An Introduction to ETT – Part 2: What Happens in the Completion and the Shift of ETT?
In the ETT treatment session, we do a series of guided imagery exercises that allow the emotional brain to finish or complete any experience that got frozen and stuck at the time it occurred. Trauma events get frozen or stuck in the emotional brain and in the nervous system because the brain and nervous system never got the chance to complete the Fight-or-Flight response that got triggered at the time.
We know now that we can actually “finish” an emotional experience long after the fact. By gently referring to the memory – but not by re-living it! -the emotional brain can be guided to reformulate and close the experience. The brain then files the experience in a different way, so that we simply remember the events, and the emotional charge is gone. Without the charge, we no longer “overreact” to events of the present day.
It is the lingering emotional charge attached to troublesome and disturbing events that sets us up for PTSD. When the brain does not have the opportunity to “finish” an event that has moved us into Fight-or-Flight, the brain holds onto the emotion that we had at the time, until that event is completed or cleared. The emotion can stay with us, far below the surface, and yet it is activated – as a natural brain response – anytime a similar event or emotion occurs. This is how trauma develops into PTSD and “triggers.”
In the next blog, I’ll talk about what Memory Reconsolidation is and how it works.