When you hear the word trauma what do you think of? War veterans abused and neglected children or even adults that have been seriously injured in a car accident. While all of these are considered to be trauma, trauma actually encompasses a wider definition.
Trauma can be defined as an event that has occurred outside the range of our human experiences that has caused us distress. It becomes a traumatic experience that remains preserved in the brain and body and is often unaltered. This means that the unprocessed memory will encompass all of the components of what occurred; the emotions you felt, the physical sensations, images, thoughts and beliefs.
Think about a time when you may have had food poisoning. I remember when I was young and I was playing with a friend at her house and for some reason, the friend's mother gave me a whole lemon to eat. I had not experienced a lemon before, and being 6 years old, I decided to eat the whole lemon, skin and all, and boy was I sick. After that, every time I looked at a lemon I would get the same physical sensation of feeling nauseous, the emotion of disgust and the image of me vomiting. My dislike of lemons extended to lemon meringue pie, any lemon sweets and even lemonade.
Now taking the above example and my response to eating a lemon, think of any situation you may have experienced in your life that could have affected the way you felt, leading you to have a negative belief, emotion and physical sensation. For example, someone that may have been bullied as a child will remember the physical sensation of experiencing increased heartbeat, sweating, brain shutting down, and difficulty breathing. Their emotions may of fear and anxiety and possible embarrassment, with the image etched in their mind of being pushed down to the ground by the bully with a possible negative belief of “I am not good enough to be liked” or “I am not safe around people”.
What happens is the experiences are unable to be processed, for a variety of reasons and become frozen in the brain. The person who was then bullied goes about their lives but notices that they are not able to have close relationships with people, or when they are around a certain person they feel anxious. Maybe when they are in a crowd they notice that they feel people are judging them, or that other people do not like them. Unbeknownst to them, their previous trauma of being bullied has turned up in their lives and can affect them in a variety of different ways.
This is where eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) comes into the picture. EMDR in a nutshell is a type of therapy that pinpoints the traumatic memory or memories that have not been processed and with the help of a therapist, works to process the memory, reducing the emotions, physical sensation, images, thoughts and belief about self.
For example, say if you have experienced a car accident and now feel anxious about driving. Every single time you get into the car you feel fear, increased heartbeat, sweating, difficulty breathing, and lack of concentration, with the image of the other car slamming into the side of your car. The noise, metal again metal and your negative belief of “I am not in control” or “I am not safe”. With the help of an EMDR therapist, they will take the person back to the time of the accident focusing on the worst part of what occurred, with their negative belief of say “I am not in control”. Their feeling may be fear that they experience in their chest. With the help of bilateral stimulation, a technique used in EMDR the brain will start to process the memory, reducing the image, sensation and negative belief. In its place, the therapist will eventually install the positive belief of “I am in control”.
If while reading this blog you can relate to anything that has been said, then please reach out to an EMDR specialist for a consultation. For Florida residents, area please feel free to reach out to Clarity Health Solutions.