The Books That Helped Me Transition from Trauma to Triumph: A Book Review Series – “Getting Past Your Past”

Book three in this blog series – Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy by Francine Shapiro, PhD.

This book was recommended to me by my therapist in the midst of our four year, ninety-eight session, EMDR healing journey. For those unaware what EMDR is and how it helps, I will give you my trauma-warrior perspective, a view from the inside. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. During most sessions, I would watch a light bar flash from left to right and back again or hold vibrating paddles in my hands, alternating left, right, left, right. This would result in my eyes naturally falling into a rhythmic back and forth as I was encouraged to revisit traumatic events from my youth.

What would arise during these sessions ranged from body memories, such as a feeling that someone was squeezing my left shoulder in a fierce grip, to flashbacks of images, such as seeing my mother’s face from beneath water as she held me down, to sensations of a spirit presence in the therapist’s office (I believe it was my deceased father trying to help me). Naturally, I would at times experience panic attack symptoms, and would almost always cry. Sometimes slow tears cascading down my cheeks. Other times full-on ugly crying, requiring a pause in the action.

While at times I found this to be terrifying, my therapist was always there to remind me to keep myself grounded, be gentle with myself, just notice the body memories or panic symptoms without judgment, and to guide me to tuck the session into a storage box, until next time, so I was able to walk out of her office, most days, emotionally exhausted but able to continue with my day. EMDR was life-altering. I would not be in the place of tranquility I am today without it.

This book, penned by the developer of EMDR, kept me holding on to hope as I weaved my way in and out of horrific childhood and young adult memories. It was my reminder that the symptoms of my Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) diagnosis need not be permanent. I could learn to process the memories in a healthy way, release stored negative energy, rewire neuron pathways, and create healthy coping strategies and new habitual patterns. Whew! Sounds exhausting, right? It was. But, wow, was it worth it.

PTSD makes life unmanageable. It pushes people into trying to do something to survive the chaos within them.

Francine Shapiro, PhD in Getting Past Your Past

Using real-life stories throughout this book to guide us readers through the lessons to be learned about trauma and its effect on us in brain/mind/body/spirit levels, helped me feel not-so-alone in my journey. Dr. Shapiro also took me by the hand, along with my therapist, and guided me toward a better understanding of the physiological processes that had occurred during the traumas, and helped me understand what being triggered was doing to me in the present day.

Dr. Shapiro takes us into exercises we can utilize as we move along our healing journey. Trying to survive the chaos within me was a heavy load to carry each day. Not knowing when I would be triggered. How severe the panic attack would be. Wondering if I would actually die from it this time (a racing thought that haunted me mid-panic). However, these self-help techniques outlined in the book encouraged me to believe in the possibility. The possibility of relief. The possibility of hope. The possibility of true healing.

Basically, life is not just about getting rid of suffering. It’s about expanding our potential while embracing feelings of joy and well-being.

Francine Shapiro, PhD in Getting Past Your Past

This incredible book introduced me to life changing concepts such as mindfulness (which I practice on a daily basis now, particularly on my nature hikes), post-traumatic growth (which I can proudly claim has occurred in my life), and Hope for Healing (my own coined term for what I experienced in my life as a result of EMDR – and also the name of my monthly newsletter).

I hope you find comfort in this collection of stories and pertinent information on trauma-recovery. You are so very worthy of the possibilities EMDR can offer.

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