Part 11 continued from page 40 in the Autumn Edition
The first time I tried Brainspotting, I didn’t think much of it. For nearly an hour, I stared at a red tip on an extensible pointer, waiting for something to happen. A catharsis of sorts. I wondered why my therapist wasn’t doing EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) with me. It had worked for me in the past. This seemed like the treatment I needed now. Two years ago, the world had become strange. Everything suddenly became threatening and dangerous. After a prolonged period of stress that seemed never-ending, I was completely in survival mode. I wasn’t coping. I didn’t feel I could trust anyone… except for my therapist. After six years of therapy, I’d luckily built up quite a bit of rapport with him. I knew I could trust him. Had it not been for my longstanding relationship with my therapist and also just the impression it had left on me over countless sessions of being deeply understood and listened to, I would have left never to return. But then I would never have discovered how remarkable Brainspotting is. To this day, I’m still experiencing the benefits and I’m learning more about it as I go. What seemed to be just an inanimate object with no real power to help me, turned out to be a wand of some kind that makes it possible for me to access deeper parts of myself.
Coming back from that place inside, my problems had not miraculously disappeared. I was still the same person. It was only after the session that subtle changes unfolded.
That’s when the real magic happened.
Back in my therapist’s office, I didn’t know what to expect or what I was supposed to do. All the while my therapist was there gently reminding me to keep my eyes on the pointer in front of me after we located the brainspot connected to the tense feeling in my body. If something came up, he guided, noticed it and then let it go without judging it or needing to fix or explain it: Allow whatever comes up to come up and accept it without the need to push it down. That was a problem for me. I could no longer trust anything that came from inside me. It was too frightening. The bilateral sounds that I was listening to through a pair of headphones, helped a bit. I was familiar with bilateral stimulation having had done EMDR before. I let the rocking and the swaying of the music-like waves from one ear to the other take me along with it. Like the rays of the sun breaking through an overcast day, I noticed how a bit of space opened up through the fog of my mind.
As a great and mighty censor of important news, I was still not allowing anything through from deep within. My inner critic, trying hard to protect me, was strong. But again, my therapist was there helping me along. I knew all was well with him. Anything that I felt or experienced was safe to be seen here. Throughout the entire process, he didn’t say a word. This was different from our usual sessions. Usually, he would offer me some wise counsel. This time, he just checked in with: “What do you notice now?” as a way to track my process moment by moment. I always knew he was there, though. Present. It was in the way that he leaned forward in his seat watching me closely the entire time that gave the impression that he was listening to me with his entire body. As if taking my cue from him, I shifted my gaze within, all the while orientating myself to the pointer before me.
The music was soothing. A new bilateral track was playing now. It vaguely reminded me of the film scores that get played at the end of the movie at the scene when the hero returns after an epic journey.
I didn’t know where I was going with this random thought. I decided to follow it, curious to see where it would lead. I remembered something. I had read Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. I had resonated with it quite a bit. As soon as I had this recollection, an insight followed. It was over.
The many months of being highly stressed out had come to an end. Everything that had happened – everything that I’d been through was done. I could see that I was in a completely different place now.With that, the tears streamed down my face. I felt a sense of relief. It was the smallest thing. It didn’t seem significant at all. It’s only later that I understood why it mattered.
When the session came to an end, I blinked my eyes and refocused them on my therapist. Did something happen? I didn’t think so. And yet, he told me, my eyes widened, my cheeks reddened and went pale and my breathing had speeded up. I didn’t know what all this meant. It was still a very big mystery to me.
Over the next 72 hours or so, I saw the results. Previously, my head was so full it was as if I couldn’t take anything in any more. Any new information completely overwhelmed me. Now, I could read a book and even gain insight from it. I started researching trauma, Brainspotting and ways to regulate my nervous system. This helped me to find a sense of self-efficacy and feel in control again. Before, something as small as locking myself out of the house or having my phone stolen put me into a state of severe fight-or-flight. The panic would overcome me and distort my thinking. Now, I was able to view the situation a little more clearly. I could see that nothing was out to get me. This was just life. Sometimes it sucks, but it can also surprise me in the best ways possible too. Life had meaning again.
Mostly, I could put the past behind me. No longer was I reliving the events as if they were happening all over again. The uncomfortable sensations were gone and I stopped ruminating over them. I could look back and feel a sense of compassion towards myself. The events that had disturbed me so, were but distant memories.
There is nothing supernatural about it.
With the help of a pointer and the safe container that my therapist had provided, my brain was able to make these adjustments naturally, all on its own.I had come out of survival and entered a state of self-healing.And while it took a few more sessions after that to feel like myself, it had set in motion a process of growth that continues to this day.From being stuck and trapped in fear, I found the truth.
As the oracle in The Matrix says: “Everything that has a beginning also has an end.” That’s all I needed to know.
For further information about Brainspotting, read Beyond the Self by Mario C. Salvador or Brainspotting by David Grant.