The Strange Trauma Therapeutics of Evan Rachel Wood


Ever since Evan was a young teenager, she would talk about in interviews how her roles in film and television often imitated aspects of her real life, especially the difficult aspects. For example, in her younger years, many of her roles dealt with difficult father-daughter relationships, and she spoke about this as being a way to deal with the real situation between herself and her real father, Ira David Wood II. Using her acting roles as therapy was actually something encouraged by her father, who himself was a veteran actor and used his acting roles as a means of therapy in dealing with his own real life situations. 
 
As the years went on and Evan got older, it becomes quite clear that Evan continued to use her acting roles as a form of therapy. This, of course, culminated with her role in Westworld in 2016, where it came to a point that her real life and her role as Delores became intertwined and linked to a great degree, as she set out to help abused women deal with their trauma while at the same time dealing with her own situation. As Evan said in October 2017 at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit in Boston about her connection with Dolores:

"She’s been abused for about 30 years. And while Dolores is a survivor she is not broken. She even has pity on her abusers. She rises above it, and that gave me strength in real life, and actually helped me come to terms with a lot of my trauma and my repressed memories. It got me to go to trauma therapy and actually deal with things that I hadn’t dealt with at all. So she’s really changed my life."

While we are not told what kind of trauma therapy Evan underwent in 2016-17, she was more than willing to talk on social media about being diagnosed with PTSD and having moments of it being triggered. One noteworthy example was on November 10th 2017, when Harvey Weinstein was in the news, and Evan expressed how her PTSD was being especially triggered that day. One Twitter user asked Evan, "What PTSD could you be suffering from???" To which she replied, "Gas-lighting, narcissism, multiple rapes, being beaten, and having my life threatened multiple times. Just to name a few." She also said: "I hate that these feelings of danger are coming back."


EMDR Therapy

It wasn't until April 18th 2019 that Evan Rachel Wood began to really publicize the types of trauma therapy she was doing. On this day she revealed the following message on her Instagram, with a clear-eyed yet mascara-stained cheek photo to supplement it:

"I just started #EMDR. (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Its a kind of trauma therapy and I must say, is absolutely fantastic. Crying has never felt so good. For people struggling with their past traumas or PTSD and have the means to do so (which everyone should and it pisses me off that mental health is a luxury) I highly recommend this intense but very effective treatment. This is what I look like after a session. Been through a lot, purged a lot, but my eyes are clear and hopeful. Also, NO. SHAME. IN. GETTING. HELP."

In EMDR therapy, people think back to a traumatic event and then use their eyes to track a therapist’s movements by hand, light or sound while asking them to recall and reprocess painful memories. The sessions can sometimes last up to 90 minutes. It is a psychotherapy practice founded in the late 1980s by Francine Shapiro, and geared toward those suffering from PTSD and trauma stemming from assault, rape and addiction.

“As this happens, for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings,” says the EMDR Institute.

The media picked up on this story quickly:

"The New Trauma Therapy That Evan Rachel Wood Swears By" (The Hollywood Reporter)

"Evan Rachel Wood Started a Specialized Trauma Therapy: 'Crying Has Never Felt So Good'" (People

Though it’s recognized as an effective treatment by the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization and the Department of Defense, EMDR still has its critics who argue that it’s a pseudoscience and that studies only track the recovery of a small number of patients.

Scientific American did a story on EMDR on August 1, 2012, titled "EMDR: Taking a Closer Look". There, they summarize the origins of this new brand of psychotherapy:

"One day in 1987 Francine Shapiro, a California psychologist in private practice, went for a walk in the woods. She had been preoccupied with a host of disturbing thoughts. Yet she discovered that her anxiety lifted after moving her eyes back and forth while observing her surroundings. Intrigued, Shapiro tried out variants of this procedure with her clients and found that they, too, felt better. EMDR was born."

This was the conclusion of their research:

"So, now to the bottom line: EMDR ameliorates symptoms of traumatic anxiety better than doing nothing and probably better than talking to a supportive listener. Yet not a shred of good evidence exists that EMDR is superior to exposure-based treatments that behavior and cognitive-behavior therapists have been administering routinely for decades. Paraphrasing British writer and critic Samuel Johnson, Harvard University psychologist Richard McNally nicely summed up the case for EMDR: 'What is effective in EMDR is not new, and what is new is not effective.'”

According to the Society of Clinical Psychology:

"The efficacy of EMDR for PTSD is an extremely controversial subject among researchers, as the available evidence can be interpreted in several ways. On one hand, studies have shown that EMDR produces greater reduction in PTSD symptoms compared to control groups receiving no treatment. On the other hand, the existing methodologically sound research comparing EMDR to exposure therapy without eye movements has found no difference in outcomes. Thus, it appears that while EMDR is effective, the mechanism of change may be exposure – and the eye movements may be an unnecessary addition. If EMDR is indeed simply exposure therapy with a superfluous addition, it brings to question whether the dissemination of EMDR is beneficial for patients and the field. However, proponents of EMDR insist that it is empirically supported and more efficient than traditional treatments for PTSD. In any case, more concrete, scientific evidence supporting the proposed mechanisms is necessary before the controversy surrounding EMDR will lift."

Taking both the positive and negative views into account, for individuals with PTSD — not for those with other psychological disorders — EMDR may be a viable alternative to cognitive-behavioral or behavioral therapies that rely on exposure, but there is no evidence that it is any better. In fact, the eye movements may indeed be an unnecessary and superfluous addition. Those who think it is more effective than traditional methods are probably convinced that this added feature of eye movements enhances the therapy, but there is no evidence for it.

