Attachment-Focused EMDR: Grasping the Key Concepts

We all experience traumatic wounds.

Many people, though, don’t think of themselves as having experienced trauma. They may think of trauma as connected to wartime ordeals, natural disasters, rape, or extreme abuse.

Those are certainly all immensely traumatizing situations—generally referred to as “big T” trauma.

However, trauma can also come in less extreme measures. What we call “little t” trauma is also very real. And it can affect anyone.

But help is available.

Attachment-Focused Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (AF-EMDR) is a powerful treatment for trauma—big or small.

What Is “Little t” Trauma?

Trauma is any event that causes a person to develop erroneous thoughts about themselves, others, and/or the world. In turn, this leads to unskillful behavior. In other words, “small t” trauma causes us to lose self-confidence, limits our abilities in some way, and narrows our view of the world.

Types of “little t” trauma include:

  • Divorce and major heartbreak
  • Bullying and harassment
  • Non-life threatening injuries and accidents
  • Ongoing conflict at home or work
  • Major life changes such as having a child or moving to a new place
  • High levels of chronic stress

Although we call this “little t” trauma, we should by no means overlook or diminish it. This type of trauma can have a significant impact on our health and well-being.

Information Processing

We all have a natural information processing system. In other words, we take in information, and our brains integrate it.

However, trauma interrupts this natural system. It’s almost as though the information doesn’t know where to go. That’s why we sometimes have nightmares after trauma because the brain is trying to figure out what to do with that information.

AF-EMDR uses tapping or hand held pulsars to stimulate Accelerated Information Processing, meaning it facilitates and speeds up that blocked processing.

In AF-EMDR therapy, you quickly move through thoughts, feelings, and sensations and unlock a lot of traumatic material. As you continue moving through the traumatic memories during therapy sessions, you eventually reach equilibrium.

Ultimately, this frees you of the symptoms of trauma. Your body and mind have adapted to accommodate the trauma and heal from it.  It is proven to be the gold standard in treating trauma and produces lasting results, usually within a much shorter time period than talk therapy alone.

Key Concepts in AF-EMDR

Attachment-Focused EMDR is a type of therapy that approaches information processing from a relational trauma angle. AF-EMDR therapists go through highly specific training to help people deal with trauma.

While we will not go into details, you can learn to understand its basic concepts.

From Dysfunctional to Functional

Basically, AF-EMDR moves information. At first, this information is dysfunctional.

For example, after heartbreak, you might see yourself as unworthy of love. In contrast, you might think that no one else is worthy of your love. In turn, you become defensive about entering a new relationship.

AF-EMDR helps move this information to a functional place. When the process is complete, you feel worthy of love and ready to move forward.

Psychological vs. Objective Memory

Many of us live with psychological memory. This is memory that feels very emotionally charged. Even though something happened in the past, it feels like it’s alive in the present.

In other words, we tend to identify with our personal history and trauma. And that prevents us from moving forward.

In contrast, objective memory doesn’t hold that emotional charge. We can look at the past and know what happened, but we do not feel its grip on us. This allows us to live fully in the present, regardless of what trauma occurred in the past.

AF-EMDR helps us make this powerful shift by clearing the emotional charge from the past.

Objective Forgiveness

Forgiveness heals us. It doesn’t mean that we accept someone’s wrong behavior. Instead, objective forgiveness means that we get to a point where we can see why they did what they did.

For instance, a person sees that their father was abusive because of his own childhood abuse. We don’t accept his abuse as being okay. However, objectively, we can see that he did what he knew how to do from his own past.

One important key point is that, through AF-EMDR, we sometimes find objective forgiveness for ourselves. How so?

Trauma often leads us to shame, self-blame, and regret. As we move from over-identifying with our psychological memories to incorporating them as objective memories, we also find objective forgiveness for our own roles and choices.

Felt Sense of Truth

Trauma causes us to lose touch with our own felt sense of truth—our own gut instinct about what is authentic for us. AF-EMDR helps us regain that sense of truth. In other words, it helps us access our own inner wisdom.

Memory Networks

We all develop memory networks in response to our life experiences. How?

First, we have a key experience called a node. This creates a web (the memory network). The web is made up strands, which are also called channels. Each strand might be a sensation, a feeling, or a thought.

For example, a car accident is a node. Its web might include the sound of the impact, the back-and-forth motion of whiplash, and the thought, “I’m going to die.” Each of those are strands in the memory network.

Not all memory networks are as obvious as the one in this example, though. Sometimes our faulty thinking creates memory networks that we aren’t even aware of.

For instance, let’s think about a very young child whose parents divorce. The mother leaves and never returns. The child interprets this as their fault. As an adult, they might know that it’s not their fault, yet they can still have a memory network based on that youthful interpretation.

AF-EMDR helps people integrate their different memory networks. In this case, interweaving the child’s interpretation with other memory networks related to relationships.

It can also help with differentiating memory networks. Such as in the case of someone who fell from a tree as a child and now may be afraid of heights. AF-EMDR therapy can help them differentiate safe heights from unsafe or risky ones.

Working with, integrating, and differentiating memory networks is key to the healing process for “little t” trauma.

As you can see, there are a lot of intricate AF-EMDR concepts. However, the main thing to know is that AF-EMDR therapy can help you resolve trauma by moving information in the mind and body. In other words, it utilizes the body’s natural healing system.

Successful AF-EMDR treatment can help you heal old wounds and emerge with a sense of wholeness. I invite you to contact me today to learn more about this treatment option.

For more information on Trauma and Heartbreak Therapy click here.

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