Someone called psychoanalyzing just opening up old wounds and pouring salt in to them. It’s a co-incidence that you mention it because just today I was studying my cold foot and realized that I had not dealt with an old ankle injury completely.
Peter Levine takes the position (in his terrific book, An Unspoken Voice) that attempts to drag the pt through total recall of his trauma are not only unproductive, they’re damaging and maybe even plain sadistic.
I was making noises about this =25= years ago to whoever would listen after my sexually tortured (in childhood) wife was dragged through Courage to Heal and Edna Foa’s "systematic desensitization therapy. (Did she get “better?” H**********L, no.) Years before, I’d done “emotional release” therapy around my traumatic “scars,” and wound up more screwed up than ever.
But about eight years ago – and very significantly, after 23 years of total abstinence from alcohol and street drugs – I did a few sessions of Francine Shapiro’s eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). I not only survived it, but got… “better.” I have also done Pat Ogden’s sensorimotor psychotherapy, and found it useful. As well as using Jiddu Krishnamurti’s “choiceless awareness” and George Gurdjieff’s “self-remembering.” The former seems great; I’m not sure I recommend the latter given what I have seen it do to some people.
EMDR is in widespread use now because it works well for traumatic memory processing for many, many people (see Bessel van der Kolk’s books) and has become the go-to treatment for PTSD at the Veteran’s Health System in the US (one of the many things the VA does “right,” actually). Our sense – based on observing to see / hear / feel to recognize to appreciate to understand – is that EMDR works because it hooks the two brain hemispheres up to pretty much the most functional extent: not too much and not too little.
Modern brain research (see Iain McGilchrist’s astonishing – and probably sea-changing, if pretty complex – The Master & His Emissary) has shown that getting the two hemispheres to communicate appropriately is the key to making sense of traumatic memories… and that making sense (see van der Kolk and Levine) is the key to cutting loose from the depression, terrorizing and psychotizing effects of those fragmented memories.
I think this is my problem with 12 step groups. I continue to make make amends and such but I feel too vulnerable and exposed when divulging past traumatic experiences. I would like to help other people aka 12 step work via volunteer work. But I am afraid that I would potentially give bad or unqualified advice to an addict leading to their demise. I don’t want to feel responsible for damaging ANYTHING else. It may sound selfish but I see it as self preservation.
Have you got a sponsor who has a sponsor who has a sponsor? That’s usually a good route to go in AA because it points to a “concentration of realism.” I tried to sponsor people on the basis of my supposed “experience, strength & hope” for quite a while. Some stayed clean; some didn’t. (I did, but…)
But when I got Big-Book-&-12&12-oriented at about ten years of sobriety, I started taking them through the Steps precisely as they were described in those books. As Bill Wilson said at about 25 years’ sobriety, “AA is spiritual kindergarten, but the Steps will work on pretty much anything to some extent.”