Using EMDR To Help Resolve Childhood Trauma

Growing up can be difficult, even in the best of circumstances. Coming of age brings with it many wounds and traumas that are natural for human development. For example, the first time you remember being scolded by your teacher for doing something inappropriate in class. It may have been painful but you learned that each environment has a set of rules and when boundaries are crossed there are consequences. You may also remember the first time you fell on the sidewalk and scraped up your knees, it hurt but if you had nurturing caregivers you knew you would heal and it would be ok.

The aforementioned scenarios are normal childhood wounds that many people experience and generally gain lifelong knowledge from. However, there is an immeasurable amount of factors that come into play, which may slightly alter the wounds and can serve to transform them into something traumatic that will be carried into adulthood. For example, revisit the scenario of scraping your knees. Imagine you sought out your caregiver afterwards with tears in your eyes only to be told something like, “only babies cry, you’re fine”. You might internalize a message that your pain is only relevant to you and others are not willing to help so do not reach out. An internalized message of this nature may cause further difficulty within this person’s relationships as they act out this learned lesson by avoiding intimacy or not reciprocating vulnerability from others.

Reading this example may leave you wondering something like, “Things have happened to me before and I’ve gotten past it, it seems like these are just excuses for people to not own up to their own negative behaviors” which is a valid thought but it doesn’t give credence to the fact that many of us are very unaware of our maladaptive behaviors, much less their genesis. Trauma cannot be scaled and applied to a general population. Meaning, we cannot take one event and gauge how multiple people will react to it. Each person possesses a complex collection of experiences, beliefs, feelings, thoughts and genetics. All of these things and more influence the way an individual perceives and experiences each moment of every day.

 Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy, or EMDR, has proven to be amazingly effective in assisting people in uncovering the roots of the maladaptive behaviors that they wish to change. One powerful tool that works in tandem to EMDR is practicing self-awareness consistently. Meaning, pay attention to the way you feel emotionally and physically in various situations, recognizing your triggers and the elements surrounding them. Self-awareness encourages us to use a critical lens on ourselves that encourages processing and may aid in the resolution of a targeted struggle.

It may seem obvious, but being self-aware sometimes appears to be a lost art with all of the distractions we face. For example, how often do we just turn the TV on when we are upset, or seek out another distraction? Practicing self-awareness would alternatively suggest that you sit in your feelings for a moment, asking yourself about what you’re experiencing, why you are having the noted thoughts or feelings and how you might resolve it.

If you are struggling with processing or understanding your behaviors or reactions to everyday events, or you have memories from your childhood that continue to negatively impact you we would love to hear from you. Our practice specializes in assisting clients towards the resolution of trauma.


For more information on EMDR:

 Kaitlyn Thompson is a Licensed Social Worker and Psychotherapist in the Houston area. She specializes in treating trauma and working with couples. She also has had experience working with at-risk students in schools, refugees and crime victims. Additionally, Kaitlyn is a youth leader at her church in Pearland and loves to work with teenagers. 

Kaitlyn Thompson