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"Driver, Take Me Back To Hell"

Updated on December 20, 2010

Psychotherapy and revisiting trauma

I've been answering questions on Yahoo Answers off and on for years. One thing I've noticed is that there are a lot of people asking questions of a psychological nature.

Many are depressed and are classic textbook cases which call for treatment by means of antidepressants. But there are many that require more than a glass of water and a Prozac or whatever the latest happy pill that's on the market today.They need therapy. Intensive therapy in some cases.

Now, I hold no degrees in Psychology though it was my major in college and I'm by far no expert. But I do know human nature and I have a deep understanding of how the psyche works. I wont blast you with psychological gibberish and Freudian theories. I'm simply going to try and explain a few things about revisiting psychological traumas in therapy.

I have indeed studied Psychology and I've always been fascinated with it. I was in Law Enforcement for 13 years and I've seen the worst in people as well as the best. I've seen true evil. I've stared it in the face. I've learned about human nature in ways that most people could never imagine, even if you do watch NYPD Blue on a regular basis. But I digress-let's get back to the subject at hand.

What I want to do is alleviate some of the fears and explain a few things to you, especially if you're in a depressed state and/or you're newly in therapy or considering entering into it.

I saw a lot of questions on Yahoo Answers about why a therapist wants to take their patients back in time to revisit a childhood trauma or some other very painful event that has taken place in their lives. Of course no one wants to relive a traumatic event but let me tell you why it is sometimes a necessary evil to revisit your personal Hell.

First of all, traumatic events affect us in our everyday lives. It matters not if you were 5 or 25, if you have been a victim of something like sexual abuse or domestic abuse, you will be affected by it even if you think you're over it. It could be anything from the aforementioned traumas to being bullied as a child in school. It might not even seem so traumatic to you now so you don't see what all the fuss is about. I myself have been there and have come to realize that the pain and and all it's fallout must be faced and dealt with. Now let me tell you why in my own common sense fashion. Just a regular person, no psychobabble or dissertations. Just you and me, talking like friends. Think of yourself as asking me "Tina, why in the world would my Shrink want me to relive this horror?" This is my answer.

Human beings were not designed to hold in emotional pain and anger. Yet we do. You may have been molested by your father which is a God-awful horrid thing to be put through. Yet, you may still even love him and see him on a regular basis. No one speaks of the evil in the household but everyone knows about it and has simply pushed it to the back of their minds and has kept the skeleton in the closet. And you are the one who carries the pain and the horror of those moments.(Again, it can be any traumatic experience, not just one of a sexual nature.)

You have put it behind you, or so you think. Yet you find yourself having bouts of depression, or unexplained mood swings that are not of a chemical nature and you don't completely understand why. Maybe you have problems with your temper and anger management issues. Perhaps you cut yourself because you see the blood flowing and with it the pain flows out as well...for the time being. You might have a sense of self-loathing which you don't even recognize it as such. It comes out when you cut yourself or you silently berate yourself over some small, insignificant mistake. This is all a product of inner rage. That's exactly what depression is. It's rage turned inward. However, depression isn't the only tool the psyche uses to tell you something is wrong. It could manifest in a series of physical ailments or phobias as well. It can even be the cause of some obsessive-compulsive behaviors like hoarding, or being too possessive in relationships.

You see, the pain inside that you've never allowed yourself to truly feel, face and deal with is fighting to get out. We are not designed to hold in emotions like that. Society alone sometimes forces us to do so making us afraid that we will appear crazy or neurotic to others. Or perhaps the event is something that has made you ashamed. Whatever Hell you experienced is revisited every single day of your life in your actions and interactions with people and even yourself. It can make you lash out at others, hurt yourself, hurt someone else, self medicate with drugs and alcohol just so you don't have to feel anything at all or render you incapable of loving others or yourself. It can make you a cold, unemotional robot that might get things done in your daily life but that is sadly lacking in real human interaction. If you are capable of love, it can drive those you love the most away because you cannot, will not, open up to them and let them in. And I mean to let them really in to see the real you. That pain is masked by false bravado and/or denial many times and pushed aside. But there are those who can see through this smoke screen of extemporaneous bullshit, (if you'll pardon my rather blunt expletive.) Hopefully, you will recognize the need within yourself to seek help before it's too late.

If you have come to the conclusion that you need to see a professional, don't worry about digging up the past and all that. Start with the therapist and let them do their job. They are the ones who know how to deal with a patient that has experienced pain and trauma. Let them take the lead. They will set the pace. They will listen, evaluate and yes, bombard you with questions but it's all working toward a goal- to make you a complete and mentally stable and healthy person who can enjoy life once they've dealt with their inner Hell and it's demons that have kept you a prisoner from within.

I wont tell you that it will be comfortable. It wasn't comfortable when it happened and it wont be comfortable when revisited but this is where your therapist or Doctor comes in. You have to trust them to know what they're doing. They didn't spend all that time in school and all that hard work for their degree to traumatize their patients, give them a pill and say "Carry on. That's a brave little soldier" and leave it at that. There is work to be done and if you let them, they'll do it. You have to understand that it is not them that is traumatizing you. It's the trauma itself.

You're going to feel nearly every human emotion you can think of while in therapy. But you must understand that these memories are no longer viable entities that can hurt you now. It's over. It's done with. All except for your confronting your own pain that you've buried so deeply inside that it makes you a person unrecognizable to even yourself.Or, in case you are still caught up in an ongoing trauma, your therapist or Doctor will do their best to help you find the out. Be it an abusive relationship or some other situational crisis.

Are you afraid of the emotions you'll feel all over again? Having a good cry never killed anyone so there is no reason to fear it. Even if you find yourself on the floor in the fetal position crying like a child, it's all for the good and the goal. You'll feel the anger (that sometimes you don't even realize you're feeling) and in some cases even the terror you experienced but the more you confront it and let yourself release it the less frightening it becomes. The monster begins to shrink by and by. You'll find that the tears will lessen and the monster isn't so scary anymore because you've seen it, looked it in the face and this time, you and your therapist will be in control. You'll find little by little yourself feeling freer and lighter although it can be exhausting at the beginning. All that pain is heavy and has been weighing you down. You wouldn't believe the amount of energy suppressing those emotions actually takes away from you. In time, you will feel stronger and more in control. In time, you'll have your life back or you might even feel reborn.

So, if perhaps you see a little of yourself in this article and you are considering therapy or are already in therapy then I hope I've made you less afraid. It takes a lot of courage to face the pain but you can and will get through it. Let your Doctor or therapist lead you through it in their own time. Don't be in a rush. They know what they're doing and are prepared to deal with the deluge of emotions that their patients experience and release during these times. It's okay to reach out for help because really we all need each other, don't we? If we were the only person left in the world alive, we'd slowly lose our minds. I personally believe that we were put on this earth to help each other and that is exactly what your Doctor or therapist wants to do. Initially painful and frightening, it is a stepping stone to healing and recovery. It's a building block to help you reclaim your life as it should be. Who knows? Maybe someday you might find yourself counseling others. After all, you've been to Hell and back.


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