Good day Jonesy, and thank you for taking the time to reach out for help. Let me first state that I am deeply sorry for the experience you have had with regards to the you have endured while growing up. Traumatic experiences of any kind often do result in distressing and negative experiences and symptoms.
The answer to your question is not so simple, but i will certainly do my best to provide you with some clarification and resources that will help you to hopefully better understand your experience and how to work through and potentially resolve the distressing symptoms and experiences you are having. As is usually the case in circumstances pertaining to childhood emotional abuse and trauma, psychotherapy in combination with medication are often the best and most efficient treatments. However, depending on the severity of one's experience and symptoms, there are absolutely other means of recovering from distress and one can certainly try any of them and should they not prove to be effective, utilizing additional and/or different resources would be the healthiest way of proceeding along your journey of recovery towards a happy, healthy, and joyous life experience. With that being said, most often an individual’s being “triggered” can be attributed to Anxiety. Anxiety is also a common outcome as a result of traumatic experiences and "threats" to one's self, either physically or psychologically. Anxiety can have a paralyzing affect on a person. This "fear" can often present as isolation, avoidance, and withdrawal from relationships. As for wanting to attempt to begin your journey of recovery and healing, the following are some very good resources to start with should you want to attempt to work through the issues by yourself or without professional help. However, I must say that I would highly encourage you to have a supportive person identified whom you can turn to for support should the workbook begin to have you address things or if you start to experience things as a result of the workbook's guidance that becomes overwhelming and distressing for you. -The PTSD Workbook: Simple, Effective Techniques for Overcoming Traumatic Stress Symptoms Workbook Third Edition by Mary Beth Williams (Author), Soili Poijula (Author) *In the third edition of The PTSD Workbook, psychologists and trauma experts Mary Beth Williams and Soili Poijula offer readers the most effective tools available for overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). -Complex PTSD Workbook: A Mind-Body Approach To Regaining Emotional Control And Becoming Whole by Arielle Schwartz -The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for PTSD (A New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook)by Kirby Reutter -The Cognitive Behavioral Coping Skills Workbook for PTSD: Overcome Fear and Anxiety and Reclaim Your Life (A New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook) by Matthew T Tull PhD (Author), Kim L. Gratz PhD (Author), Alexander L. Chapman PhD RPsych (Author).
In regards to working through and healing from the abuse you wrote about, there are several different therapeutic techniques and approaches that address root traumas and “heal that pain inside” so to speak, by therapeutically addressing the cause as opposed to the symptoms. Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR), Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
As I am certified in TIR, I will speak on that method first. TIR is a rapid (compared to traditional therapy) method of effectively reducing traumatic stress from emotionally and/or physically painful events in the past. It involves re-experiencing past traumas in a completely safe environment, free of distractions, judgments, or interpretations.
When something happens that is physically or emotionally painful, one has the option of (1) either confronting it fully and feeling the pain, or (2) trying in some way to block one’s awareness of it. In the first case, the action of experiencing (perceiving and understanding) what has occurred is allowed to go to completion and the incident becomes a past incident. However, in the second case, the action of experiencing that incident is blocked. That is, one represses the incident, and the incident (together with the intention not to experience it, and any other intentions and activities present in the incident), continues to exist as ongoing unfinished business. Such traumatic incidents may continue to exert negative effects. We say such incidents carry charge defined as “repressed, unfulfilled intention”. This blocking activity is a self-protective impulse. It “works” to a certain extent, but it can cause us to have attention and awareness tied up in incidents from the past. This has a dulling effect on our ability to perceive, to respond intelligently in the present, and to enjoy our current environment. Unexamined, unresolved past events tie up our energy and intention. Traumatic Incident Reduction provides a safe space and the means to fully examine that which had been blocked. A past incident loses its ability to hurt us at the point where we have looked it through and through. In the process, we release our resistance as well as the painful emotion and negative thought patterns contained in that past trauma. At the point where the incident has been fully viewed, we feel our attention become un-stuck from it and often have some realization. This is called an endpoint. The idea that present difficulties may be caused by past traumatic incidents is not a new one. It was with the recognition of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a major difficulty for many returning Vietnam Vets, that it was given a higher profile. Once the phenomenon was clearly recognized, PTSD was easily identifiable among other populations, such as rape survivors and victims of natural disasters. People with PTSD are severely incapacitated by ongoing, uncontrolled remembrance of their traumas. In effect, they are continually reliving these incidents. Although survivors of trauma who have PTSD and flashbacks offer perhaps the most dramatic example of living in the past, the phenomenon of having attention fixated on past incidents is quite common to people in general. In normal life, most people can be triggered into a momentary or prolonged reliving of past traumas of varying degrees of severity, with attendant negative feelings and behavior. TIR is a technique designed to examine the cognitive, emotional, perceptual, or other content of past incidents, to reduce or eliminate the emotional charge contained in them, and thus to relieve a person of their negative consequences, whether or not a diagnosis of PTSD applies to the person.
