Author: Veronica Lichtenstein, LMHC
Apr 24, 2023
When someone has experienced trauma, they may develop coping mechanisms or beliefs that help them feel safe or in control. These coping mechanisms are often referred to as blocking beliefs, and they can include avoidance or denial of the traumatic event, numbing, or self-blame. While these coping mechanisms may not be healthy or productive in the long term, they serve a protective function for the individual in the short term.
It is crucial to acknowledge that trauma is a highly sensitive and personal experience, and it can take time for individuals to feel ready to confront and address their pain. Forcing therapy or treatment on someone who is not ready or willing to engage can actually be counterproductive and potentially retraumatizing. A good therapist understands the importance of respecting the client’s timeline and process and does not judge or rush them. Instead, they create a safe and supportive space for clients to explore their experiences at their own pace. Therapy is most effective when clients feel comfortable and empowered to make their own decisions and set their own goals.
If a client is ready and willing, quite often I recommend EMDR therapy. Through this process, I can help the individual to recognize how these blocking beliefs are limiting their ability to process and work through traumatic experiences. By replacing these limiting beliefs with more positive, adaptive beliefs, the individual can begin to move forward and heal from their trauma.
For example, a person who has experienced a traumatic event may hold a blocking belief such as “I am weak and powerless.” This belief may prevent the person from seeking help or taking action to address the trauma. Through EMDR therapy, I help the individual to challenge this belief by identifying examples of times when they have been strong and capable, and by exploring alternative beliefs such as “I am strong and resilient.”
Some questions you can ask yourself if you think you are unknowingly creating a barrier to your recovery are questions like:
Do I have the strength or willpower to solve this problem?
If I ever solve this problem, will I lose a part of who I really am?
Is it dangerous for me to solve this problem?
Do I feel like something bad will happen if I really talk about this problem?
By addressing blocking beliefs and replacing them with more positive, adaptive beliefs, EMDR therapy can help individuals to process and overcome traumatic experiences, leading to greater emotional health and well-being.
To summarize, blocking beliefs can be conscious or unconscious negative thoughts that a person holds about themselves, others, or the world. They limit our ability to cope with stress and trauma and they may arise from past experiences, cultural or societal conditioning, or other sources. A good therapist should not impose their timeline or agenda on the client and should instead work collaboratively with them to create a safe and supportive environment for healing to take place. It is essential to remember that healing from trauma is a deeply personal journey that requires respect, patience, and trust.