By Barney Armstrong, LMFTA, Bellevue Christian CounselingWhen we have emotions that are too painful to bear in the moment, we commonly cover them up. Whether it’s from a traumatic experience – such as abuse, violence, or death – or a shameful experience – such as failure, rejection, or a break-up – our tendency to suppress emotions is a built-in survival strategy. And it is usually a good move, a reflex that works well in the moment. But when you bury something alive, it stays alive. Those very vivid emotions are still there and can unconsciously define your reactions later in life. So what may have been a good survival strategy at the time is no longer helpful. Buried emotions may cause you to feel inexplicable anxiety in situations that conjures painful memories. You may find those anxieties dictating choices you make and, if left uncontrolled, even defining you.
Neurologically, you have created an isolated network – an island of emotional neural connections that don’t connect with the rest of your brain. That island has remained intact and isolated from the ongoing growth of neural networks built by your experiences through the years since then. In this article, I will explore how Lifespan Integration Therapy can help you recall and incorporate these connections into your developed psyche. If you are struggling under repressed or buried emotional trauma, Christian counseling can help; through Lifespan Integration, you can regain control of these emotions and synthesize your experience in a healthy way.
Lifespan Integration Therapy: How it Works
The purpose of Lifespan Integration Therapy as developed by Peggy Pace is to bring forward these disconnected neurological islands from the time they were formed, and to integrate them with the neural networks forged in the time since. This therapy also includes settling issues that have remained “on the books” since the events happened – setting things straight so they do not continue to churn in your subconscious like an ongoing internal debate.
Take Jason, for example. As a 23-years-old single man, he found himself on edge when hanging out with other guys and tired after socializing. In identifying the feelings he was having, it reminded him of how he felt when he was in 5th grade. He remembered being bullied and ridiculed by some older boys at school. He recognized that he was feeling the same apprehension especially around men in general in social situations. He also became aware that he was having a 12-year conversation in his head about “what he should have said,” and “what he should have done,” all of which was useless and tiresome.
Emotional Barriers Caused by Blocked Emotions
You may also find that a lot of those emotions are unavailable for your use in relationships today – they are tied up and you have labeled them “unsafe to use.” Freud’s key contribution to this therapeutic approach was that he recognized this backlog of tied up emotions. His strategy was to have you re-engage those emotions. (You may well wonder if the underlying issues were unresolved and if some of his patients were re-traumatized!) But integration includes resolving those issues and then goes a big step further by bringing those experiences forward through the years. This makes the past not only acceptable but also available as part of your current identity. The emotions become available again and the experiences become past-tense, instead of ongoing nagging anxieties.
Marianne, who was 24 years old and single, found it hard to really feel romantically in love with any of the guys she dated, even though her latest was wonderful in all categories. As she talked about how she felt around him she remembered having an extreme crush on a boy back in 7th grade. Other girls had found out and tried to “help” her by making it known. The social disaster and embarrassment was a nagging reminder to never let her infatuation be known, and that was easiest if they weren’t felt. That meant these emotions were “unsafe to use.”
How Christian Counseling Can Help
Situations like those of Jason and Marianne are all too common, but there are many less common and less obvious stockpiles of emotions in our lives. Talking with a Christian therapist trained in integration therapy can begin to help you settle past issues, integrate your thinking, and become emotionally available to your current relationships.
Freedigitalphotos.net “neurons” by renjith krishnan
Office.microsoft.com “kids spreading rumors” by Fotolio