Arrested Development

Dr. Darcy,

Is it true, in your experience working with clients, that when something happens, at whatever age, that is traumatic to you, that you stay that emotional age? If so, how do you "grow up"? I have abandonment issues that stem from the age of around 12, and sometimes I think I am still 12 when dealing with certain issues now at 37!  I don't know how to deal with my 12-year old self. Ideas?

ANSWER

There’s no hard and fast rule regarding trauma and it’s relationship to development. Depending on the age of the trauma and the extent of the trauma, aspects of your development could certainly be affected, but so much of it depends on other variables – it’s not like an addiction, which is said to stagnate an individual’s emotional development at the age on onset regardless of history and other variables.

With that said….If you have trauma, there’s no better treatment than EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocess).

Here’s the brief synopsis about trauma: When we get traumatized, the event essentially gets stuck in our nervous system – it doesn’t get processed the way other events do. And because the event gets stuck in our nervous system, any time we talk about it or are reminded of it (consciously or unconsciously), we feel the way we felt when it first happened – it doesn’t dissipate over time.  And this is why talk therapy often fails (or worse – re-traumatizes the client) with survivors of trauma.

What EMDR does is it stimulates the part of the brain that processes and assimilates information so that the event no longer stays stuck in the nervous system. Depending on the complexity of the trauma, EMDR can relieve symptoms in as few as 6 sessions.

So, now that you know all about EMDR, I strongly suggest that you get yourself into therapy with an EMDR certified therapist. I’ve linked to a website here so that you can find one in your area.   

Writer’s stats: Female, Straight.