You may have even resigned yourself to the idea that recovering from sexual assault isn’t possible. Are you reminded daily about the trauma related to your sexual assault? In the morning you might arise after a restless night of trying to sleep. Occasionally, a new reminder or memory may intrude on your thoughts. Memories that you didn’t realize were related to that terrible time may be triggered when you least suspect it.
It feels terrible. In fact, you’ve may have already been to therapy, but feel that experience just made things worse.
Don’t give up. Sexual abuse recovery is possible thanks to eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).
There’s a reason why you feel stuck, trapped, and unable to move on with your life. The assault caused your brain to revert to a more primitive state. In this state, your brain is focused on one thing: protecting you. That’s why in certain situations you get anxious really quickly. Or, you have trouble remembering certain things that happened to you. Your brain is working to protect you as best it can from the trauma.
The problem, though, is that this actually interferes with your daily life. You might be able to function pretty well day-to-day. However, eventually, you are triggered by something that happens to you, especially when you least expect it. Thus, your quality of life just isn’t the same as it was before the sexual assault.
The Resourcing Phase of EMDR Therapy
One important aspect of EMDR when it comes to recovering from sexual assault is the resourcing phase. This phase is all about preparing you for the EMDR experience. You don’t just sit down and start doing EMDR right off the bat. Preparation work is needed so that you have the best chance of success.
With resourcing, you and your therapist equip you with tools to help manage stress and provide relief when you need it. This is important because processing memories from any trauma, let alone sexual assault, isn’t easy work at all. Having resources for stress relief, as well as taking time to practice the EMDR technique, will help a lot.
Memory Processing and Recovering from Sexual Assault
In this phase, you work with your therapist to both process and resolve the memory. This is accomplished by utilizing eye movements while recalling specific memories. Your therapist helps you track you’re your eyes back and forth by following a finger or other object, such as a pen. This creates a rhythm that allows you to then recall a memory related to the sexual abuse.
The rhythm of the eye movements helps your brain refrain from eliciting the fear associated with the memory. Without that fear, you are better able to receive positive input and process what happened, as well as the thoughts keeping you stuck.
Resolving Memories of Sexual Abuse
Over time, the memories associated with your sexual abuse experience becomes less painful. At first, you can only hold that memory for a short period of time before needing to step away. That’s okay. However, as you continue your sexual abuse recovery work, it becomes increasingly possible to hold that memory for longer.
Essentially, rather than simply talking about the memory, you are experiencing it. You’re just doing so without the fear. This allows your brain to sort out those memories and mentally catalog them with better accuracy. Within a few sessions, it’s possible to feel less fearful and anxious. For many, it’s a liberating experience after holding all those memories of abuse for long periods of time.
Be gentle with yourself. Recovering from sexual assault is a process. It’s a journey that, for many, has been years in the making and can be alternately discouraging and challenging.
Fortunately, sexual abuse recovery is possible if you allow yourself some support and professional guidance. With the direction of EMDR and a compassionate, trained therapist, you can get the help you need. To find out more about how trauma therapy can help you, please contact me soon.