From wound to memory: Healing emotional trauma with EMDR
Many people have experienced emotional trauma as a victim of child abuse, domestic violence, or military combat. Trauma can cause life-long wounds to a person’s mind and spirit, limiting their ability to enjoy life and relationships. It is difficult to be healthy when carrying around the emotional pain of trauma.
Emotionally wounded people live in a painful state of mind because they have never processed the trauma. As a result, they struggle with depression and anger. They often use alcohol or drugs to “help” mask the pain they deal with on a regular basis. When a person has untreated emotional trauma, it is difficult to be a parent, have healthy relationships, finish an education or keep a job.
There is a way to heal from this kind of trauma. One treatment is
called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and it is
available in some counseling clinics in the area. It is life-changing
for people as they begin to free themselves from the ongoing pain that
The way trauma continues to hurt us is that the experience of the
injury is sometimes “stuck” in a central area of the brain, where it is
always ready to be triggered. This causes us to experience the pain as
if we were in that same situation again. Flashbacks occur in this way.
When a person receives therapy with EMDR, the memory and experience of
the pain is allowed to get out of that central place in the brain and
spreads out to various areas where it can be stored as a memory, and
not a a current wound.
In EMDR the therapist instructs the person to do specific eye that are
bimodal – meaning movement from one side of the body to the other.
These bimodal movements are guided by a trained therapist, who will
help the person through the levels of emotion that the brain is
holding, and gradually bring them to a place where the traumatic memory
is “defused”, a process which can take a few to several sessions.
The instructions for the eye movements can be simply moving of the eyes
from side to side for several minutes. Hand tapping can also be used,
such as simply tapping one knee with the right hand, the other knee
with the left repeatedly in a series.
This bimodal movement stimulates the nerve cells to move the traumatic
experiences into outer areas of the brain where they can be remembered,
but not have the hurtful emotional charge.
Many of us have experienced the pain of trauma. It is a terrible weight
to carry in our lives. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you or a
person you care about is struggling with this, consider how much life
could be improved.
Get help for this wound; make it just a memory. (The NACC offers EMDR.)
The Doctors at NACC welcome comments and ideas about health disparities
for upcoming articles. Send to: NACC, 1213 E. Franklin Ave., Mpls., MN