Many people who witnessed or were injured by the Boston Marathon bombing will undoubtedly experience emotional trauma and PTSD, which can severely impact the quality of their lives. PTSD often manifests itself in flashbacks, uncontrollable ruminations, anxiety, insomnia, and other symptoms. People often seek help from mental health professionals, which may not be effective in helping. Therapists often invoke catharsis in their clients, which often backfires and makes the problem worse.
Traumatic memories are problematic due to their high negative emotion content. Our memories that have the highest emotional content are most easily accessible, whether we want to access them or not. Those are the thoughts that keep you up at night and generate flashbacks.
The practice of invoking catharsis causes the client to become emotional in the therapist’s office, which can intensify the emotional content of the memory. That is exactly the opposite of what the client who suffers from PTSD needs! It can make the problem worse!
PTSD does not need to destroy your life. There is a new technique called Closed Eye Oscillation Relaxation and Thought Stopping, or CEO-RTS. The way it works is you close your eyes and move them back-and-forth while deliberately try to recall the disturbing event. Move them at a moderate rate — about once per second in each direction. You’ll find that it is difficult to recall the event while moving your eyes back and forth and you only get bits and pieces and none of the emotion. This process actually fragments the memory and diffuses the emotion. Should the memory pop into your head again, repeat this process.
I have used that technique and it works.