That’s like SO five years ago. — “Clueless” (1995) But does it FEEL like it was five years ago? (or ten or twenty or fifty…) In my work integrating EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing therapy) with therapy patients, the results repeatedly highlight the reality that time does not heal all wounds. You can have an experience that happened years ago but still makes you itch with discomfort, despite thinking you were over it.
Operating on the premise that painful experiences that can get “locked” in our minds and bodies in a way that continues to affect us — often without our awareness — EMDR therapy targets the negative charge of the thoughts, feelings and memories. When we hear the word “trauma”, we tend to think of situations like a car accident, natural disaster, sexual assault, painful childhood, etc. According to Dr. Francine Shapiro, the creator of EMDR therapy, those traumas are what we would call “big T” traumas. I see these as traumas that you would read about in the newspaper, or would feel easily sympathetic to someone who shared with you about that respective experience.
However, there are also the “little T” traumas; situations that in the scheme of things may not seem earth-shattering to another person but nevertheless can have a tremendous effect on how we function and view our current selves. EMDR is not about erasing the past or pretending it didn’t happen. Rather, it is about facilitating an opportunity for the brain and body to process experiences in a way where the past can become what it supposed to be — the past. That the client can look back and instead of feeling forever defined by an experience, they can feel an ability to move onto the present and no longer feel stuck. Often times, clients are surprised how far back their beliefs about themselves have gone and just how much they have been carrying old, heavy baggage that has kept them hostage from living fully, connecting with others, and feel present in their own skin. For more information on EMDR therapy, see www.emdria.org