EMDR -Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
The title sounds like something from a sci fi movie. I first heard about this type of therapy while in graduate school. I thought it was just a bunch of hooey. Until I got to know the process and saw how it works. I am now a believer and an advocate.
EMDR is based on the eye movements we make when we have a deep sleep, called REM sleep. That is the time when our brain gets to function and file the day away. Our logical brain and emotional brain come together to sort through things and put them in file-like cabinet in our brain. That is why sometimes we will have weird dreams like seeing a pirate in a purple tutu. Our brain picked up on all that during the day and is putting it together.
What happens sometimes, when we have a trauma or incident that is emotionally overwhelming, is our brain doesn't want to file it away. The logical side of the brain will say,
“Hey, we are in the here and now. You are not 10 years old anymore when that thing happened.”
The emotional side of the brain will say,
“Yes I know that, but it still hurts and it is too overwhelming and I can't handle that right now.”
So that incident or trauma stays fresh and sometimes it feels like we wear it like an old heavy coat. We will get triggered by things and think about it and feel those feelings again.
EMDR is a type of therapy that helps those two sides of the brain come together and process those heavy feelings, so we are not triggered. It doesn't erase the memory, but will help us to have the correct emotions and thoughts about it. Some of the feelings and thoughts I have seen people work through has to do with the thought “I am not good enough.” Maybe the person was abused in some way as a child and the thought was “I am not good enough, if I was this wouldn't happen to me.” Logically we know as an adult that isn't the case. We know many factors were occurring simultaneously around us and it wasn't about what we were doing or not doing as a child. The issue is the emotional feelings are still there. We put up a barrier and avoid the subject because it hurts. With EMDR you can take down that barrier and let the emotions and thoughts heal and come into agreement.
EMDR also works on the knowledge that our body and mind is connected. When we experience difficult emotions, we feel it somewhere in our body. When I get upset, I can feel my stomach hurt, get a headache or my shoulders hurt. These are the places in my body where I store my emotional reactions. In sessions we connect to those body sensations so we can lessen or eliminate the pain. EMDR is actually used for pain management as well. I have had it work on my own migraines.
Oftentimes, we can believe that something that happened to us in the past is not that big a deal because we have been told that. I have worked with clients with a variety of trauma, from being bullied as a child to a dog bite, loss of a pet, etc. Our own mind chooses what is a trauma or overwhelming incident. We shouldn't feel like something is not worth taking the time to heal.
If you would like more information, there is a 10 minute video describing this process on the web site EMDRIA.org. You can also watch Prince Harry go through a session on the show The Me You Can't See. I hope this will give you the information and courage to seek healing. We all deserve to have a healthy mind.