At the heart of most symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD and more, lies trauma. The trauma may be due to psychological or physical abuse, abandonment, neglect, bullying, accidents, invasive surgeries, natural disasters, or societal oppression. But no matter the cause, when people are traumatized, painful emotions are frozen in their bodies along with certain beliefs about themselves and the world, such as “I must be bad or my mother wouldn’t have neglected me” or “If I show others my emotions, they will think I’m weak… like my father did.”
These feelings and beliefs are often too painful for children to process. So they develop coping mechanisms to avoid dealing with them. Some kids numb themselves by overeating, drinking, or throwing themselves into schoolwork and achievement. Others focus only on their fears and develop anxiety. Still others deny all their feelings, the good and the bad, and wind up depressed and/or riddled with psychosomatic illnesses. And believe it or not, these strategies work. They help kids function… for a while.
The trouble is that as children get older, their early coping mechanisms start to turn on them. Overeating, drinking, or a focus on achievement can develop into addictions. Anxiety and depression can sap all the joy from life, work, and relationships. So while children initially adopt these strategies to keep themselves from feeling profound pain, the strategies wind up causing them more pain in the end.
Fortunately there are several trauma-informed techniques, such as EMDR, IFS (Internal Family Systems) and AEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy), that can help people release the pain they’ve kept from their consciousness and heal from it. These are the primary techniques I use in my practice. Once you and I enter into this process, your coping mechanisms will longer be needed and their negative impact no longer felt. All the energy you had previously used to avoid your feelings can now be channeled into building a life full of purpose and joy.