In the great majority of cases, TIR correctly applied results in the complete and permanent elimination of PTSD symptomatology. It also provides valuable insights, which the viewer (or client) arrives at quite spontaneously, without any prompting from the facilitator (practitioner), and hence can “own” entirely as his/her own. By providing a means for completely confronting a painful incident, TIR can and does deliver relief from the negative effects, enabling the person to move on. The resolution of past traumatic incidents can bring about a greatly improved quality of life. You can find practitioners who are trained in TIR all around the world by using this link: https://www.tira.org/find-a-practitioner/
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) is an evidenced-based, rapid-eye-movement therapy for the treatment of trauma, anxiety, depression, sleep problems, self-esteem problems, and other issues. Research shows that the course of treatment averages between three and four sessions. The gains made from ART therapy were still in effect 4 months after its conclusion. The cost of this therapy is comparable to most other mental health therapies. The key concepts of Accelerated Resolution Therapy include memory reconsolidation and smooth-pursuit eye movements. Together, these techniques help patients deal with issues like trauma, anxiety, depression, or sleep problems. When we remember an emotionally-based memory, one of the natural processes that occur in our brains is the “unfixing” or malleability of the memory. Scientists refer to this natural phenomenon as “Memory Reconsolidation.” Science has shown that the memory remains “malleable” in a period called the Reconsolidation Window for about 6 hours after recalling it. During this period, under the direction of the therapist, the client would imaginatively create new images that are peaceful or evoke pleasant feelings and replace the old troubling images that were previously paired with fear, anger, or other distressing emotions. Research shows that the new images and the accompanying positive feelings are still attached to the memory at follow-up 4 months after the treatment has ended. There are other published studies that show that the replacement images and positive feelings are still present as long as one year later. These improvements suggest that the therapy can be long-lasting. Another effective ingredient of ART is the use of “smooth pursuit” eye movements. Imagine an audience watching a tennis match, their eyes, gliding back and forth as they follow the ball from one side of the court to the other, This example demonstrates smooth pursuit eye movements. There is evidence that this kind of eye movement, over a period of time, relates to a relaxation response in the brain. The ART therapist would use their hand, moving it smoothly back and forth at a comfortable distance from the client, and ask the client to keep their head still and just track the hand. This exercise results in the engagement of smooth-pursuit eye movements. While eye movements have been extensively studied, there is still no definitive “proof” of how they work beyond creating the relaxation response. One popular hypothesis is that when a client is engaging in smooth-pursuit eye movements, they are roughly replicating Rapid Eye Movements (REMs) which occur while we are dreaming. It’s intuitive that dream simulation could somehow be used to solve problems and feel better about them, as indicated by expressions such as “sleep on it, you will feel better in the morning.” However, when we are asleep and dreaming, much of the rational/thinking part of our brains is asleep. Perhaps this is why our problem-solving capacity while sleeping is limited. Some suggest that while we do ART, all of the brain is awake and participating in the voluntary process of image replacement. The image replacement is thought to automatically cause us to have the peaceful or positive feelings the arise with the new images selected. ART therapy is a “Manualized” protocol, meaning each therapist is taught how to proceed through an ART therapy session following a step-by-step procedure. The therapist is in control of which step the client is working on and the order of the steps. However, the client is always in complete control of the content of their experience. In other words, when the client is recalling a memory that illustrates the problem they are working on, they have complete control over the details of what they are imagining. In the same way, the client has total control over what new images they select to replace the old images that they do not want to see or experience any more. Another important distinction is that a client can choose not to tell the therapist parts or all of the problem that they are working on, as well as the imaginative replacements that they think up and use in the recalled memory. If the client wishes, they can speak with the therapist outside of the explanations about the next step in the protocol. The therapist, however, will try and hold the talking to a minimum so that the client has plenty of time in the session to complete the changes that the client makes in their mind’s eye. Reticent clients may prefer ART. Moreover, talking and sharing about the session can briefly occur in that session and at greater length in a subsequent session if that is what the client wishes. ART is different from hypnosis. The client retains their ability to be consciously aware of their surroundings (externally) and what they are working on (internally). Sometimes clients do report that they feel very relaxed or even a little sleepy during an ART session. It is thought that this may be the natural result of the relaxation of the brain found to coincide with smooth-pursuit eye movements. Sometimes people feel uncomfortable with the idea of changing images, as well as corresponding feelings, attached to troubling memories in a purposeful way. However, the client is given the information about Memory Reconsolidation to explain the scientific understanding that this is a natural process that we all engage in whenever we recall an emotionally based memory. With ART, we are taking advantage of this natural process and purposefully and consciously selecting replacement images to replace the formerly upsetting ones.
And finally, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.
More than 30 positive controlled outcome studies have been done on EMDR therapy. Some of the studies show that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions. Another study, funded by the HMO Kaiser Permanente, found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions. There has been so much research on EMDR therapy that it is now recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization and the Department of Defense. Given the worldwide recognition as an effective treatment of trauma, you can easily see how EMDR therapy would be effective in treating the “everyday” memories that are the reason people have low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, and all the myriad problems that bring them in for therapy. Over 100,000 clinicians throughout the world use the therapy. Millions of people have been treated successfully over the past 25 years. EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment. Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used during one part of the session. After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief that, “I survived it and I am strong.” Unlike talk therapy, the insights clients gain in EMDR therapy result not so much from clinician interpretation, but from the client’s own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes. The net effect is that clients conclude EMDR therapy feeling empowered by the very experiences that once debased them. Their wounds have not just closed, they have transformed. As a natural outcome of the EMDR therapeutic process, the clients’ thoughts, feelings and behavior are all robust indicators of emotional health and resolution—all without speaking in detail or doing homework used in other therapies.