Evan Rachel Wood doesn't seem to take an extreme view of EMDR, but its rise in popularity has a lot to do with its celebrity endorsements, and one wonders whether or not this is really about a celebrity endorsement. Though Evan is by no means over-zealous in her endorsement, her endorsement coupled with the shocking photo does look more like a commercial than anything. And whether the commercial is about EMDR or herself doing this alternative form of therapy should be questioned as well. I mean, why would you walk back to your car with mascara running down your cheek to take a photo? Are eyes so clear after crying? Did you really come back from a doctor's office? Why didn't you take your photo there, maybe even with the person who is doing the treatment on you in order to confirm that you actually did it? There is definitely some questionable elements of Evan's actual participation in EMDR.


Rage Rooms

On November 27th 2019 Evan Rachel Wood appeared on The Late Late Show With James Corden, alongside Melissa Benoist and Mike Birbiglia. There she talked about another form of trauma therapy she was experimenting with - Rage Rooms.



According to an article in Psychology Today, however, titled "Rage Rooms Not a Good Idea", the question needs to be asked whether you are “letting off steam” in a rage room or motivating future aggression?

In 2017, Rage Rooms were all the rage, and according to a CNN report, Rage Rooms were popping up around the United States at an alarming rate, primarily due to the rise in anxiety levels.

Psychology Today, however, wanted to clarify the following:

"Unfortunately, many people still subscribe to the 'aggression as a pressure cooker' model of human behavior. According to this logic, if you don’t let off some steam or release your aggression in a timely manner, it will manifest itself in dangerous, weird, and inappropriate ways. Do not hold it in for too long or you will eventually go berserk and lose all control. Hence, the rage room. For a few bucks, you can spend time liberating pent up hostility by annihilating coffee cups with a baseball bat. It certainly sounds fun, but does it work?

Here is the problem: When you spend time thumping an inanimate object, like a pillow, or beating nonliving things in a rage room, you are conditioning yourself to quickly become aggressive next time your anxiety levels rise. So instead of opening up the escape valve on a pot of steam, you are rewarding your distressed feelings with the instant and ephemeral pleasure that comes from throwing dishes against a wall."

In other words, venting aggression is not a healthy long-term strategy. In a sense, Rage Rooms are conditioning people to convert impulses and irritations into physical assault.

Psychology Today warns: "We should be working towards minimizing aggression and violence in society, not encouraging it even if it is dressed up as a fun afternoon demolishing things normally off-limits."

Furthermore, there are no real studies that even confirm Rage Rooms work. One study that was conducted in 1959 gave some subjects the opportunity to hit nails with hammers for ten minutes to decrease their anger levels after being insulted, while other subjects were left to wait the ten minutes without physical activity to help them vent their anger. The results showed that the hammer-wielding subjects were actually angrier after ten minutes than those who were sitting quietly, even though the catharsis theory would lead us to expect the opposite. (Homberger, R.H. "The differential reduction of aggressive responses as a function of interpolated activities". American Psychologist. 1959; 14, 354.)

Similar studies have come to similar conclusions, and show to the contrary that analyzing why we are angry can more reliably help us to decrease our feelings of anger, while acting out our anger appears to increase it, either in the short term or in the long term.

So much for Rage Rooms.


Evidence That Evan Rachel Wood Lacks Real Trauma Therapy

Though Evan may have involved herself in these alternative forms of trauma therapy to a degree, it also seems evident from the way she talks about her trauma that she is what is called a "trauma dumper". Trauma dumping is unloading about a traumatic experience on an unsuspecting listener. Trauma dumping is unsolicited, toxic oversharing. Trauma dumping is manipulative and abusive, not "sharing." Social media platforms have become popular dumping grounds.

Experts agree that it is healthy to vent about superficial and minor inconveniences, such as your work or social life, to friends. However, casually dropping information about your trauma into a brief conversation is unproductive and problematic. Someone who just dumps their trauma onto others — they're actually reliving that trauma. A trained therapist would help you understand the story of your trauma, how to learn from it and move forward. Trauma dumping doesn't do this.

One needs to only follow Evan on social media to see how much she dumps her trauma. Dumping her trauma has almost become what she is most known for at this point, to the point where she made a two-part documentary for HBO dumping her trauma, called Phoenix Rising.


The Psychology of Phoenix Rising in Light of the Above

Phoenix Rising was filmed for the most part in the summer of 2020 into 2021, though it began in 2019. It is the offspring of all the therapeutics Evan implemented above in 2019, but to an unhealthy extreme. In Phoenix Rising you will encounter Evan "exposing" herself to a great degree to the trauma, though with confidence and without the tears, and you will see her take out her "rage" on her abuser not only by exposing him publicly outside of a court of law, in a sort of shaming way much as you would encounter in The Scarlett Letter, but she even ends the documentary by taking a portrait Marilyn Manson painted for her and defacing it with words that express her trauma (see photo at the top of this page), and then she signs it with her name to make the art piece her own. It comes off as something that is more vulgar and barbaric in its iconoclasm rather than healthy and therapeutic, and dare I say narcissistic. Real trauma therapy would encourage the patient to get rid of everything that reminds them of their trauma and help them heal their memories. If Phoenix Rising can be seen as a legitimate documentary, it is legitimate only in the fact that it documents a desperate woman who is an "attention-whore" that is deliberately deceiving the public, or it documents how a real survivor acts when they have not had any real trauma therapy. The evidence seems to suggests the former, but appreciates the latter.
 
 

 

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