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I'm fixed! EMDR, Somatic Freeze, and Early Trauma

Much to my delight, EMDR is slowly eroding some deeply held somatic patterns. I had my doubts it could work on trauma held in my body for over six decades. But in time, I am changing. I am recognizing more quickly when I’m in a freeze and learning how to disengage from it in a self-caring way.

What is somatic freeze anyway?  My somatic freeze is a state I often find myself in when I’m engaged in quiet activities. For instance, I may be reading and notice my breath is shallow and my chest and belly are hard as a wash board. I am breathing in the most shallow way possible–the way I breathed as a baby after stomach surgery for a stomach blockage to reduce the pain and discomfort. Taking a big breath hurt! How do I know this?  My breath patterns and somatic freezes tell me.

Years ago, a powerful dream came to me about this. There on the hard wood floor lay a brownish-purple, liver-like organ. I saw it through the white slats of my crib. Dead, I thought. I approached it, thinking to haul it away and throw it out, but noticed it was pulsing ever so slightly. Oh my god, I thought, it’s alive and I almost threw it away. I woke up panicked with what I’d almost done though I also felt relief.

In EMDR, I worked with this image. A wise adult self, a part of me that has become activated in my wanding sessions, picked up this organ and brought it to the baby in the crib. “Here, it’s fixed,” she said. “Put it back in.” “No,” the baby answered, “What if it isn’t?” “It is. Trust me.” Baby me, doubtful, put it back into my body. The wise part said, “I’ll help you. We’ll work on this together.”

Sure enough, every so often during the wanding, this mature, nurturing, good-mother part approached baby me: “It works, yes?” “Yes!” I cried, giving her a thumbs up. She’d leave and shortly return to ask again: “It’s working, right?” “Right!” baby me answered. In this way, I am integrating the fact that I am fixed, so there’s no need to unconsciously go into a somatic freeze in order to protect myself from pain and near death that happened decades ago.

So now, outside of therapy, when I feel myself go into somatic freeze, this wise part shows up. “You’re in one of your freezes. It’s ok,” I tell myself. Then, my body (baby me) simply relaxes. I know I’m ok and there’s nothing to fear. This mother part is non-judgmental, loving, and wholly supportive–something I didn’t get from my mother, who did her best to help me.

EMDR is helping me know at a very deep level that I am fixed and work perfectly. The freeze is old and can be let go. There’s no need to berate myself for freezing up. In fact, there’s every reason to feel compassion for myself.  EMDR is facilitating my healing journey as I steadily and certainly come home to my body.

Are Your Symptoms due to Infant Surgical Trauma ?

The following material is taken from psychiatrist Dr. Louis Tinnin’s former blog. The material was removed from the Internet after his passing last year, but I think it’s important for the public to have access to it. I called Intensive Trauma Therapy, Inc. in Morgantown, West Virginia (ITT) and asked the staff to repost the material. I… Continue Reading

EMDR and Preverbal Infant Trauma: My Experience So Far

In talking to a fellow pyloric stenosis survivor about EMDR, she wondered whether it could help folks like us who experienced such early trauma–stomach surgery for pyloric stenosis, typically 10 days to 6 weeks after birth, without anesthesia or pain control. She understood that EMDR helps people reprocess memory connections in the cortex, that part of the brain… Continue Reading

Why Should We Care about Preverbal Infant Trauma?

This is the title of the speech that I gave at my Toastmasters Club last week.  To satisfy the guidelines of the Toastmasters assignment, my talk could only take five to seven minutes. Here it is in a longer form. I hope to convince you that we as a society should care about preverbal infant… Continue Reading

Thank You, Dr. Louis Tinnin–Pioneer in Treating Infant Trauma

Dr. Louis Watson Tinnin, a man who has been a friend to all those who suffer trauma, especially preverbal infant trauma, died back in February, 2014. I was shocked that I hadn’t heard about his passing until last week and recently had wondered why I hadn’t received posts from his blog ltinnin.com for quite some… Continue Reading

Beth Israel Hospital, Newark, New Jersey: Returning after 62 years

For the first time in sixty-two years, I returned to the hospital that saved my life when I was one month old after having been operated on for pyloric stenosis, a stomach obstruction. Now the hospital is called, as is obvious from the photo, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and is well-known as a trauma… Continue Reading

My Toastmasters Icebreaker Speech about Pyloric Stenosis

THE ALIVENESS OF ME The good news is that I was born a healthy 6 pound, 7 ounce baby. The bad news is that I began to lose weight. One pound. Two pounds. When I reached 4 pounds, the doctors finally got the diagnosis right: pyloric stenosis. Pyloric stenosis is a blockage between the stomach… Continue Reading

Can We Free Ourselves from PTS Prison?

Talking with folks about PTS, those who have it and those who don’t, I get the feeling that, in general, people believe that those with PTSD will just have to live with it the rest of their lives. Or, folks are a tiny bit hopeful that they or someone can change but don’t really believe… Continue Reading

It's about infant surgery, stupid!

Indulge me for a moment while I rant about the fact that Google doesn’t seem to be picking up the key words on my blog: It’s about infant surgery, stupid!  It’s about infant surgery. It’s about infant trauma, stupid!  Infant trauma. It’s about post-traumatic stress, stupid! Post-traumatic stress.  It’s about using writing as a healing… Continue Reading