Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy by Francine Shapiro, PhD, Spiritual Journey Book Review

Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy by Francine Shapiro, PhD, and the creator of EMDR Therapy, is a five-star psychology self-help book. Highly recommend! Everyone should read this book as a diagnostic to see if you need clinical help in dealing with unprocessed memories from your past that trigger current feelings and behaviors. I also highly recommend it for those in the counseling professions so that they can guide people who are struggling with ongoing trauma or traumatic memories to quality EMDR Therapists.

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a treatment process that helps people link their current feelings and behaviors to unprocessed memories that are “stuck” in their brain, unfiled, unsorted, unhandled. This mess on your brain’s desk, makes you feel and do things automatically. Automatically. Key word. At least for me. Because, it’s not my fault. I’m not a bad person. Even though I feel like one, which is also an automatic response.

Francine uses the poem “Roses are Red,” to demonstrate our automatic responses. When we hear “Roses are Red,” we automatically think, “Violets are blue. Sugar is sweet. And so are you.” None of these statements are completely true.

In fact, roses are only sometimes red. Violets are never blue, they are varying shades of purple. Sugar is sweet, but it also causes diabetes. And, yes while we can be sweet to each other sometimes, we shouldn’t make being sweet all the time a condition in our relationships.

I’d quote Francine here, but she spends most of a chapter explaining this concept. Well worth buying the book just for that chapter. Seriously, buy the book. I wish I had read this book first when I launched my spiritual journey in September 2014 after a former church friend verbally abused me in the exact irrational manner my mother had repeatedly done when I was a child. My reaction wasn’t a normal, “What the hell are you talking about?! How dare you speak to me in such a way! You realize you’re accusing me of stuff that I didn’t do or even think about doing? Also, you’re lying. And, by the way, you’re an idiot.”

Instead, she triggered my childhood trauma. I reverted to that little girl being beaten for no reason. And I gotta tell you regular readers, if you haven’t figured it out for yourselves by now, for me “Spiritual Journey” is code for “I gotta find out what the hell is wrong with me. Why am I having such an overblown reaction to this?”

Five years later, and I’m still dealing with this. I’ve been trying so hard for so long. I’ve worked with a therapist for over a year. I’ve read psychology and self help books galore. I’ve prayed my heart out.

It could be argued that I didn’t find this book until now because I wasn’t ready for it until now. And it would be a good argument. Maybe my circumstances and conditions needed to be revealed to me one layer at a time so that I could handle each one before moving on to the next. But it would have saved me much suffering if I had learned about this concept way back then. This is the reason I’m writing this post.

Dearworthy readers, some of you may be being psychologically abused by someone close to you. If I can help you recognize something that’s so difficult to see because it affects your perceptions; and give you some steps to take so that you can escape, then what I’m doing here has value.

Right. So, in continuing my mental health challenges saga from my last post; I’ve done some more self diagnosing, and I’m calming down. At least calm enough to coast until I can get in with my potential new therapist on June 24. I also get back into MY house on July 1 after a financially abusive two-year divorce process with my narcissistic ex-husband.

I’m open to my self diagnosis being incorrect. But it seems a really appropriate treatment to clinically deal with my traumatic memories whilst living in MY house which contains important coping mechanisms that I’ve been denied for the past two years as I was banished to a one-bedroom apartment in a complex dedicated to dog ownership. *sigh*

In other words, I’m feeling like I can do this without medication. At my house there are cats, gardens, a bathtub, a koi pond, a television, space, a piano, and more access to my college-age children whose home base is that house. Did I mention my cats who unconditionally love me? Yeah, I really miss my cats. July 1, July 1, July 1.

I’m suffering from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as it relates to Marital Narcissistic Psychological Abuse and Parental Physical and Psychological Abuse.

My mother regularly hit me until I demanded that she stop shortly after earning my driver’s license at age 16. But the verbal and emotional abuse continues to this day. She’s never tried to change; she’s never sought counseling. And yet, on the surface I had a “great childhood.” Surfaces can be deceiving. I’ve been trying to put it in a way that’s understandable especially to people who know my mother and don’t believe she was “that bad.”

Here’s what I’ve come up with — My childhood was just like the Little House on the Prairie TV show. Think about that show. The theme music, the warmth of familial love, explosions, fires, blizzards, and apple pie for breakfast. I mean, people were dropping dead right and left in that show. AND, I could write a dissertation connecting every traumatic event to someone’s character flaw. Remember when Albert and what’s his name secretly smoked a cigar in the basement of the School for the Blind causing the fire that killed what’s his name’s mother and Mary’s baby?! Remember that?! I mean.