EMDR therapy combines different elements to maximize treatment effects. It involves attention to three time periods: the past, present, and future. Focus is given to past disturbing memories and related events. Also, it is given to current situations that cause distress, and to developing the skills and attitudes needed for positive future actions. With EMDR therapy, these items are addressed using an eight-phase treatment approach.
Phase 1: The first phase is a history-taking session(s). The therapist assesses the client’s readiness and develops a treatment plan. Client and therapist identify possible targets for EMDR processing. These include distressing memories and current situations that cause emotional distress. Other targets may include related incidents in the past. Emphasis is placed on the development of specific skills and behaviors that will be needed by the client in future situations. Initial EMDR processing may be directed to childhood events rather than to adult onset stressors or the identified critical incident if the client had a problematic childhood. Clients generally gain insight on their situations, the emotional distress resolves and they start to change their behaviors. The length of treatment depends upon the number of traumas and the age of PTSD onset. Generally, those with single event adult onset trauma can be successfully treated in under 5 hours. Multiple trauma victims may require a longer treatment time.
Phase 2: During the second phase of treatment, the therapist ensures that the client has several different ways of handling emotional distress. The therapist may teach the client a variety of imagery and stress reduction techniques the client can use during and between sessions. A goal of EMDR therapy is to produce rapid and effective change while the client maintains equilibrium during and between sessions.
Phases 3-6: In phases three to six, a target is identified and processed using EMDR therapy procedures. These involve the client identifying three things:
1. The vivid visual image related to the memory
2. A negative belief about self
3. Related emotions and body sensations.
In addition, the client identifies a positive belief. The therapist helps the client rate the positive belief as well as the intensity of the negative emotions. After this, the client is instructed to focus on the image, negative thought, and body sensations while simultaneously engaging in EMDR processing using sets of bilateral stimulation. These sets may include eye movements, taps, or tones. The type and length of these sets is different for each client. At this point, the EMDR client is instructed to just notice whatever spontaneously happens. After each set of stimulation, the clinician instructs the client to let his/her mind go blank and to notice whatever thought, feeling, image, memory, or sensation comes to mind. Depending upon the client’s report, the clinician will choose the next focus of attention. These repeated sets with directed focused attention occur numerous times throughout the session. If the client becomes distressed or has difficulty in progressing, the therapist follows established procedures to help the client get back on track. When the client reports no distress related to the targeted memory, (s)he is asked to think of the preferred positive belief that was identified at the beginning of the session. At this time, the client may adjust the positive belief if necessary, and then focus on it during the next set of distressing events.
Phase 7: In phase seven, closure, the therapist asks the client to keep a log during the week. The log should document any related material that may arise. It serves to remind the client of the self-calming activities that were mastered in phase two.
Phase 8: The next session begins with phase eight. Phase eight consists of examining the progress made thus far. The EMDR treatment processes all related historical events, current incidents that elicit distress, and future events that will require different responses.
Overall, I would recommend any of the three therapies that I’ve mentioned in this response.
Above all else, for any general state of "well-being" and certainly to aide in your journey, I will leave you with some tips on self-care: Self-care means taking time to do things you enjoy. Usually, self-care involves everyday activities that you find relaxing, fun, or energizing. These activities could be as simple as reading a book, or as big as taking a vacation. Self-care also means taking care of yourself. This means eating regular meals, getting enough sleep, caring for personal hygiene, and anything else that maintains good health. Make self-care a priority. There will always be other things to do, but don't let these interrupt the time you set aside for self-care. Self-care should be given the same importance as other responsibilities. Set specific self-care goals. It's difficult to follow through with vague goals, such as "I will take more time for self-care". Instead, try something specific, such as "I will walk for 30 minutes every evening after dinner". Make self-care a habit. Just like eating one apple doesn't eliminate health problems, using self-care just once won't have much effect on reducing stress. Choose activities that you can do often, and that you will stick with. Set boundaries to protect your self-care. You don't need a major obligation to say "no" to others— your self-care is reason enough. Remind yourself that your needs are as important as anyone else's. A few minutes of self-care is better than no self-care. Set an alarm reminding you to take regular breaks, even if it's just a walk around the block, or an uninterrupted snack. Oftentimes, stepping away will energize you to work more efficiently when you return. Unhealthy activities don't count as self-care. Substance use, over-eating, and other unhealthy behaviors might hide uncomfortable emotions temporarily, but they cause more problems in the long run. Keep up with self-care, even when you're feeling good. Doing so will keep you in a healthy routine. Plus, self-care might be part of the reason why you're feeling good! I wish you all the best in your journey of recovery and please don't hesitate to reach out to me should you desire any further information, resources, or support