Leaving the past behind: Creating Change in Your Life with the use of EMDR and Gottman Therapy
One of my favourite quotes is from Gabor Mate, a compassionate doctor who has made an incredible impact on the world of addiction and trauma. He states, “We may not be responsible for the world that created our minds, but we can take responsibility for the mind with which we create our world.” This is a profound statement, as it relates to the impact that our families of origin, childhood, siblings, and teenage experiences have on all of us as we develop.
Families are the first society we belong to; from them, we learn who we are, what our value can be, and how the world works. But for many people, family experiences are not safe or happy ones.
The ACE study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, which involved over 17,000 middle-class Americans, examined the issues of childhood abuse and dysfunction. It noted that adverse childhood experiences often included some or all the following:
- Physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse
- An alcohol and/or drug abuser in the household
- An incarcerated household member
- A household member who is chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized, or suicidal
- A mother who is treated violently
- Absence of parents
- Emotional or physical neglect
The results were shocking: 68 percent of study participants were raised in families that imposed some form of early childhood trauma upon them. Moreover, the study found a direct correlation between trauma, longevity, and health. In her TED talk, Nadine Burke Harris expands on this finding check it out at this link-
While this may seem like a rather hopeless and discouraging reality, there is certainly hope for people who have been through some type of trauma in the past. EMDR trauma therapy and Gottman couples’ therapy are excellent ways to help address the lasting impacts. These forms of therapy provide opportunities for people to create a new world for themselves, unhindered by any unfair or unjust beginnings. The following is an overview of how I create change for couples, individuals and families in my practice. I integrate EMDR and Gottman therapy.
While EMDR helps heal childhood hurts, that left untreated becomes the baggage we carry into relationships. Gottman therapy supports couples in creating a new, shared family system together. Both work in conjunction with one another to help leave past traumas behind. With the right support, I believe that people always move towards wellness – it’s hardwired into our biology to love and accept love.
More frequently than not, individuals with unmet needs from their family origins couple with individuals who complement the experience. For example, if you come from a family that never talked about feelings, it’s likely that you would partner with someone who is very capable of sharing their emotions and feelings. I find this utterly fascinating. As it is evidence that intuitively we know what we missed out on and the direction we need to go to be well.
There is a challenge, though. While you may long to have your feelings honoured, never having experienced this in your family of origin can make it difficult to tolerate it from your partner. The old saying ‘be careful what you wish for’ comes to mind. It’s a strange irony that subconsciously we know what we need, even if it’s hard to tolerate. But we can learn very quickly to become comfortable with experiences that are health yet foreign.
If you’ve ever doubted your capacity for creating the life you want, know this: you can do it. It helps to find someone who can be your cheerleader, like a friend, doctor or therapist, teacher, or even a pet. Don’t hesitate to look to them for support when you need it.
But first, work towards being honest with yourself about your past traumas. Understanding your wounds – whether from your family of origin or simply from life bumping you around – is an important first step to reclaiming and rewriting the story of your life.