In general, prolonged imaginal exposure is an information or emotional processing treatment protocol. The process of grieving a loss is consistent with this theory. The core idea is that when something important happens to us there’s no way out of the tunnel of pain except by going through it. The way through it is emotional processing. In PE treatment, we acknowledge and accept that fear and anxiety are perfectly normal responses to trauma. PTSD results from avoidance, i.e., the refusal to process the traumatic information. Fear, anxiety, and social conventions can promote avoidance and prohibit emotional processing.
For adequate emotional processing, we need to initiate two important processes. The first is the activation of the traumatic memory. Second, we need to introduce corrective information. In other words, through the guided process that is PE, we activate the memory, but we put it back differently. The information is processed or corrected in two ways: by interacting with the traumatic memory in a safe space, and by promoting full acceptance of the legitimacy of the trauma reaction and its consequences.