Traumatic life experiences can impact the way that we store memories and process new information. Trauma is often thought of as the occurrence of uncommon events that result in one’s physical or psychological safety being compromised. These events often bring about responses of fear, helplessness, or disgust.
A common form of trauma is “ambiguous loss” or “soft trauma.” First identified by Pauline Boss, “ambiguous loss” can be the most stressful kind of loss or trauma as it creates long-term confusion about who is in or out of a relationship or family. Unlike death, where there is an official end and mourning rituals allowing one to say goodbye, ambiguous loss can be hard to describe, and often freezes the grief process. Unable to grieve fully, people are often re-traumatized by events they encounter in everyday life. Ambiguous loss can occur when there is a major family disruption such as divorce or a family member experiencing depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, chronic illness, or chronic addiction.
An equally important and impactful form of trauma can be referred to as ‘insidious trauma’, which refers to a series of seemingly subtle incidences of aggression, which can result in painful symptoms similar to those found with more obvious forms of trauma. Insidious trauma is commonly experienced by marginalized groups of people who may not identify with the dominant culture. Because these aggressions may appear less blatant than military combat, rape, or a natural disaster, the individual experiencing them in their daily life can call into question the validity of their pain. Trauma work can bring about a feeling of being grounded and comfortable in the present moment, which allows us a unique opportunity to take a break from worrying about the past or the future.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an evidence-based psychotherapy for PTSD and other trauma related psychiatric symptoms. The model on which EMDR is based suggests that much of the problem is due to incomplete processing of traumatic or disturbing adverse life experiences. This impairs a client’s ability to let go of the trauma or at least to quit focusing on it.
EMDR therapy is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. It encompasses a set of standardized protocols that incorporate elements from many different treatment approaches. To date, EMDR therapy has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress and has proven effectiveness with both major and soft trauma.