When there is a permanent mark in our story
The word “trauma is commonly used for tragic events and situations; however, also minor events may trigger a traumatic response, when we have been fearing for our own’s or other people’s safety, or we have been through several humiliations over the time. The COVID-19 pandemic is a (collective) traumatic experience indeed, since we are all fearing for our health or the health of our beloved ones, and we are living on an alert mode.
When we are going through a traumatic experience, we activate a defence mechanism that temporarily blocks emotions in order to be able to act in order to keep us alive and safe. This happens, for instance, after a car crash, when we check on ours and other people’s state and immediately call an ambulance if needed; it’s only in a second moment that we let our emotions flow, through crying, shaking, palpitations or vertigo. In other terms, the emotional response can be activated only after we feel safe. The same happens also for bigger traumatic events, and the emotional response may be blocked for longer periods and take place even years after the trauma, as a “post-traumatic stress disorder”.
Sooner or later, we need to fully process the sensations, emotions and images associated to the trauma that have been blocked out through the time, to avoid having a fracture in one’s own story, that may affect the quality of self-confidence and of social interactions. A psychotherapist helps to go through the traumatic memories it in a safe and protected way.
EMDR is used as a dedicated technique for the elaboration of trauma, which is the integration of all the memory tracks into personal identity. If you want to know more about EMDR, read here.