Breast Cancer Month / Psychotherapy emdr

Some people think of October as being fall with the cooling down of temperatures and kids are back in school and pretty soon we will be revving up for the holiday season. Before we get to all of those festivities we manage to color the month of October PINK! As in breast cancer awareness month!


Most people have been touched by cancer of one form or another even if they themselves have not been diagnosed, rather have a family member or friend or co-worker who has had cancer or is currently battling cancer.

Fear is Our First Response

The first thing that occurs when someone receives a potentially life threatening diagnosis is fear. The mind goes blank while trying to wrap your brain around the concept of what this diagnosis means to you and how it will affect your life. How did this get there? What is going to happen to me? What is going to happen to my family? How will I be able to afford taking off from work? Do I have health insurance that will cover this? How painful is this going to be? Will I survive this? Will it come back later in my life?

Second Response: Fear leads to Emotions (Fear, Anxiety, Stress, Apprehension)

These are all legitimate questions that flow through the brain causing all sorts of emotions to flood your body. Fear, anxiety, stress, apprehension, and more fear.

Phases of Treatment: From Diagnosis to Surgery and Beyond

How you move on from the initial diagnosis through surgery and following treatment and finally recovery depends on many things such as your support system, your mental outlook in general and specifically with regards to how you look at your diagnosis.

Why a Support System Is Important for Stress Relief

What type of support system you have in place already is powerful. Having people around with whom you can talk about what is going on and who are able to distract you from your own challenges for a while makes a huge difference. Being able to think about other people and other things is a relief from the thoughts that otherwise tumble around in the brain on the non-stop cycle. This causes an increase in stress which does NOT promote healing from illnesses.

Treatment Phase

During the treatment phase of the illness you may feel as though you are stuck in the medical field as a body void of a personality with human emotions. All sorts of painful and uncomfortable things are being done to your body and all you can do is sit and watch and hope for the best. This can make you feel helpless and vulnerable.

Recovery Phase

During the recovery phase there may be a heightened awareness of physical sensations in the body. I have heard people talk about how every little sensation they notice causes fear or panic because “does this mean that the cancer is back?” It is the feeling that “my body cannot be trusted. It is not safe.” This does not promote wellbeing and rapid healing of the mind and body when constantly in a state of alertness. A remedy for this in psychotherapy is emdr. Here is why.

How EMDR Works to Help You Heal from Cancer

When we work with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing) we identify the negative beliefs that are attached to events that caused high levels of negative emotion. Some possible negative beliefs are “I am helpless,” “my body cannot be trusted,” “I am in danger,” “I am going to die.” These negative beliefs can be triggered by smells (i.e. hospital smells), sights (i.e. seeing a white lab coat), sounds (of shoes shuffling along the hospital floor), physical sensations (tightening in the stomach),  which all will trigger the negative belief that we have attached to those experiences that go along with the memories formed in our minds from the experience.

Processing the experiences with emdr relieves the negative emotions so that they do not get pulled up every time something reminds you of your illness. Rather, the memories remain just that. Memories of something that happened in the past that you made it through and now you are on the other side of it. There is no need to continually live your life as though you are still just being diagnosed or still feeling nauseated from the treatment, or having to live the rest of your life or at the very least, waste a number of years, living in fear that the disease has returned every time you have a funny sensation in your body. See, there is a difference between being AWARE as opposed to living your life in fear. Awareness is positive and necessary to maintain a healthy life style. Living in fear promotes illness, physical and mental illness. Usually people withdraw from other people, and become depressed. Is that how you want to live your life? You have a choice and psychotherapy with emdr is not something that has to be a long drawn out process. It simply depends on how much you want to work on and how quickly you process while in therapy. What I do see is that people with whom I work who undergo EMDR therapy, see great changes in their lives because the processing detaches the negative emotions and belief from the memory and instead they begin to see how their experience taught them life lessons and survival skills. It becomes a new way of living your life without having to think about how “I need to reframe that thought.”  It is as though a great burden has been lifted from their shoulders. Life is stressful enough as it is. Who needs more if there is a way to unburden yourself from this load. Why not?

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