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Getting Past Your Past summary

Francine Shapiro

Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy

4.4 (264 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

The book Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro helps us understand how trauma can impact our lives and offers practical techniques for overcoming its effects and finding healing.

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    Getting Past Your Past
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    Understanding the brain-mind connection

    Your brain is wired to make connections between memories, often outside of your awareness. These connections can cause negative emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations that affect how you view yourself and respond to the world around you. Childhood experiences get stored in memory networks in your brain, becoming the basis for your adult perceptions and reactions.

    When disturbing experiences overwhelm your brain's natural information-processing system, the memories can remain unprocessed. They’re stored with any intense emotions, physical sensations, and negative beliefs from the original event. When current situations trigger these unprocessed memories, you can experience and react to the present in distorting ways. For example, a combat veteran may dive for cover when a plane flies overhead, triggered by memories of war. Or someone who was bullied as a child may feel insecure when criticized at work, reliving those childhood feelings of shame.

    Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing or EMDR therapy is an evidence-based treatment that can help process these memories so they no longer cause distress. The therapy uses eye movements and other forms of bilateral stimulation, guided by a clinician, to stimulate the same biological healing processes that occur during REM sleep. This allows new connections to form and the memory to become integrated with more adaptive information already stored in your brain.

    Take Lynne, for instance, who developed PTSD after an earthquake. She began EMDR processing the memory of hiding in a doorway with her young son as objects crashed around them during the quake. An EMDR therapist guided Lynne’s eye movements which brought up associations between feeling powerless in that moment and other events from her childhood where she felt powerless and unsafe. After processing the memories, the earthquake memory no longer caused her severe anxiety. She was able to see it as something in the past.

    Now let’s try a simple exercise to give you a sense of how connections between memories work. First, bring up a mildly disturbing recent experience, notice how you feel, and then let your mind scan back to the earliest related memory from childhood. Does this old memory still carry an emotional charge? If so, it may be unprocessed and influencing your reactions now.

    EMDR can rapidly process emotion-laden memories that underlie conditions like trauma, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. You can also use self-monitoring and self-control techniques to manage emotional disturbance. For example, keep a daily log to record situations that trigger you, along with the emotions and physical sensations you experience. When you notice yourself feeling disturbed, you can use what’s known as the butterfly hug technique. First, cross your arms in front of you and then alternately tap each shoulder to stimulate both sides of your body. This can help you calm strong emotions. The butterfly hug activates your body's natural information processing system that’s used in EMDR therapy. Simply tapping each shoulder repeatedly shifts your emotional state and brings relief. Noticing when you get triggered and using techniques like this will give you more control.

    If childhood memories make you feel like you’re “not good enough,” remember that these experiences were outside your control. Have compassion for yourself and understand that your reactions don’t define you. But if old memories continue to run your life, you may need trauma-focused therapy to help free you. You deserve to live with a sense of empowerment and well-being.

    Bringing the memories that shape your perceptions into your awareness is the first step in your transformative healing. Understanding your own brain-mind connection will allow you to take control and reshape your inner landscape.

    In the next section, we’ll explore how EMDR can help with unresolved medical issues.

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    What is Getting Past Your Past about?

    Getting Past Your Past (2012) offers practical eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) techniques that can help you understand how personalities develop and overcome barriers. It explains why you can become trapped in unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and provides exercises to help you take charge of your life, improve your relationships, and effect real change.

    Getting Past Your Past Review

    Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro (2012) is a valuable book that explores how to overcome traumatic experiences and their lasting effects. Here are three reasons why this book is worth reading:

    • With its practical strategies and techniques, it empowers readers to heal from emotional pain and create a brighter future.
    • By combining scientific research, case studies, and personal stories, it provides a comprehensive understanding of trauma and its impact on our lives.
    • Engaging and insightful, this book captivates readers and offers a fresh perspective on healing and personal growth, proving that the journey is far from boring.

    Who should read Getting Past Your Past?

    • Patients with unresolved chronic pain or unexplained medical symptoms
    • Self-improvement and personal growth seekers
    • Therapists and counselors looking for new techniques to help their clients

    About the Author

    Francine Shapiro was an American psychologist who pioneered eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. In 1987, she discovered that moving her eyes from side to side reduced disturbance from negative thoughts and memories. This breakthrough led Shapiro to develop standardized EMDR procedures to treat trauma which are now used globally. She also authored EMDR and EMDR as an Integrative Psychotherapy Approach.

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    Getting Past Your Past FAQs 

    What is the main message of Getting Past Your Past?

    The main message of Getting Past Your Past is how to overcome the effects of traumatic experiences using EMDR therapy.

    How long does it take to read Getting Past Your Past?

    The reading time for Getting Past Your Past varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Getting Past Your Past a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Getting Past Your Past is a valuable read for anyone trying to heal from past traumas. It offers effective techniques backed by scientific research.

    Who is the author of Getting Past Your Past?

    Francine Shapiro is the author of Getting Past Your Past.

    What to read after Getting Past Your Past?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Getting Past Your Past, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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