By Dana Stewart

As a therapist I am often thinking about the impact of trauma on people’s lives. Many people believe that trauma only refers to very large scale events, like a major car accident, sexual assault, the death of a loved one, or war. But trauma is different for everyone, and sometimes trauma happens in very subtle ways. A trauma can be any action or event that causes a pervasive negative psychological and physiological reaction, such as being bullied or teased at school, losing a treasured job, or being diagnosed with an unexpected illness.

It’s important to remember that one person experiences as traumatic, might not feel traumatic to another person, so it can be easy to dismiss some of the traumatic events in our lives as “no big deal”, when in all actuality, they caused a lot of pain. And even once an event has long based, the memory of that trauma can be stored and experienced in the body in ways that we may not recognize or cognitively understand. This trauma can continue to impact our body in various ways (i.e. flashbacks, muscle tension, nightmares, heart racing, sweating, feeling disconnected to surroundings or your body, feeling fear, hypervigilance, social anxiety, etc.)

Enter Brainspotting. Brainspotting was developed by David Grand as an offshoot of EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Brainspotting is a largely intuitive process that takes place between a client and a trusted therapist in order to allow your body to release past memories of stress and trauma. When we feel traumatized, it is normal for the body to want to shut down or repress the feelings, when what it really needs is to actively process through the feelings and sensations so they can then be released. Brainspotting puts your body into a state of temporary physical reactivation so that it has the opportunity to properly process the feelings, emotions, and sensations that it didn’t process at the time of the original event.

In Brainspotting, you find a spot within your field of vision that brings up feelings of activation in your body. This can show up in many different ways, such as anxiety, facial and body movements, emotional responses, shivering, feeling tired, yawning, etc. These are the feelings and sensations, within the fight/flight/freeze system in your body, that weren’t properly processed at the time of the original trauma. This spot (and we have many) is connected to areas in our brain and body that continue to hold onto this trauma. Because Brainspotting is focused on feelings and sensations in the body, we don’t have to attach them to any particular memory.

So Brainspotting can effectively alleviate many unpleasant feelings and sensations, even if they aren’t seemingly attached to a significant event that took place in your life. The beauty of it is that your body wants to heal and Brainspotting provides a pathway for that healing.

As with any kind of therapy, every individual experience is different. Brainspotting is a gentle and effective way of reducing the physical feelings and emotions you have in your body and mind that are uncomfortable.  Your body will start to shift and heal and you will feel, at some point, a calmer nervous system and feelings of greater confidence and safety within your body.

To learn more about Brainspotting, or to schedule an appointment, contact me at dana@cardinalpsychotherapy.com.