Using Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy (CBT)
Now that you have been medicinally and pharmacologically rewiring your body, you might as well do the same with your brain and your behavior. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you start to identify the thought patterns in your brain, the “what if” and “I could, but I’d rather not” thought patterns.
Exposure therapy can help stop the pattern in which you avoid more and more things in the world. This is a procedure where you use imagery and with a tremendous amount of support start to imagine past traumatic events and conceive present circumstances that remind you of them. With support, you’ll learn to desensitize your brain and body.4
It’s important, at this stage of your treatment, to tell yourself that you are a brave survivor for having come so far and that you want, paradoxically, to face new situations that might be scary and out of your comfort zone.
Holding two thought patterns that are seemingly opposite concepts (i.e., paradox) is the key to healing trauma. For example, “I love myself just the way I am” is a phrase that can be coupled with its seeming opposite, “I want to change.”
Often people who have a history of trauma and abuse have difficulty holding paradox and are prone to black-and-white thinking. So, you might say, “I’m a survivor, I’ve come this far, this is what I learned to do to feel safe.”
However, if the way you’ve learned to feel safe is by limiting your life to only one or two friends, you’ll feel less anxiety at first, but in the long run you’ll socially starve. Limiting happiness and freedom because you are panic-stricken means you are still shackled to your trauma.
That’s all right. You can love yourself where you are and want more.
How do you do that?
Dialetical behavioral therapy (DBT) helps you train your mind to handle seemingly opposite thoughts and get rid of the black-and-white thinking that escalates panic and limits your life. Dialectical behavioral therapy for many is the treatment of choice for PTSD and panic disorder.
This kind of cognitive behavioral therapy is based on Tibetan Buddhism and mindfulness. It helps you learn how to regulate panic, fear, sadness, anger, shame, and guilt. You may also want to consider hypnotherapy, EMDR (stands for “eye movement desensitization and reprocessing”), and other therapies that help people alter their mind-body networks for trauma.