is important to help a person bring their younger self forward in time.  Many times the younger part feels stuck in the past even though the adult part feels that the traumatic experience is over.  This is accomplished using creative visualizing and hypnosis.  This is an amazing experience  and for the first time the person usually feels as if there is hope.  We then continue with the EMDR protocol and the adaptive information processing, and the person begins to heal and the identified positive belief eventually feels completely true.

Even though many of us do not feel we have had any trauma in our life, we can still have negative beliefs that we cannot understand.  There can been many reasons that negative beliefs develop including a person being highly sensitive.  In addition, as the above information states, if we have not adequately met developmental milestones, negative beliefs are created. The EMDR protocol can still help a person eliminate that negative belief.  It is an amazing therapy that heals.

I sincerely hope that this information helps you in some way and leads you towards eliminating what creates suffering in your life and helps you create joy.  There is a wonderful Zen quote,  “Life is painful but suffering is optional.”

Cheryl Rubin, MSW, LCSW




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