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My clients like this! A story that explains trauma/PTSD and its treatment with EMDR.

This "jungle explorer" metaphor has been very popular with my clients who are troubled by things in their past, such as neglect or abuse, as children or adults. It goes like this:

So life is like an Amazon jungle expedition, where you are looking for lost treasure--pyramids, gold, ancient cities. That's like taking responsibility to search for meaning. But every once in a while, you have to cross a muddy Amazon river filled with piranhas. This is like life.

Usually, you get out on the other side bitten up, knock off the piranhas that are still stuck, and put on some bandages. Then you say, "whew, that was bad," and move on, continuing to look for treasure, and leaving a pile of dead fish behind. That's like the bad things that happen to us in life.

But sometimes, the piranha has bitten you so deep that it won't come off, and you just have to move on with it flapping around continuing to bite and hurt. Or worse, it hurts so bad that you can't move on, and feel a loss of meaning because the search for treasure is called off. This is like trauma.

Trauma is something from the past that still hurts and affects life. Even you crossed the river 20 years ago, it is stupid for someone to say to you, "that was so long ago--why don't you just move on!" because it wasn't 20 years ago--the piranha is still stuck, hurting in the present, right now. Functionally, trauma is still happening, because the memory is stuck.

EMDR can cure trauma. If trauma is like a stuck piranha, EMDR goes after the teeth. I respect any trauma therapy that works. However, every other trauma therapy just cuts some of the piranha's tail off, so that it doesn't hurt as bad. But EMDR goes for the teeth, entirely resolving the trauma, so that all symptoms go away. The fish is gone, as though it is just something bad that happened in the past. Often people who heal from trauma say, "I know it happened, but now it feels like telling a story about someone else."

One client went further in describing this. I asked him how disturbing the memory was on a scale of 0-10, but instead of answering with a number, he said, "It's just another dead fish." What he meant was that the horrible memory of rape as a child was beyond a zero--it was completely gone, and the numbers didn't apply. At least that was his insightful observation.

Nothing can make a bad memory good. But none of my clients want to erase any memories, and would prefer a cure to being numbed out so that they just hurt less. The reality of how EMDR works is a bit more complicated, and there is the added bonus that not only is there usually a total cure, the beliefs that develop over time, affecting life, such as "I am damaged," or "I can't trust anyone," or any number of things--these are also erased, dramatically altering life experience in the present and future.

If you are hurting due to events in your past, including those that don't seem to hurt that bad (neglect), call me to ask about EMDR. You can also look at my homepage and my blog for more information.


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