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 marital betrayal revolves around this emotion. Any counselor you see, who understands trauma (ideally they should understand sex addiction-related trauma as well) will be giving you exercises that should also help with the fears.

Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s leading trauma experts, explains that trauma is often stored in our bodies. Some of the more common therapies that are proving successful in releasing this stored trauma are EMDR, brainspotting, and sensorimotor psychotherapy. Some experts also recommend yoga (there are Christian forms now).

Immanuel Prayer

I’ve recently been exploring how we can combine some of these techniques with Christian modalities, particularly prayer ministry. I’ve found that Immanuel Prayer can be a fantastic method of healing trauma-based fears and pain. The founders of this particular form of theophostic prayer have successfully combined it with EMDR for years.

Part of the beauty of Immanuel Prayer is that it can be done on our own – in fact the basic technique should in time be done on our own, even if we get started with a facilitator (such as Coach Christy of ACOJ). 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. My husband and I recently began combining EMDR-like “tapping” exercises with our Immanuel Prayer and have found it does indeed add another dimension. For more on tapping from a secular perspective, see this video.

Stretching

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. Six months ago I felt God was asking me to stretch more again. Once more, I had no idea why (other than I’m getting old and stiff). When I read about how trauma is stored in our bodies, however, 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 about releasing me from the fears and pain… and whatever else He brings up.

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.”

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. For the moment, consider listening to Katherine’s story of overcoming the incredible fears that arose in the wake of her husband’s arrest for sex offending, and the loss of her life as she knew it.

Next week I begin a series on the phenomenon of the "new widows and orphans” that sex addiction is creating.