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I'm Having an Intense Response to the Trauma Guided Imagery - Should I Stop Using It?

06 Aug

Hello Belleruth:

I am not new to using your guided imagery. Your Self Confidence CD was very helpful to deal with freezing on tests when I returned to grad school. I have also worked with your Anger & Foregiveness imagery. I was diagnosed with PTSD a few years ago. Recently my anxiety spiked over small things that have not caused an issue previously, which my therapist believes is related to my PTSD. Sadly, I cannot afford to return to routine therapy so I thought I would try your Healing Trauma guided imagery.

I definitely have an emotional response when working with the imagery which does not worry me. The same thing happened when I worked with the Self Confidence imagery. But, with the Healing Trauma imagery, I started having very violent dreams and noticed increased anger during the day. I am trying to decide if this is part of clearing the effects of the trauma and indication of progess, or if I should stop using the imgery.

I would appreciate your imput and any suggestions. Thank you!  Lydia


Dear Lydia,

It sounds like you were already starting to deal with the PTS when your anxiety started spiking - the timing of when these things come bubbling up to the fore is a little mysterious to most of us, but the body seems to know what it's doing and when to do it - there's a certain readiness to deal with old trauma that the unconscious mind, and the body sometimes "gets" this before a survivor consciously does. It¹s a shame that your circumstances are such that you can¹t afford to see your therapist regularly at this time. If there's some way you can negotiate a lower fee, or a deferred fee, it would be a good time to do so.

That said, you may want to take this process a little slower. As we mention on the Healing Trauma product page, that guided imagery is very healing, but it¹s also very intense and evocative. We recommend that people start out listening to the Relaxation and Wellness imagery first, listening only to that one for a while (or alternating it with the self-confidence audio) - maybe once or twice a day, for 5 days a week, for 2-3 weeks. Those audios are designed to instill a lot of self-soothing and self-regulation ability, so it gives you a nice protective cushion before going deeper with the Healing Trauma audio. I'd back up and try that.

In addition, I'd also start using the Healthful Sleep imagery regularly before bedtime. People who use it report they get more restful, restorative sleep, have pleasanter dreams, and wake up feeling energized and strong. So I'd try that to help reduce or eliminate the nightmares. This was the imagery protocol we used with traumatized veterans at the Durham VA, and later with returning traumatized Soldiers at Fort Sill, and it worked well.

So see if that combination of Relaxation & Wellness and Healthful Sleep doesn't settle you back down.

If it does, and you feel up for it, you may want to try and re-introduce the Healing Trauma imagery to yourself, to see if your having listened to those 2 audios has in fact "inoculated" you, and you can now have the positive healing impact from the trauma imagery without the distressing dreams.

But if listening still generates too much discomfort, I'd put it aside and just work with the others. Simply being able to self-soothe at will is a huge win for trauma survivors, and it sets the stage for a lot of subsequent healing. So why push it? That trauma imagery is powerfully healing, but the timing has to be right. And with it or without it, you're on the move towards deeper mending. And this too shall pass.

And please let me know how this goes, will you?

Wishing you the best,


Belleruth

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award