• Christine MacInnis, LMFT

How Can EMDR Help Heal My Past?

Updated: Feb 14

What if therapy did not have to be "all talk"? What if you held the potential to heal your own challenging past life events in a similar way that your brain heals during the REM cycle of sleep? Is it really possible that neuroscience is the way we will be revisiting how we work with trauma in our lives, both big and small?

To this I would say a resounding yes! EMDR (Eye Movement Desentization and Reprocessing) is a process by which bilateral movements, such as rapid eye movements that mimic those we make in REM sleep, are used to take troubling memories that are trapped in the right brain and reprogram them. We do this naturally when we sleep but we are not in control of what we process and when. This theraputic intervention does this in a targeted, effective way. In addition to targeted eye movements, tapping parts of your body or rythmic sounds may be used as well.

So what can we reprocess and why? Think of a troubling or distressing incident. Let's say you were witness to an assault to use a graphic and shocking event. Your negative belief may be, "Nowhere do I feel safe" even though you rationally may know you are safe in your own home with the door locked for example. This negative belief shows up for you in panic attacks when left alone, stomach issues that you can't seem to resolve with medication and the sensation of jumping when you hear a loud sound. The tragic event is trapped in your right brain and is not reprocessing that you are now safe. You are also in a state of hyper arousal a majority of the time because your body is in flight/fight mode ready to ward off another attack.

The goal is to neutralize the event and change the belief of "Nowhere do I feel safe" to a positive belief that feels better to you and has been explored with your EMDR therapist. For this example, let's say it is "I can have control over my environment". Using repeated, rapid bilateral stimulation (eye movements or tapping using your hands on your crossed arms for example) in a series of sets, you would reduce the negative sensations brought on by the event and then use the same eye movements or tapping to put the positive belief into the driver's seat so to speak. The goal is to reduce the amount of distress you feel to a neutral level or zero when picturing the event in your mind. A body scan is also done to see if there is still feelings of distress in any part of the body before moving on. The positive belief will be encouraged and tapped into to create an even more positive view of future events.

All of this is done without even having to review all the details of the event which could re-traumatize you all over again. This is a wonderful by-product of your brain's own healing power. It already knows what happened and the therapist doesn't even need to be clued in.

You may still get emotional as you work through these emotions but the therapist will know how to calm you through it and you will have the power to stop anytime. The therapist will also provide you with a safe, secure place in your mind before you begin so you can return there at any time if you are too activated. You are always present and fully in control of the process. And here is the best part! Once these events or triggers are fully processed, they rarely come back or at least not with the same intensity as they did before.

So how do you know EMDR is right for you? Find an EMDRIA approved therapist who has completed the minimum of basic training and call for a consultation. Here at Transcends Family Therapy, a 20 minute EMDR consult is always free so give us a call!



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