For as long as I can remember, I have been saying the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason”. I’m not sure how or why I developed this perspective on life, but it’s been from this lens from which I have been viewing life – always trying to find the silver lining in things. And, so, where I am now, is where I am meant to be even if I don’t fully understand all the events that have led me to this place. I have accepted the process and I am fully open to where it may take me. And thus, I was introduced to Brainspotting.
Allow me to tell you a bit more.
Fascinated with this concept that the mind and body work together when examining one’s emotions and behaviors, I was continuously seeking opportunities that would allow me to explore the idea in a bit more depth. What better place to explore them other than through the wise Internet. And so, the search for mental health and psychology related workshops began. I stayed optimistic that something would come my way when the timing was right. And thus, I was introduced to Brainspotting (BSP). A new form of psychotherapy that derives from EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Both forms of therapy are designed to help uncover, process, and overcome negative emotions, trauma, and both emotional and psychologically induced physical pain.
Having nothing to lose and extremely excited about this newly discovered therapeutic technique, I immediately signed up for the first phase of training in Nashville, Tennessee. And only two weeks later, I attended the second phase of training in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I just saw this as a great opportunity to learn something new and grow as a mental health professional. Being a newly certified Licensed Professional Counselor Associate, I was a sponge for new knowledge and eager to soak up as much information as humanly possible. I wanted to better understand this “mind-body” connection of how your emotions can affect your behavior and equally, how you can learn to manage your behavior by gaining more self-awareness. The more knowledge I could gain about the brain and how it influenced someone’s actions and reactions, the more effective I could be as a counselor. And, hey, what a great excuse to travel!
Fast forward to the first training workshop in Nashville, TN. It was an intense two days. Lots of tears, lots of doubt, lots of skepticism, lots of exploring, lots of connections, lots of reflecting, lots of frustration, and lots of change.
Fast forward to the second training workshop in Milwaukee, WI. It was another intense two days. Lots of tears, lots of smiles, lots of exploring, lots of connections, lots of reflecting, lots of frustration, and lots of change. But, this time I was left with a little more hope, a little of a less burden, a little less disbelief, and a lot more clarity and acceptance.
But what does this all mean?
I entered the experience with almost an entirely open mind and heart, but I definitely had my doubts. However, slowly, after each Brainspotting session, I felt myself becoming a believer. The experience could almost be described as a spiritual awakening or moment of enlightenment. I felt both inspired and blown away. I wanted everyone to know about BSP.
Fast forward to today. I still want everyone to know about BSP.
So what actually happened?
I was fully aware of all of my triggers, my attachment issues, my obsessive-compulsive tendencies, my insecurities, and self-esteem issues. I could identify the exact memories that left me with some pretty deep emotional cuts. I never thought that I would have to revisit all of them again to only discover that I still had a lot more work to do. So what actually happened? Brainspotting uncovered more. Brainspotting uncovered more hidden pain. Brainspotting uncovered more things I still needed to process. Brainspotting uncovered the wounds that were still open and not fully healed.
But this came with a price, of course. It required that I be compassionate with myself. It required that I be open, non-judgmental, and curious. And, it required that I trust the process. It required that I believe that the brain has an innate ability to heal itself.
I was ready for the ride. No amount of flips and turns, or fear was going to hold me back this time. It was time to find out the “why”. And thus, I was introduced to Brainspotting.
But was exactly is Brainspotting?
So here’s what happened. I started each session talking to the therapist for about 5-15 minutes at which time we discussed whatever was on my mind. As we spoke, the therapist and I worked on building a positive and trusting rapport. What I noticed, the stronger the emotional attunement between the therapist and myself, the stronger my experience was during Brainspotting. The therapist helped me identify “brain spots”. A spot that created a somatic cue, a reflection such as an eye twitching, a body part jerking, the licking of one’s lips, the squinting of one’s eyes, etc. The list is endless. This is the brain’s way of identifying the source of your emotional/body pain, trauma, or some other challenging symptoms. I could instantly feel heaviness in my chest when I hit a spot of activation. Once we picked a spot, the work began. I was able to share as much or as little as I wanted with the therapist. The therapist would occasionally check in with me, scanning my body for any discomfort and making sure I was at a comfortable level of activation.
I did this a total of 8 times. To be fully honest, it was exhausting! Emotional and physically, I was just drained. Typically someone has a week or two to process after a session. They weren’t lying when they said this was an intense workshop. After each Brainspotting session, I started to make new connections between what happened and how I was feeling and reacting to certain people and situations. I became more mindful of how anxiety and stress revealed itself throughout my body. After each session, I felt more self-aware and more grounded. I felt extremely connected with my therapist and thankful for their supportive and nonjudgmental energy. Having someone there to join me on my unpredictable roller coaster of emotions was an essential part of my healing.
I was able to reprocess all of those unhealed memories through a different lens. My reactions towards these memories were revisited and explored from a position where I felt more in control of myself. This made all the difference. I was able to reprocess a childhood memory NOW as an adult. I was able to give that childhood self the love and support that I needed during that actual moment. And as a result, it changed the way I felt about the memory. I haven’t forgotten the memory or how it made me feel, but it no longer holds this power over me. It no longer controls the person I am today.
I confronted the issues and, as a result, overcame the fears that came with them. I felt as if 1,000 pounds of bricks were lifted off my chest. I could breathe again. I could smile again. I could hope again. I could create again. I could explore again. I could live again.
And thus, I became a Brainspotting believer.