When a client is at the mercy of their emotional triggers…
… it can leave them feeling powerless whenever painful traumatic memories resurface.
So, in the video below, Bill O’Hanlon, LMFT shares the strategy he’s used to help his clients gain emotional control over the traumatic memories that keep them stuck.
Have a look.
And I have them do it several times until they’re really sure. They can revise it. Nobody else should see it, it’s just private for them, but write it all out. When they feel it’s really good, it might take three or four times to write it, five times, two times, whatever it takes, then we discuss this. I want them to find some way to get rid of it: burn it, drop it in the toilet, bury it, somehow leave it somewhere, get rid of it, distance yourself from it. So, it’s all written down … Usually it’s tear it up, burn it, bury it, so nobody else can see it, but it’s gone. It’s not like it’s totally gone from their life, but for some reason … Like, years ago I heard this interview on National Public Radio, which is our national radio here in the States, and there was a journalist named Bob Simon who during the first Gulf War he was covering the war as an American Correspondent. He got captured by the Iraqi troops. They found out he was Jewish and they basically tortured him. They beat him, they hurt him, but also they would take a gun and pretend like they were going to kill him, and it was an empty chamber. He would think he was going to die each time, so it’s quite traumatizing.
So, finally he was liberated from his captors, and he survived the experience, and he went on, but he really had a lot of post traumatic stress symptoms. About three or four years later he decided to write a book about the experience. He wrote this whole book, the book is done, it’s published, and I hear him on this interview on National Public Radio, and he’s … The interviewer has read the book and said, you suffer from a lot of post traumatic nightmares, and symptoms, and is that still happening? And he said, no, actually I didn’t even think this would happen, but as soon as the book was published it went away. I haven’t had one since then. It’s like the story is over there, and I don’t have to carry it anymore, I don’t have to remember it anymore.
I think that’s true for some of my clients. As soon as the story is written out in the right form, that is they feel it really represents the experience, there’s something that settles in some way. Not everybody, because it doesn’t work for everybody, but it works for enough people. I think it’s a really good technique of write it, read it over, write it again, read it over until you feel you got it right, then burn it, typically is what I have them do, typically, if they will.
For more expert interventions for working with emotional triggers, check out this course featuring Peter Levine, PhD; Richard Schwartz, PhD; Steven Hayes, PhD; Resmaa Menakem, MSW, LICSW; Dan Siegel, MD; and more.
Now we’d like to hear from you. What interventions have you used to help clients with emotional triggers? Leave a comment below.