Using Brainspotting to Heal from Emotional Pain

Author:  Stephanie Camins – MA, LPC  

verified by Psychology Today

Do you ever find yourself staring off when talking about a difficult memory or situation?

Have you noticed that you seem to be staring or gazing in a particular spot, say off the left or maybe up toward the ceiling when you’re thinking about emotional topics?

This is called a brainspot.  The point in your vision field you’re naturally drawn to look toward while thinking or talking about emotional topics is directly tied to the spot in your brain that holds stuck emotional information associated with that memory. Looking toward this spot and holding your gaze helps you to assess, process, and release these stored emotions.

Brainspotting is the technique used in therapy that harnesses this phenomenon to make changes in how the brain processes difficult experiences. This method is used by therapists to locate, focus, process, and release experiences and symptoms that are out of reach of the conscious mind and therefore difficult to access with traditional talk therapy methods.

What is Brainspotting?

A Brainspot is an eye position associated with the spot in the brain that the trauma is “stuck” in.  It is that place we naturally tend to stare off to when we are talking or thinking about highly emotional or difficult experiences.  Brain areas associated with eye gaze (where your gaze is focused) are important in your internal response to emotional memories.

Brainspotting is a brain-body approach to therapy. We focus on the body rather than thoughts and feelings. The body activation (body feelings evoked by discussion of traumatic memory) experienced when describing a traumatic event has a resonating spot in the visual field.

Holding attention on the spot allows the processing of the traumatic event to flow until the body activation has cleared.  Holding that brainspot stimulates our brain’s natural tendency to heal itself.  It opens the door to rewrite neural pathways which were previously maladaptive.

How does it work?

“By keeping your gaze focused on a specific external spot, we maintain the brain’s focus on the specific internal spot where trauma is stored, in order to promote the deep processing that leads to the trauma’s release and resolution” (Grand, 2013).

Strong emotions overwhelm our brain’s processing capacity.  When upsetting information is coming from our environment it is filtered through our brain’s alarm system first.  This function of the brain is the basis of our survival and is the flight or fight reaction we are all familiar with.

When incoming information gets stuck in this region of the brain, known as the limbic system, the brain is not able to file the information appropriately.  It locks it away in the emotional centers of the brain causing reactivity, agitation, anxiety, depression and many other forms of psychological distress. Any life event that causes significant stress has the potential to cause this reaction.  This can even be the accumulation of stress over time.

These unprocessed situations/events are now stuck in the fight or flight center of the brain, as well as the parts of the brain that were impacted by the original trauma.  By identifying and releasing the sources of emotional pain, body pain, trauma and other challenging symptoms, we are able to return to a more stable state of mind and body.

What is it used for?

  1. Processing or de-activating emotional “hot spots” :
  • eliminating negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors
  • sports injuries,
  • failures and humiliations,
  • relational problems,
  • anxiety,
  • depression,
  • low motivation,
  • poor concentration,
  • stress,
  • trauma,
  • any emotional disturbance

2. Expanding Strengths:

  • strengthen positive thoughts, feelings and behaviors,
  • better performance,
  • being more open to opportunities and experiences,
  • connecting with spirit,
  • letting go of negative beliefs and thoughts,
  • improving self-esteem,
  • weight loss
  • improving creativity

How effective is Brainspotting?

A report from the Community Survey in September 2016 looking at emotional recovery after the Sandy Hook School shooting found that Brainspotting was ranked the most effective out of 16 other types of therapy.  Barriers to receiving this specialized therapy were largely due to a lack of trained Brainspotting professionals.  BSP is known for its fast results and positive outcomes.

I am excited to be able to offer Brainspotting at Road to Growth Counseling and look forward to helping you achieve your goals! Call today to schedule a consultation.

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