ASK ABDI: WHAT METHODS DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR DEEP TRAUMA-BASED ANXIETY?
QUESTION: I started doing inner child work on myself last year to help work through this fear I have while driving and this feeling of being stuck. I am the youngest of 11 - we grew up very poor. I was molested by one of my brother's friends when I was five, until I was around 14, and by my dad's friend when I was around eight. I grew up with this fear of my parents dying, because they were older. I feared leaving the house because I thought if I left they wouldn’t be alive when I returned. When I was 23, I was in a car accident with my then three-year-old. The car flipped, but we both were okay. I do have some spinal issues from it and started having panic attacks while driving. The panic attacks used to be only when I would drive over bridges or on the interstate. Now, I can’t seem to drive anywhere without fear and anxiety. I am not sure if this comes from the accident or just from my childhood because of the things I experienced growing up.
After starting the inner child work on myself, I feel much better, but still have this fear of driving. I did EMDR therapy once and will be doing another session soon. When I did the first session, I was told to focus on the car accident when I was stuck in the car, but by the time the session ended - I was in my childhood home under my brother’s friend being molested... I meditate and do my ACA program faithfully, with focus on the inner child. I was wondering if I should do past life regression or do you know any other methods that would help me with this?
ANSWER: You are on the right track with EMDR; it can be very helpful with the trauma that you are re-experiencing. One needs to be gentle with unpacking old trauma. Firm and gentle at the same time. Otherwise, there can be trauma from dealing with the trauma. It can take several sessions of the EMDR to see if it is an avenue that will be helpful to you. Hypnosis work can be very helpful for what you are dealing with. That is the technique that is used in any type of regression: childhood, past life, or in between lives. I see them as different stops on the train. You don’t want to miss your stop and go to another one. The mind is amazingly adept at protecting us from our wounding. So make sure you are not skipping childhood wounding by going further “back”. (I always feel like I need to qualify talking about such things by reminding you of the following: there truly is no past, present, or future. It is one happening. Healing one part of the track positively affects the whole train ride.)
Look into techniques such as systematic desensitization and cognitive behavioral therapy. They both can be quite useful in dealing with the crippling anxiety that you are up against at this stage of your healing. Wonderful that you meditate. Adding some deep muscle relaxation before you start your meditation will be beneficial. Energetically speaking, anxiety moves the energy upwards in the body, so you want to always pull your energy downwards. Simply be aware of your lower extremities and feet whenever you have awareness of the anxiety.
Any type of breathwork is also helpful. This needs to be approached gently, as it can release a lot of emotions. All of us stop abdominal breathing at a young age as a defense mechanism against feeling too much. Those of us who were around physical and/or emotional abuse, do so at an extreme level. So just spending a couple of minutes a day focusing on deep abdominal breathing, with focus on slower exhalation than inhalation, will do wonders.
You are on the right path. I know how brutal and crippling this level of anxiety is. Our bodies are intelligent, trust that. In your first EMDR session you were “told to focus on the car accident when I was stuck in the car, but by the time the session ended - I was in my childhood home under my brother’s friend being molested”. Make sure you guide your therapist to what your body is telling you. Our mind (or our therapist’s) can have all sorts of notions and ideas about the source of our dis-ease or direction of the healing. But the body reigns supreme here, so it needs to be trusted.
I know it might feel like our bodies are betraying us at such junctures of great discomfort and anxiety. Take heart that your psyche is now truly ready to deal with, face, and release this old trauma. Your intention is solid and clear. All else will come to pass. Show up for this sweet little boy inside of you, that others could not in your childhood. You are fathering this boy well, my brother. Well done.