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“Help! I Don’t Want to Overreact This Way!”

In my practice I often get clients asking for help to change their response to situations that upset us. We all encounter moments that push us to the edge—situations where our reactions feel beyond our control, leaving us thinking, " I don’t want to overreact this way!" Whether it's a triggered response stemming from past trauma or a sudden overflow of emotions, understanding the need for distress tolerance and discovering ways to permanently unhook from these reactions can transform our lives.

The Role of Distress Tolerance

Distress tolerance is our ability to manage actual or perceived emotional distress. It involves recognizing our uncomfortable emotions without immediately trying to change or escape them. Developing distress tolerance is crucial because it teaches us to navigate through tough times with grace and resilience, rather than reacting impulsively.

Unhooking Through IFS and EMDR

Two powerful therapeutic approaches that help individuals unhook from distressing reactions are Internal Family Systems (IFS) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Both methods offer paths to healing from PTSD, which often causes individuals to have explosive reactions to triggers.

Internal Family Systems (IFS)

IFS helps by identifying and understanding the various parts of our psyche. It acknowledges that our reactions often come from parts of us that are stuck in past experiences of pain or trauma. Through IFS, we learn to approach these parts with curiosity and compassion, allowing them to unburden themselves from past traumas. This process helps individuals respond to present situations with more clarity and less reactivity, as the parts causing the distressing reactions are healed and integrated.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is another transformative therapy, particularly effective for PTSD. It utilizes bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, to process and integrate traumatic memories. By reprocessing these memories, EMDR diminishes their emotional impact, allowing individuals to recall past events without the intense emotional response that was previously triggered. This reduction in reactivity to memories that once caused distress is a significant step toward permanent healing. Believe it or not – this can be done very effectively online – just as effective as in person for the people I work with.

The Path to Permanent Change

The journey through IFS and EMDR leads to a profound transformation where things that used to bother us significantly lose their grip. The once automatic, explosive reactions to PTSD triggers become manageable, if not entirely non-reactive. As distressing experiences arise, the tools and coping mechanisms provided by these therapies empower us to face them with a newfound sense of calm and understanding.

Moreover, these therapies equip individuals with methods to cope with future distress, ensuring that healing is not just about dealing with the past but also about building resilience for the future. The beauty of IFS and EMDR lies in their ability to help individuals permanently resolve issues, leading to a life where reactions are informed by the present, not haunted by the past. That can take some work and commitment to getting to the root causes and continual practice. But if you are ready you can make it happen!

In Conclusion

Understanding and developing distress tolerance through therapies like IFS and EMDR offers a way out for those trapped in cycles of reactive behavior. By healing the parts of us that are stuck in past traumas, we open ourselves to a life where we can say, "I choose not to react this way," and mean it. The journey might be challenging, but the destination—a place of peace, understanding, and resilience—is undoubtedly worth it.


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