Christ-centered visualization and EMDR in healing trauma


Francine Shapiro, the developer of EMDR, describes trauma in the following manner: ―What do we mean by the word trauma? Is it ‗traumatic‘ to be in a near-fatal car accident? To see a person robbed and beaten? To be locked out of your car in a storm? To find out you need surgery? When psychotherapists talk about trauma, they are generally referring to events that would be upsetting to nearly everyone and that involve a reaction of fear, helplessness, or terror. Unfortunately, many people (and some psychotherapists!) mistakenly believe that events are somehow unimportant if they do not meet this standard. But many events can be disturbing because of their personal significance, such as overhearing a passing remark that you are unattractive, getting a failing grade in school, or having a pet run away. Although in some types of conventional psychotherapy, there may be a struggle to distinguish between the two types of trauma, this separation is irrelevant in EMDR. Because EMDR focuses on personal experience, it downplays what the therapist thinks of the event and, instead, deals directly with how the experience has affected the client. Experiences of all sorts play an important role in our inner life. But for now, let's clarify and distinguish what we can call big "T" trauma-which the psychology community recognizes as a cause of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-and what in EMDR we refer to as small "t" trauma. Big "T" trauma includes events that a person perceives as life-threatening: combat; crimes such as rape, kidnapping, and assault; and natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, fires, and floods. These events are so stressful they can overwhelm our ordinary capacity to cope. They result in intense fear, extreme feelings of helplessness, and a crushing loss of control. The symptoms of PTSD span two classes of simultaneous, and diametrically opposed, behaviors. In one type, the traumatized person cannot get away from his trauma: He is forced to relive the original event through intrusive symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, and obsessive thoughts. In the other, he can't get near it: He is compelled to insulate himself from reminders of the trauma through avoidance symptoms such as social isolation, emotional numbing, and substance abuse. Trauma victims also have physiological reactions, such as insomnia, hyper vigilance, and the tendency to be easily startled by any reminder of the event, such as a particular sound or touch. Small "t" trauma, on the other hand, occurs in the innocuous but upsetting experiences that daily life sends our way. It can result in some of the same feelings as big "T" trauma and have far-reaching consequences‖ (Shapiro & Forrest, pp13-14, 2004).






Arlys Norcross McDonald
Paula Johnston

Original Work Citation

McDonald, A. N., & Johnston, P. (2012). Christ-centered visualization and EMDR in healing trauma. Author



“Christ-centered visualization and EMDR in healing trauma,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed January 16, 2021,

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