Donna Morgan Counselling, Shere Lane, Guildford, England, GU5, United Kingdom

BlogUnmasking the Ghosts of the Past: Understanding Trauma and the Efficacy of EMDR Therapy

Unmasking the Ghosts of the Past: Understanding Trauma and the Efficacy of EMDR Therapy


In the complex maze of human psychology, past traumatic experiences often loom large, casting their shadows over our present and future selves. These experiences, particularly from childhood, can be stored away and resurface in adulthood, triggering intense emotional reactions that can often feel unexpected and overwhelming. Why does this happen? And how do we grapple with this buried trauma when it surfaces? 

This blog post aims to answer these questions, delving into the realm of trauma, how it’s stored and processed and the healing potential of Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.

Are you struggling to fight the battles of past trauma? Get in touch with Donna Morgan today. 

Unseen Scars: How Past Trauma Impacts Adult Life

Trauma is a multifaceted entity. Its impact can be immediate or delayed, apparent or concealed and its effects are rarely identical for different individuals. Traumatic events from childhood are often ‘compartmentalised’ by our brain as a means of self-preservation, enabling us to continue to function and survive in the moment. However, these experiences can lie dormant, gradually impacting our perceptions, beliefs and behaviours.

As we age, our brain’s protective barriers can weaken and triggers in our environment can unlock these vaults of past trauma, leading to emotional eruptions or breakdowns in later adulthood. This phenomenon is akin to a wound that never fully healed and over time, has become an abscess waiting to burst. As bewildering as it may feel, it is a natural process of our psyche attempting to ‘purge’ what was buried.

The Storage Room of Trauma: Where Does It All Go?

Psychologically, we store traumatic memories differently from other memories. Our brain processes and stores trauma in a fragmented way, disconnected from the typical narrative, linear form of memory. It gets encapsulated and isolated, which explains why a sudden trigger can lead to a full-blown flashback or emotional breakdown, as the person re-experiences the trauma without the protective veil of time or context.

Unearthing the Buried: Why Does Past Trauma Resurface?

As we navigate life’s stresses and challenges, our defences can wear thin, leaving us vulnerable to the resurfacing of past trauma. Life transitions, loss, changes in health or simply the process of aging can serve as triggers. Such moments can expose the fragments of memory that were disconnected, unprocessed and stored away. The psyche, striving for healing, brings these fragments to the surface to be recognised, felt and finally processed.

Dele Alli: Unveiling the Invisible Wounds

Dele Alli, a renowned footballer, recently laid bare a deeply personal and harrowing narrative of childhood trauma. Aged six, Alli was sexually abused by a friend of his alcoholic mother, a profound violation that left invisible, but deep wounds. Further compounding his pain, Alli revealed his recent stint in rehab to address a sleeping pill addiction, a negative coping mechanism he’d turned to in an effort to suppress his enduring trauma.

Alli’s revelations illuminate the brave struggle many trauma survivors face. His decision to speak out publicly demonstrates immense courage and challenges the stigma surrounding both childhood sexual abuse and addiction. In sharing his story, Alli underscores the fact that trauma does not discriminate; it can affect anyone, regardless of their social status or professional success.

Prince Harry: Sharing the Weight of Public Grief

Equally brave in his public disclosures, Prince Harry has openly discussed the impact of his mother, Princess Diana’s, tragic and public death on his mental health. Losing a parent at a young age is devastating, but the international publicity surrounding Princess Diana’s death added a unique dimension of difficulty to Harry’s grieving process.

His frankness about the trauma he experienced and its effects on his life has done much to dismantle the stigma surrounding mental health, particularly among men and within the royal establishment.

By openly sharing his use of therapy to navigate his grief and trauma, Prince Harry sends a powerful message about the importance of seeking professional help in healing from trauma.

The Slippery Slope of Negative Coping Mechanisms

Both Alli’s and Harry’s experiences highlight a critical aspect of trauma’s aftermath: the propensity to resort to negative coping mechanisms. In an attempt to alleviate emotional pain, trauma survivors often find themselves succumbing to unhealthy behaviours, such as addiction or emotional isolation. However, these strategies only serve to mask the trauma, creating a temporary escape rather than facilitating genuine healing.

Most importantly, their stories emphasise that recovery is not only possible, but achievable and that therapy plays a critical role in this process. They have brought to light the importance of sharing personal pain, normalising the struggle that so many experience and signalling a way out of the darkness towards healing and hope.

EMDR Therapy: Lighting the Path to Healing

This is where EMDR therapy shines as a beacon of hope. As a psychotherapeutic approach, EMDR helps individuals confront, process, and integrate these traumatic memories in a safe and controlled environment. It is based on the belief that the mind can heal from psychological trauma just as the body recovers from physical trauma.

During EMDR, the therapist guides the client through eight phases, utilising bilateral stimulation (typically eye movements), to connect the fragmented and distressing memories with more adaptive, positive beliefs. The goal is to reduce the intensity of the emotional response tied to the traumatic memory and in doing so, reshape the client’s relationship with their past.

The Outcome: What Success Looks Like in EMDR Therapy

EMDR’s efficacy lies not just in the alleviation of symptoms, but in transforming trauma’s raw, distressing nature into a source of strength and resilience. It helps individuals to not merely survive their past, but to make peace with it, thus enabling a life defined by the present and future rather than the past.

The healing achieved through EMDR results in improved self-esteem, healthier relationships and a more grounded sense of self.

Our past traumas do not have to become our life sentences. With therapies like EMDR, we can navigate the depths of our experiences, understand and process our emotions and emerge stronger and more resilient. The ghosts of the past can be faced, understood and eventually, set to rest.

I invite you to explore this transformative journey of healing. The road may seem arduous and daunting, but with the right guidance and therapy, it is possible to chart a path forward, unshackled by the chains of unresolved trauma.

Are you struggling to fight the battles of past trauma? Get in touch with Donna Morgan today.