Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: (EMDR) Resolving Troubling Memories with EMDR
Most of the time, your body routinely manages new information and experiences without you being aware of it. However, when something out of the ordinary occurs and you are traumatized by an overwhelming event (e.g. a car accident) or by being repeatedly subjected to distress (e.g. childhood neglect), your natural coping mechanism can become overloaded. This overloading can result in disturbing experiences remaining frozen in your brain or being “unprocessed”. Such unprocessed memories and feelings are stored in the limbic system of your brain in a “raw” and emotional form, rather than in a verbal “story” mode. This limbic system maintains traumatic memories in an isolated memory network that is associated with emotions and physical sensations, which are disconnected from the brain’s cortex where we use language to store memories. The limbic system’s traumatic memories can be continually triggered when you experience events similar to the difficult experiences you have been through. Often the memory itself is long forgotten, but the painful feelings such as anxiety, panic, anger or despair are continually triggered in the present. Your ability to live in the present and learn from new experiences can therefore become inhibited. EMDR helps create the connections between your brain’s memory networks, enabling your brain to process the traumatic memory in a very natural way
EMDR is a powerful therapeutic strategy that recognises mental health as a disorder of memory, including association.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a relatively new form of therapy that is useful for settling troubling emotions that have their origins in unresolved past experiences.
EMDR was developed in the 1980s in the USA by Francine Shapiro. She noticed during a walk and using eye movements, while thinking about difficult experiences, the emotional intensity of her memories decreased.
Her own experiences prompted her to study whether these eye movements could help to reduce unpleasant emotions from troubling memories in other people.
How does EMDR therapy work?
At the time of a traumatic event, strong emotions interfere with our ability to completely process the experience and one moment becomes “frozen in time.”
Recalling the traumatic event may feel as though the person is reliving the event all over again because the images, smells, sounds, and feelings are still there and can be triggered in the present.
When activated, these memories cause a negative impact on our daily functioning and interfere with the way we see ourselves and our world, and how we relate to others. EMDR therapy appears to directly affect the brain, “unfreezing” the traumatic memories, allowing you to resolve them.
Over time the disturbing memory and associated beliefs, feelings, sensations become “digested” or worked through until you are able to think about the event without reliving it. The memory is still there, but it is less upsetting. The exact mechanism for the effectiveness of EMDR is yet unknown. It appears that using rapid eye movements relieves the anxiety associated with the trauma so that the original event can be examined from a more detached perspective, somewhat like watching a movie of what happened. This enables you to access positive ways of reframing the original trauma (reprocessing), and to release the body’s stored negative emotional charges around it (desensitization).
Some experts have noted that the eye movements involved in EMDR might be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It may be thought of as a physiologically-based therapy that allows a person to see material in a new and less distressing way.
Others believe it reactivates parts of the brain that were “shut down” as a coping mechanism. In this way cognitive reorganizing takes place, allowing the negative, painful emotions to give way to more resolved, empowered feelings. Trapped by Memories: How a single trauma can impact our lives.
One of the key elements of EMDR is “dual stimulation.” During treatment, you are asked to think or talk about memories, triggers, and painful emotions while simultaneously focusing on your therapist’s moving finger or another form of bilateral stimuli. In a typical EMDR therapy session, you focus on traumatic memories and associated negative emotions and beliefs while tracking your therapist’s moving finger with your eyes as it moves back and forth across your field of vision. Other forms of external stimuli that may be used in EMDR therapy include bilateral tactile sensations and sounds (e.g. alternating hand taps or a chime that pans back and forth from ear to ear).
However, new future ways of coping and thinking are embedded using EMDR.
It is a unique way to look at therapy. You are asked to do some work to recall memories and you have choice as to how to progress and the bilateral stimulation method is used. It is a dyamic and client based method.
EMDR is widely recognised as an effective treatment for many mental health and other issues.
I am currently utilising EMDR to treat
- Trauma (past)
- recent traumatic events
- domestic violence
- grief and loss after normalised periods / treatment
- enhancing peak performance
- weight loss
- addiction issues
- intimacy defiits/ blocks to engaging intimately
This is not an exhaustive list, however assessment will determine if my approach is appropriate for you.