Word has gotten around in recent years about how effective EMDR therapy can be.  If you are unfamiliar with the term, EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing; you can read more about it here.  As you may already know, EMDR was developed as a therapy to help those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  This brings us to a question I have heard from some of my clients considering EMDR: What constitutes trauma?   To answer this question I could quote from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or even from the dictionary, or I could provide a list of traditionally “traumatic” events.  But this list couldn’t possibly be exhaustive and, more importantly, it is not my job to say what is or isn’t traumatic for another person. So I’d like to suggest using a different word altogether: impact.  Certain life events impact us in a way that leaves a lasting impression.  The type of impression it leaves can be influenced by our age at the time of the event, how physically and mentally well we were at that time, who else was there, how long it occurred, whether or not it was repeated, and what happened immediately after.

I have heard clients say things like “this shouldn’t be that big of a deal” or “other people have been through worse.”  Please keep in mind, as professionals we do not rate emotional pain on a scale and our initial response to stress is usually involuntary.  Our “fight or flight” instinct works for us without asking permission first. But sometimes that instinct sticks around past when it is needed.  EMDR can help your brain learn the danger has passed and it is okay to move on.

So if something is weighing you down it doesn’t matter what you call it; trauma, impact, baggage, stuff.  Remember healing is possible.  EMDR can help.

Katherine Kruse is an adolescent and adult therapist with Step By Step Counseling. She holds the credentials of a Licensed Professional Counselor and EMDR Therapist.