What is E.M.D.R.?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an adjunct to therapy, which just means, it is one of the ‘tools’ in my therapeutic tool box.

How does E.M.D.R. work?

E.M.D.R. is a very simple process in which the body is stimulated across the midline (the center of your body from head to toe) to activate specific areas of the brain that cause it, literally, to reprocess old trauma.  In this “re-processing” the brain will access resources that were unavailable at the time of the trauma.  As those resources are accessed two major things occur.

The first is that the feelings that were stored in the body at the time of the event(s) are released.  The second is that your current resources; what you have learned, your life experiences up to this moment, your wisdom and maturation, etc. become available to the previously un-resourced part of you that experienced the trauma.

The result of these two occurrences is that your perception of yourself in relationship to the event changes.  The trauma will always be a part of your history. However, your relationship to it will have changed.

What is trauma?

Defined by Wikipedia: Psychological trauma is a type of wounding to the psyche that occurs as a result of a severely distressing event.
Trauma, which means “wound” in Greek,[1] is often the result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds one’s ability to cope or integrate the emotions involved with that experience.[2] A traumatic event involves one experience, or repeating events with the sense of being overwhelmed that can be delayed by weeks, years, or even decades as the person struggles to cope with the immediate circumstances, eventually leading to serious, long-term negative consequences…

Unresolved trauma gets stored in our more primitive brain in an un-resourced state.  Which basically means that part of us is frozen in time/stuck in the thoughts and feelings of the trauma.  Because it is stored in the primitive brain it is now subject to being ‘stimulated’ every time we experience a ‘trigger’ … a thought, a smell, an object, a song, a person or place which reminds us of others involved in the trauma, etc., etc.  This can happen consciously or unconsciously.

When we experience a triggering event, the ‘frozen’ traumatized part of us takes over. Once triggered we then react or behave (again consciously or unconsciously) as though the trauma is currently happening.

What is an example of a situation that could benefit from E.M.D.R.?

When Sally was 5 she was bitten by a dog.  She did not get what she needed to resolve the trauma at the time it occurred.  That trauma initially expressed as a fear of dogs.  It then, over time, began to generalize as traumas do to: a fear of all dogs, then a fear of all animals. And more recently she has noticed she is distressed by fuzzy furry things so she no longer wears fleece.

One of the ways this plays out in her present life is with her friends who have animals.  When she visits with those friends she has become aware of her general anxiety and tendency to feel as though she is cowering in her chair whenever the animal is near…EVEN THOUGH she KNOWS the animal is safe/friendly.  This is really impacting her ability to enjoy the company of those friends.  So, she decided to try E.M.D.R.

After experiencing E.M.D.R. she is aware of several things.  One – the fear and pain of the trauma no longer distresses her when she recalls the memory.  Two – She now has a completely different perception of the event.  The original decisions were: “I was bad/wrong/stupid” and “animals are dangerous”.  That has now transformed to: “I was a little girl.  I didn’t know how to behave around an animal I did not know. The dog responded as it is instinctually programmed to when it perceives it is being attacked…it bit the ‘attacker’…(Sally, in her excitement about playing with a dog, running up to it with her arms spread to give it a hug.) I now know: the dog was not dangerous, all dogs/animals are not dangerous; there are appropriate ways to behave with a new-to-me animal. I wasn’t bad and neither was the dog.”  And a few days later when she was with a friend and their dog she was no longer anxious and afraid.  She even found she was able to enjoy petting the animal.  Oh, and incidentally, she discovered fuzzy furry things no longer bothered her and she now enjoys fleece again.

Who would benefit from E.M.D.R.?

People who are experiencing patterns of behavior that are interfering in their lives.  A FEW examples might be:

  • Fear of fire (house burned down when a child)
  • Fear of driving (recent or historical auto accidents)
  • When someone gets angry I freeze (angry, yelling, violence as child)

Limiting beliefs such as:  I am stupid/incompetent/not good enough, not loveable, etc. etc.  These generally come from childhood experiences. Any patterns left over from physical, sexual or emotional abuse (poor self image, fear of intimacy, lack of personal boundaries, need to accommodate others, difficulty saying no, etc.)


If you would like more information about E.M.D.R. or how it might benefit your particular circumstances I would be happy to talk with you.  You can reach me at 257-0604.

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Artist • Counseling • EMDR • Intentional Creativity Teacher

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