When I ordered Dr. Shapiro’s book titled Getting Past Your Past, I was expecting a self-help read about how to deal with your past issues with some type of behavioral therapy. However, the subtitle made me realize that her book was going to explain an atypical type of therapy. The recommended self-help techniques are incidental to the book, rather than being its focus.
Shapiro explains that Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has been practiced by 70,000 clinicians worldwide. According to the book, over 20 million people have had a positive response to the treatment.
Shapiro goes on to discuss post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD). PTSD involves extreme emotional distress from significant trauma such as major accidents, physical or sexual abuse, combat or natural disasters. Her research has shown that many people have the same symptoms of PSTD, including feeling anxious, fearful, jumpy or shut off from others, intrusive thoughts, guilt or disturbing dreams.
The book examines topics such as finding out who we really are, how the mind, brain and body are interlinked, finding a safe or calm place, blame, and searching for the source, among many other interesting insights. There are also many techniques included to help get hold of some those negative thoughts so that they can be reprogrammed into more positive thinking and actions.
The first chapter addresses the automatic response, as illustrated by asking you to say what pops into your mind when you hear “Roses are red…” Nearly everyone will say “Violets are blue,” even though violets aren’t actually blue.
Each subsequent chapter takes a different theme, such as “What’s running your show?,” and then looks at how EMDR addresses that. Sprinkled throughout the text are examples for using certain self-help techniques, such as the butterfly hug. One technique Dr. Shapiro seems to find especially useful is a breathing technique martial artists use to remain calm and in control.
Appendix A is an excellent resource for someone who wants to get on an easy-to-maintain program of well-being.
Appendix B, “Choosing a Clinician,” provides information for the reader who wants to begin EMDR therapy but doesn’t know how to do that. It also provides information on EMDR humanitarian assistance programs.
Appendix C, “EMDR: Trauma Research Findings and Further Reading” is probably meant for the medical practitioner. Many of the listed sources are professional journals.
While the author does build a case for EMDR’s success, she recommends practicing it only with trained professionals. There are a few clinical terms that really enhance the book instead of burden the reader. All in all, the book is a good read and I’d recommend it to those who are on a self-exploration mission. The book does provide many stop-and-think moments that the reader may or may not enjoy, depending on the memories that may be released.
Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy
By Francine Shapiro, PhD
Rodale: February 28, 2012
Hardcover, 352 pages