Despite our best efforts, our close relationships suffer when we have histories with traumatic experiences. And for those of you who just thought, "It wasn't that bad at my house." It's helpful to define trauma behaviorally, rather than comparing oneself with others. If we have a hard time:
- connecting with loved ones and partners,
- feeling safe, or like our partner is on our side
- get triggered by things they say or do and quickly have a strong negative emotional reaction
- are constantly fighting,
There are enough negative patterns that we will benefit from neurofeedback for relationship repair and as an alternative treatment for PTSD and trauma recovery. Dr. Van Der Kolk in his book, The Body Keeps the Score, identifies neurofeedback as integral to complex trauma (childhood trauma) treatment. And it's drug-free!
Here are three ways neurofeedback has improved relationships:
1. Neurofeedback decreases the stress response, which we know long-term as anxiety and depression, making it easier to connect with others in a non-reactive way.
Jenny, after many years of talk therapy, decided to add neurofeedback to support her ong-going depression and found that it had a positive imact on her relationship with her husband.
"I'm better able to not get in horrible discussions...My husband noticed that I'm more balanced."
2. Neurofeedback creates the feeling of being calm and untriggered leading to better sex. If we have a post traumatic stress response it is often difficult to engage and enjoy our sexual relationship. Understandably, if the brain is perceiving "threat" it won't want to have sex!
Here's Jeremy's story of how neurofeedback helped his relationship.
Jeremy had been physically abused by his father as a child. He once remarked to me: “When I first saw the Sopranos I thought: Oh my god, those guys used to hang out at my house when I was a kid. That’s when I realized how bad it really was growing up.”
As an adult Jeremy has struggled with angry outbursts, constantly feeling like the world is out to get him, poor sleep/nightmares and episodes of depression--all classic Post Traumatic Stress symptoms.
A year ago Jeremy came into some money from his father and I suggested he buy a NeurOptimal home neurofeedback device so he could train regularly. Previously he had done 8 in-office sessions and noticed positive changes from the neurofeedback in his mood and sleepbut he lived far away and couldn’t come regularly.
Just last week Jeremy and I spoke and the conversation revolved around his current dilemma: “Natalie, I don’t know who I am anymore—I’m not sleep deprived, I can tolerate the challenges at work, the kids don’t irritate me nearly as much as they used to. I’m not sure what to do with myself.” We joked about the fact that he was struggling to find his identity now that his life felt manageable.
The other observation he made was: “Oh, and I’m enjoying sex more with my wife. I’m not sure what that’s about.”
I pushed him a bit and asked, “Are you sure you don’t know what that’s about?” I didn’t want to give him the opportunity to be passive about positive changes.
“Well, I’m more relaxed. And I’m more open with her in general. So I guess it makes sense.”
I responded with, “Deer don’t have sex if they think there’s a bear on the edge of the clearing!”
He laughed and said, “I guess not!”
When the brain is making the gradual transition from living in a state of activation or the fight/flight/freeze response, it takes a while to make those new neural pathways. As a consequence slowly our behaviors and our perception of the world change too. Jeremy’s story is an example of what we call the “seamless changes” that are brought about by neurofeedback training.
3. Neurofeedback training decreases the impulsive anger reaction. How? Neurofeedback decreases reactivity of our primitve,reptilian brain. The trained brain doesn't wanted to expend the energy of the "fight response" unless there is real danger present. Secondly, that brain is also more aware of anger in others and is less interested in engaging in communication when it looks like the other person is going to over-react to the present level of threat. Our brains are designed to use energy efficiently and effectively and to problem solve using the least amount of energy necessary. With neurofeedback training the brain hones that ability to scan the current environment for information about what's really happening. If our partner is getting angry, which is basically problem solving with a club, the trained brain is going to unconsciously want to back off until our partner is calmer and better able to communicate at the level of energy needed to create success. (Talking calmly uses less energy than yelling!) Without consciously realizing it, the individual who has done a series of neurofeedback sessions will be a more effective communicator: intuitively decreasing interactions with others who are in a stress reponse, making it easier to dis-engage from people who are anxious or angry.
Natalie has over fifteen years experience as a psychotherapist treating clients with conditions such as PTSD, trauma, anxiety, depression, ADHD, insomnia and relationship issues. When she introduced neurofeedback into her practice three years ago, she was thrilled to discover neurofeedback sped up–sometimes effortlessly–her client’s healing process.
Some clients opt for simultaneous talk therapy and neurofeedback and some for neurofeedback alone. Call Natalie at 347-860-4778 for more information.
ABOUT NEUROFEEDBACK TRAINING CO.
Headquartered in NYC, Neurofeedback Training Co. has clinics in Manhattan, L.A, and Boulder. We offer in-office training as well as neurofeedback equipment for home use. Our clinic in New York is located close to Union Square at 80 E. 11th St #310, New York, NY 10003.