Trauma is a big word these days, especially in mental health circles. When it comes to the effect of trauma on the brain it is any experience in which the individual was exposed to something they were unable to fully cope with at the time. Clinical circles have defined trauma by types of events (rape, car accidents, etc.), but many people have experienced life stressors that fall outside the clinical definition of trauma, yet feel just as debilitated by them. I refer to these experiences as adversities.
Adversity can include (but is not limited to): complications in pregnancy, difficulties during birth, bullying, the divorce of parents, neglect in childhood, abusive parent, verbal and emotional abuse by a partner, death of a loved one, loss of job, and illness. Adversity (sometimes referred to as small “t” trauma) is subjective in nature. That is, what affected one person negatively may not affect a different person on the same level (and vise versa)
Trauma (or adversities) are recurrent or isolated events that fall outside the individual’s ability to cope with what was occurring in the moment. The individual is overwhelmed by what is happening and it blocks their ability to cope in a healthy way (internally and externally). Since these moments are so overwhelming the individual may make faulty conclusions about what is happening and why it happened. Conclusions such as “I am bad,” or “I am unloveable” start to inform the individual’s way of being in the world on an unconscious level.
Overwhelming experiences are also held in the body. This is due to the fact that as instinctual beings we were created to protect ourselves when danger is present. If our instinctual response to fight or flee was thwarted
(stopped) in the moment of danger, that urge and excess energy becomes trapped in our bodies. This is often expressed in present day problems related to excessive aggression, anxiety and panic, depression, and pain in the body. Somatic movement is included in this therapy to help release trauma that is being held in the body in the form of pain and discomfort.
There are many facets to trauma but what is most important is that, like our bodies, our minds are constantly moving toward healing. EMDR taps into the body’s natural abilities to resolve things in a healthy and accelerated way. The message here is the that you can heal from trauma and experience freedom that is lasting.