“The future is really unknowable…otherwise it is only a play of the past.”
~ Annie Rogers, A Shining Affliction
Have you ever felt like you overreacted negatively to an event or person in your life? You may have even wondered, "Where did THAT come from?" Physically, you may have felt agitated or completely shut down. When we react in this way, it is because we have been triggered by either something about the person, what was said, or what happened. We become trigged because what just happened is similar to something traumatic from our past. We are reacting to the present situation with the feelings associated with the past trauma, usually resulting in the overreaction.
What is "trauma"?
Trauma is an overwhelming experience that causes a person to develop false beliefs about themself, or the world around them, and to do things they normally would not considering doing. For example, a child who is abused begins to believe they are bad. As an adult, the person may have difficulty trusting others or believing they deserve to be in a happy and health relationship. These negative self beliefs and life-limiting patterns develop as a result of past traumatic experiences.
As a result, the traumatic experiences become stuck in one’s body resulting in irrational emotions, blocked energy, and physical symptoms. The traumatic event becomes like a broken record which repeats itself in the body-mind over and over and over again in new situations.
Often times, when we talk about trauma, we think of the people we hear about on the news: tsunami survivors, people who live in war zones, or victims of violent crimes. Those examples are what is often referred to as "Big T" traumas. Generally, we don't hear about "small t" traumas in the news.
What is the difference between "Big T" and "small t" traumas?
"Big T" traumas are experiences such as war, disasters, accidents, assaults, rape, childhood physical and sexual abuse, and losses. When these traumas occur, they thrust one out of a sense of safety, causes one to question oneself, and alter one's way of knowing the world and what they believe life to be. Symptoms include difficulties at home and work, nightmares, flashbacks, and either new, or an increase in previous anxieties, phobias, and fears.
"Small t" traumas can either be a one-time event, or multiple experiences that undermine and decrease one's self-confidence and sense of self-worth. As a result, one's view of oneself and the world, become limited and narrow. It is as if the person holds a lens in front of them that prevents them from seeing all of themselves or the options available to them. As a result, one is unable to live into their full potential which causes suffering.
An example of a "small t" trauma would be having a parent overreact to a child's school grades, leading the child to believe they are not intelligent. As an adult, that child does not pursue a college education since they believe they are not smart enough. This belief may also be reinforced by a learning style that is not embraced by the education system. As a result, the individual is separated from their full experience and self-expression.
As children, and adults, we do not consciously choose to develop these patterns. It is that we are doing the best we can in the overwhelming experience. The response at the time was the most adaptive coping response possible. Release from these patterns is possible.
Healing through EMDR
Healing can occur in the present moment with EMDR, a powerful psychotherapeutic practice that taps into one’s innate ability to heal, facilitates the release of the blocked energy, and brings integration and healing. As a result, it becomes possible to acknowledge that these things happened and be free of them, rather than continuing to believe you are what happened to you in your past.
After EMDR therapy, clients often times reported they are able to live more fully in the present moment. They are able to access their own inner wisdom, make different choices, and trust themselves.
How does EMDR Therapy work?
EMDR therapy is an evidence-based method for treating trauma that uses bilateral stimulation (eye movement, tapping, or audible tones) to release trapped emotional experience from the nervous system. The emotional experiences are stored as pictures, sounds, thoughts, or feelings. EMDR therapy is about shifting trauma patterns and symptoms, not memory retrieval. While it is necessary that EMDR is facilitated by a trained professional, the process is really a method to tap into your own innate ability to heal. You are the one in control at all times.
How do I know whether EMDR is right for me?
That is a great question. And one I can't answer in general for everyone who may be reading this. That is a question I find works best to discuss individually with clients to uncover what is true for them. It has been my experince that EMDR is not a "quick fix," nor do I used it as a stand-alone method of healing in the therapeutic environment. And there are always exceptions. As an example, someone who is seeking relief from the trauma of a recent snake bite or similar incident could experience relief in just a few sessions.
I'm always happy to discuss EMDR further and answer any questions you may have. We can do that either in the initial 30-minute free consultation, or in a therapy session.
I would also recommend the following links for more information:
What does an EMDR session look like?
Expert Answers on EMDR (New York Times article)
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