Treating trauma during the COVID-19 Pandemic


Posted on: May 28, 2020

The ‘Remedy’ is in the Eye of the Beholder

We do know that the Pandemic storm will blow over, albeit a longer time to ride out. Most of us have also experienced ‘surviving’ other economic downturns and adverse events. However, what I have been seeing is that no amount of physical help nor intellectual and emotional assurance can appease those knots in the stomach, tightness in the chest and weight on the shoulder. Front-liner, victim, or otherwise; our nerves are frying up.

Within such dire context, is where I see EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) highly efficient as an intervention that enables people suffering from emotional distress arrive at stability and closure. What EMDR does not take away is the appropriate sense of cautiousness.

Since the founding of EMDR by Dr Francine Shapiro in 1989, there has been worldwide recognition of EMDR as a fast and effective treatment of trauma. What never ceases to amaze me is how EMDR therapy would be effective in treating the “everyday” memories people have. These memories are the reason people have low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, of not being good, lovable, nor smart enough. These memories are subconsciously brought to the forefront while we fight to stay safe. Work-related anxieties are intensified, doubts about our parental capabilities are amplified; and relationship issues ignite with the slightest flame.

In the light of this pandemic, Shapiro’s adage ‘The Past is Present’, and Bessel van der Kolk’s findings in ‘The Body Keeps the Score – Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma’ cannot be more resounding. If we have not gotten past our past, the lumps in our throat, or the endless voices in our head – will continue to lurk in our body, waiting to be triggered.

My past has witnessed ‘seemingly harmless’ childhood teasing where I was called “fat and ugly”. My past when my ever-loving dad kept getting in and out of work has made me feel vulnerable. My past in a top girls’ school has given me the ‘Imposter Syndrome’, always feeling inadequate. This sense of deficiency has been acting like overhanging dark clouds, despite my humble accomplishments and better disposition. Until of course, I imbibed the ‘painkiller’ of EMDR. I now feel much lighter each time I digest the flavours of life.

Have you gotten past your past?

Contributed by: Shirley Han, MAPACS