Constructing narratives in early preverbal trauma

Trauma-focused therapies such as EMDR change, in many cases, the perspective of intervention. They made us realize how important it is for us to attend prior experiences of the past coupled with discomfort of the present to manage the behaviors and symptoms of the immediate present.

Transferring the therapeutic model of EMDR to childhood requires precise adaptations to be able to follow the pace and tone of children as they connect to past experiences, especially if they are preverbal.

Trauma and childhood

In the field of childhood, often when we collect the story of a child, we find that the behaviors or symptoms exhibited by that child are survival responses to very early experienceswhether due to gestational problems, postpartum illnesses in children or parents, or trauma from abandonment or deprivation of a secure attachment relationship.

In EMDR, these first preverbal traumatic experiences are approached through the elaboration of a narrative. The fundamental difference with the intervention in adults using the EMDR protocol is that during the treatment the minor is exposed to the traumatic history, and, therefore, the information and the connections between the memories are not made spontaneously by the minor’s brain, but which are presented to be processed and digested by the parents or the therapist, in the therapeutic space.

This requires that the custom story or the story that is prepared conforms to certain characteristics of intervention with children which are shared by other therapeutic approaches.

The importance of stories

We assume that when they contact states associated with traumatic experiences, they are activated and respond from the resources that were available at the time of the traumatic event. Thus, we must take into account the double age, that of the present and that of the past, when creating this personalized account of the event to be reprocessed.

Children’s stories are a good source of inspiration know the characteristics that this story should have. They begin with an “era that was”; they tell us that history has remained in the past, that the present is different and that the adversity of the beginning has been overcome. In addition, the adverse experience is told in a symbolic and magical way, it adapts to the symbolic magical thinking of childhood. He tells without saying everything, the tragedy is not detailed, so the information is tolerated by the child at all times.

In the space of therapy, the information provided must be tolerated by the child and accompanying parents or caregivers, as well as by the therapist. The ending must be happy, as in any good story, bringing together the security experiences of the present.

In the first therapeutic accounts it helps whether the characters are fantasy or animalso that they facilitate, on the one hand, an emotional distancing, and on the other hand, that the characters resemble each other enough so that they identify with them, and that through them they allow the connection with their emotions and lead to healthy representations of the yes itself As it happens to the protagonist of the story, for whom the adventure of overcoming adversity transforms him and is not the same as at the beginning of the story.

A way to connect with emotions through stories

The stories I have written can help us get an idea of ​​how to approach the traumatic narrative or how to help recount complicated events in childhood. How can I get out of here? is addressed to childhood, Cuéntame cuando sí anide una tripa y si nací, is a story to help understand the trauma of abandonment, and El Invernadero semillero presents a narrative model to help explain assisted fertilization, in which we insist above all on the fact that they are children of a relationship with a desire full of love.

Author: Cristina Cortés, director of Vitaliza.

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