Processing Fear (and Trauma)

One of the reasons I’ve spent so many weeks on the topic of fear is that much of the trauma of sex addiction-related betrayal revolves around this emotion. Any counselor you see, who understands betrayal trauma will be giving you exercises that should also help you cope with fears and any other emotions that have felt unmanageable since discovery/disclosure.

Some of these exercises will be grounding techniques for times when you need some quick help managing a trigger reaction (e.g., panic, rage, shock, confusion). Other exercises are actually interventions that work more deeply to address the trauma.

Regarding the latter, some of the interventions that haven proven helpful include EMDR, brainspotting, sensorimotor psychotherapy exercises. These techniques require working with a specially trained practitioner... which may well be worth pursuing if you need additional help moving forward. However, there are some simpler exercises that you can begin using right away at home.

Below is a rundown of some specific exercises I've used over the years for myself and with my clients/women I support.

Immanuel Prayer

Immanuel Prayer can be a fantastic method of healing trauma-based fears and pain. While it's preferable to work with an experienced practitioner (who may combine it with EMDR), part of the beauty of Immanuel Prayer is that it can be done on our own. In the early days of my healing I simply downloaded this free PDF, read up on the most basic technique and let God lead the way. I share some of the more powerful, Immanuel Prayer healing times I experienced in Beyond Betrayal.

Stretching and Mindfulness

In my early crisis days I also felt led to do a lot of stretching while talking to God about my fears, pain, etc. I had no idea why I wanted to do this, but it seemed to help. Then, I read about how trauma is stored in our bodies and the lightbulb went on. Now, when I’m struggling with fears, even in the middle of the night, I’ll often get up and stretch and talk to God.

Focused time with God is indeed a form of mindfulness (so if you've been told it's all new age stuff, know that we Christians have been doing it going back a thousand+ years). There are books and websites that teach other ways of being still and aware of our bodies, thoughts and emotions. If your trauma is making it difficult for you to pray, doing a mindfulness exercise (even just some slow breathing) prior to talking to God can help.

Contemplating Joy

The Psalms give us numerous examples of how meditating on God’s goodness (past and present) can help heal the fears and doubts that arise from today’s crises. In part 1 of our video interview, Coach Katherine discussed a thankfulness meditation exercise she has women do to overcome fear.

That exercise, originally outlined in the book Joyful Journey, is one where we journal three things we are thankful for (asking God to direct our thoughts). Next we take a moment for the feelings of thankfulness to fill us. Finally we ask God what He has to say about our thankfulness – and journal what we get as a response.

The authors of Joyful Journey write:

“Begin writing, but don’t filter your thoughts at this time. Just start writing and allow the Spirit of God to lead you. Focus on putting down what you sense about His response to your gratitude. This is our humble attempt to hear God. What you write should resemble what good parents would say to their children after being touched by their children’s gratitude.”

Those of you who have read the Beyond Betrayal Couple's Guide, will note that I suggest couples do work on this exercise together, once some healing has taken place in the relationship.

Backpack Exercise

There are other simple meditations (or visualizations) we can do to help our brains process trauma fears. One of them, outlined in Shattered Soul, by Patrick Fleming, has us visualize carrying our fears in a backpack up a mountain.

The exercise, which takes about 15 minutes, culminates in us meeting Jesus at the top of the mountain. There, we “unpack” our fears with Him. We listen to what He has to say about what is in the backpack (understanding that his nature is compassionate… never condemning – Romans 8:1). When I do this exercise with people, I add the step of having them receive a gift from Jesus to put in their backpack, in place of the fears — which He keeps. The exercise ends with going back down the mountain the way we came, noticing how different our backpack now feels.

There are doubtless countless more techniques for helping us move past trauma and the feelings of intense fear it creates. I’d love to hear about others people have tried.

Music, especially when combined with eternal truths (in the lyrics) can also be a very powerful way to ground ourselves when we are struggling with fear and other effects of trauma. Do you have any song you have found particularly helpful on this journey?