These words came from one of my client’s this evening, spoken very slowly as he looked off in the distance. No, I hadn’t said anything rude or offensive! This followed an insight he had while we were reprocessing a memory with EMDR Therapy.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing Therapy) is a technique that is used to help people work through situations that have been traumatic or upsetting and that have caused them to change their views of themselves and/or the world around them.
For instance, imagine that you are in the 3rd grade and you have to present your very first book report to the class. As you walk up to the front of the room you are feeling pretty good about your report. As you begin reading, however, a classmate starts pointing and giggling. Your heart begins to race and you want to run from the room as more classmates start to laugh. You finish your report and sit down as quickly as you can with your heart still pounding. You tune out all the other noises in the class as you begin to conclude that you are horrible at speaking in front of a group, that it is scary and unsafe, and you will never be smart enough to speak well in front of your peers. It becomes a traumatizing event. You may make a hundred more presentations while in school in the years to come, some of which go well, but each time you feel the same anxiety. Now as an adult you still experience the anxiety when having to speak at a meeting and you still hold those negative beliefs about yourself. You may not think about that incident from 3rd grade, but it is still having an effect on you.
This is where EMDR Therapy can be very effective. We are able to look at a negative belief, symptom, or problem area in your life currently and use what we call a floatback technique to go to the earliest memory of feeling the same way. In this process, we are getting to the root of the issue so we can reprocess it so it is no longer disturbing. Once the past memory is no longer upsetting, we can reprocess the current issue to alleviate it as well.
The client that had spoken his shock during the session today was working on reprocessing a major life event from childhood much larger than getting laughed at while making a presentation in class. I could have told him at the beginning of the session that he needed to accept the very insights he was able to come to on his own, but it wouldn’t have been very effective. Instead EMDR activates the brain in a way that kickstarts the self-healing mechanisms and allows the mind to make better sense of the event we are targeting. It allows feelings of anger to dissipate and turn to sadness and then to understanding and empathy. It allows haunting mental images of scenes that most would want to forget to shift and change in ways that they no longer have power over the viewer. It causes new insights to be reached where adults are able to fully believe that their child self wasn’t to blame for the abuse that they endured. It truly is a beautiful moment when a person is able to let go of the chains of the past that have been holding them back.
In the words of tonight’s client… “It really works!” And it can work for you too. If you have been feeling the weight of long ago events, please give me a call and let me help facilitate this same process with you.