“I feel like I’m trapped in the pain from my past and it just doesn’t seem to change.”
Even though you’ve tried to move on, it feels like some issues are stuck on repeat with no way to play the next track.
When I talk to people who remind me of that person from my past, I feel triggered and go into a downward spiral.
Sometimes I have nightmares about what happened and can’t sleep all night.
I’m having trouble getting close to guys because this issue from my past keeps coming up.
I feel like I’m in danger when something isn’t perfect. I can feel my heart race and my body tense up.
I’m constantly anxious. I know it’s over, but it feels like it could happen again at any moment.
I’m not quite sure what it is, but I think something from when I was younger is preventing me from moving forward in my life.
You’ve tried to live your life as fully as you can, but on your journey as a gay man you’ve faced lots of challenges.
And unfortunately, some of those challenges have had lasting negative effects.
Perhaps you’ve had family members or a religious community who have rejected or judged you for being gay and you still carry that pain even if things are better now.
During your childhood you might’ve been verbally or physically abused by other kids for being “different,” and now all these years later, you can still feel the abuse as if it’s happening now.
Maybe the abuse was even by your own family members.
When you think about the traumas you’ve faced, you might have moments where you wonder if there really is something inherently bad about you that caused the trauma.
If you’ve come out, there were those years where you hid yourself, and it haunts you when you think about that time in the closet.
It might even feel like you’re still hiding at times.
As you recall your history, your body might be having that familiar feeling of shame, fear, or anger when you think about the trauma from your past.
Now, imagine that one day the effects of the traumatic events in your past disappeared.
You still knew the events happened, but you felt relief from that familiar pain inside. You also start to notice some of the following things:
✓ You don’t feel triggered anymore by people or situations that remind you of past traumas.
✓ You’re able to sleep at night and feel refreshed in the morning.
✓ You notice that your anxiety isn’t spiking the way it used to, and you can actually enjoy more of the things you do everyday.
✓ You even start to remember good memories from your past that you’d forgotten about.
Fortunately, this is not imaginary. We’ve seen these sorts of transformations with many gay men who’ve done EMDR. You can read more about EMDR below, and in this article about EMDR for gay men.
What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an integrative therapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from different treatment approaches.
How does EMDR work?
EMDR uses a technique called “dual attention stimulation” (DAS) to repeatedly activate opposite sides of the brain. Counsellors often use eye movements to facilitate DAS. These eye movements mimic the period of sleep referred to as rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep). This phase of sleep is thought to be the time when the mind processes the recent events in a person’s life.
EMDR seems to reprocess trapped memories by helping the brain resume its normal information processing and healing capacities. For more information about EMDR, you can read this article on EMDR for gay men.
EMDR was originally used for treating PTSD. Since then, it’s been shown effective for many different types of past trauma and distressing experiences. Some of the issues you might work on with EMDR include:
Past coming out experiences
Rejection or ridicule by friends, family, or a religious community
Past experiences of homophobia, racism, or other discrimination
Shame about sexuality and/or sex
PTSD, anxiety, and depression
Past relationship traumas and break-ups
Low sense of self-worth
Maybe as you read this list, none of these issues are what you’re going through now.
When you think about your current struggles, do you experience distressing emotions that appear to you, and perhaps to others, to be excessive given the current situation? Do you tend to be highly reactive to certain triggers? Is there one or more beliefs that you believe about yourself that you know intellectually are untrue, but that still feel true?
If so, you may be a good candidate for EMDR.
Counsellors Who Provide EMDR Counselling
MA, CCC, RCC