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What Happens If You Can’t Remember Trauma?

What happens when you can’t remember trauma? When it comes to addressing trauma, the journey to healing often involves navigating through layers of memories, emotions, and experiences. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has gained recognition as a powerful tool in this journey, offering individuals a pathway to process and integrate traumatic memories. However, what happens when someone can’t remember the trauma during EMDR therapy?

It’s not uncommon for individuals to struggle with gaps in memory when it comes to traumatic events. The mind has its ways of protecting itself, sometimes by compartmentalizing memories or even blocking them out entirely. This phenomenon, known as dissociation, can pose a challenge during therapy sessions, especially in modalities like EMDR that rely on accessing and reprocessing specific memories.

Not Remembering Trauma Is Normal

So, what does it mean if you can’t remember trauma during EMDR therapy? First, let’s acknowledge that this is a common experience and doesn’t mean that the trauma didn’t happen or that the therapy isn’t working. Instead, it may indicate that the mind is employing defense mechanisms to shield itself from overwhelming emotions or distress associated with the traumatic event.

In EMDR therapy, the inability to recall specific details of a trauma doesn’t necessarily hinder progress. The therapy’s focus extends beyond conscious recollection; it delves into the emotions, sensations, and beliefs linked to the trauma. Even if the explicit memory remains elusive, EMDR can still help in processing the associated emotions and resolving the distressing symptoms stemming from the unresolved trauma.

The Relationship Between Memories and Traumatic Experiences Is Complex

Therapists trained in EMDR understand the complexities of memory and trauma. They can guide individuals through the therapeutic process, even when memories are fragmented or suppressed. Through gentle exploration and targeted interventions, therapists assist clients in accessing the emotions and sensations tied to the trauma, which helps to promote healing and personal growth.

close up of person's eyeHow Does EMDR Work?

EMDR therapy incorporates various techniques to work around memory gaps. Bilateral stimulation, a cornerstone of EMDR, doesn’t solely rely on verbal recall of memories. Instead, it engages the brain’s innate processing mechanisms through rhythmic stimulation, facilitating the reprocessing of traumatic experiences at a neurological level. Even if something specific can’t be recalled, EMDR will still be effective.

It’s essential for individuals undergoing EMDR therapy to communicate openly with their therapist about any challenges they encounter, including difficulty remembering trauma. Therapists can adapt the approach accordingly, employing alternative strategies to address the underlying issues effectively.

In some cases, the inability to remember trauma may signify underlying psychological defenses that require attention. Therapists can explore these defenses collaboratively with clients, creating a safe space for gradual exploration and processing of traumatic memories as the individual feels ready.

Additionally, EMDR therapy isn’t confined to addressing specific traumatic incidents. It can also target broader themes, such as feelings of fear, shame, or low self-worth, which may stem from past experiences without explicit memory recall. By targeting these themes, EMDR can still foster profound healing and transformation, even in the absence of detailed memory retrieval.

Next Steps

Ultimately, the journey of healing from trauma is unique to each individual. Memory gaps can present challenges in EMDR therapy. However, that does not mean you won’t be able to progress in your healing journey.

If you are interested in learning more about EMDR therapy, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Call/text 832.819.1708.

Certified EMDR Therapist & Certified IASIS Microcurrent Neurofeedback Provider
Eileen Borski, LPC, NCC, NPT-C Owner, Authentic Brain Solutions Certified EMDR Provider