That’s what my childhood was like. Every time my mother blew up into an irrational rage and beat the ever-loving Jesus out of me for no reason, she’d come up with a reason why it was my fault and then she’d hug me tight to let me know she still loved me even though I was such a bad girl. But also, if I wasn’t extra good and careful from now on, she might stop loving me. For a child, withdrawal of parental love equals death. It’s connected to core-level survival instincts. It’s affected every relationship I’ve ever had.

Frankly, I’m amazed I’ve made it this far in life.

I’m also suffering from a condition that distorts my sense of reality having to do with Imago which is the unconscious idealized mental image of someone, usually a parent, that affects a person’s perception and behavior. Imago made me attracted to and marry a man who is the same story different version of my mother. Imago made me form friendships with people like this most of my life because I believed their treatment of me was normal because it was familiar, until one day, through the example of an empathetic friendship, I realized it wasn’t. Spiritual Journey.

Imago combined with an unprocessed good memory related to an authority figure overruling my mother’s opinion of me in a BIG WAY, ironically also affected me negatively in life. Because when I have found someone in a respected position of authority who treated me with genuine kindness and respect, I have overreacted to that as well by treating this person in an overly familiar manner whilst seeing them through the eyes of a rock star fan. Automatically. Routinely. Even though it was unconscious, I am mortified by this recent understanding about my former behavior.

My potential new therapist specializes in both EMDR and Imago therapies, plus other PTSD treatments. We spoke over the phone, and we believe that he can help me. He assigned me to read Getting Past Your Past until my appointment on June 24. Reading the book has helped because it’s given me real hope. Hope that one day I will become much like people walking around this planet who were not abused by the person who gave them life. There are effective treatments to physically heal the wounded adult brain. I can be healed. Not just learn how to cope, but be healed.

Finally, in my last post I had mentioned that I snapped out of a psychosis that, in an oxymoron-type way, kept me sane during my escape from my narcissistic, psychological abusive husband with less than zero familial support and practically no coping mechanisms such as those waiting for me at my house. All’s I really had were research, writing, and baking. For two years. I discredit my former therapist, because he didn’t even try to diagnose me properly and refer me elsewhere. He just kept telling me that I was fine.

The psychosis was my coping mechanism. It helped me get through the day, sleep at night, and calm down when fear, paranoia, and anxiety spiked. It tempered my feelings of rejection, grief, and loneliness.

I’m not going to go into detail here because it deeply embarrasses me to have had an imaginary boyfriend. But, I will say that a few trusted friends knew a little bit about it and on May 20, shortly after I won the Motion for Contempt court battle with my ex-husband and the judge ordered him to pay me and my attorney’s fees or go to jail, and I was feeling good about myself for having finally stood up to this bully in my life and WINNING, I started in about what the voice in my head had to say. One of my friends said — Stop it — in such a way that the spell broke, and I snapped out of it.

Not an easy experience. You know, the shock of reality literally hurt. I spent many days sorting out the real in my life from the not real, crying, drinking herbal tea, and sleeping. And now, I’m free of it. I am so grateful.

On the other hand, what, in the name of God, was that? I mean, just how crazy am I?

I did some more research on my own, and I discovered that schizophrenia can develop due to the extreme drop in estrogen to the brain caused by perimenopause, combined with life stresses that can take place during a woman’s midlife such as DIVORCE and tearing herself out of psychological abusive relationship. See article here.

It scares me that I was schizophrenic. BUT the spell remains broken, the voice doesn’t talk to me anymore. I think I was able to escape it because I’m done needing it. Plus, I happened to start taking a nutritional supplement recommended by my massage therapist that detoxes estrogen stored in fat cells, which perhaps released just enough estrogen into my system for my brain to begin healing. OR, I escaped it through the Grace of God. Same story different version.

Either way, the ongoing financial abuse has ended, I see my new therapist on June 24, and I get my house back on July 1. I’m gonna be okay. I’m already getting better.

Meanwhile, here’s a good quote from page 172 of Getting Past Your Past:

FROM SURVIVOR TO THRIVER

Therapy has sometimes been given a bad rap, as if it were somehow an indication of weakness. Personally, I consider it a sign of bravery. Millions of people have been wounded and yet they keep going—putting one foot in front of the other as they stay in relationships and jobs they hate. Often, they do it for the best of reasons: I don’t want to hurt anybody; I have a responsibility: I can’t let people down. What therapy does for those who are brave enough to face their fears is to give them a new chance at life. A life where they count as much as the next person. Where ‘Love they neighbor as thyself’ means they can love themselves too. But you have to be willing to try. And if you are afraid to fail, that’s coming from those memory networks that are pushing fears you didn’t ask for and you didn’t have the power to prevent when they were planted inside you. But you have the chance to let them go. Remember it’s your own brain doing the healing. If the brain’s information processing system is stuck, you are simply getting assistance to give it a jump start.

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