• Christine Roslund, MFT, CPC

The Power of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and is a technique of therapy that is used for clearing trauma, clearing irrational negative beliefs and promoting a healthy way of processing negative past experiences. We have all had unfortunate negative experiences in our life at one time or another. EMDR is used when past experiences stay with us, and we have a hard time actually letting go of the impact that they have had on us. This technique can help you integrate those past experiences so that don't interfere with your life today.

EMDR is primarily known as a tool for clearing trauma and irrational negative beliefs. It can also help with removing the obstacles that keep you from getting where you’d like to be and improve performance, as well. EMDR was originated by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s. It involves an integrative psychotherapy approach in which bilateral stimulation is used to facilitate the processing of information that is “stuck” in the nervous system. This information processing typically results in a reduction of mental and emotional symptoms and changes your physical reactions to certain stimuli.

When you experience trauma you internalize a negative, irrational belief. Then, whenever you are exposed to a trigger (an event or stimulus that reminds you of the original trauma), this irrational negative belief gets activated. You experience the same mental, emotional, and physical effects of the original trauma whenever you’re exposed to a trigger. Over time, if the trauma doesn’t clear, it can lead to many unpleasant symptoms and ultimately result in creating major anxiety, depression, stress, phobias, conflicted relationships, or a general difficulty in taking in the positives in life.

Everyone, at one time or another, has experienced trauma, just by being human. Traumas come in all sizes: big, small, and in-between. Any size trauma can have a profound effect. An example of a small trauma could be a child not feeling listened to by his mother. The child interprets the mother’s lack of attention as meaning something about him, such as, “I’m not worth it” or “I’m not good enough,” and he then internalizes that as a negative belief. This negative belief can then create in that child issues of low self-esteem and cause him to move through the world as if he really isn’t good enough.

Ultimately, the belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy due to how he carries himself in his life.

Often these smaller traumas are the ones you see come out when you’re an adult, especially in your intimate relationships. Like those times when you’ve gotten triggered by your partner, even though they didn’t do anything that big, and you know it’s your stuff coming out. This is often due to how you were conditioned as a child and the beliefs you internalized—beliefs that now need to get updated, rewired or cleared so that you can let go of some of those nagging thoughts of how you think things should be.

Larger traumas tend to be characterized by life and death events that get stored in the mind and body without getting fully processed. The irrational negative beliefs associated with big traumas are often along the lines of “I’m going to die” or “I have no control.” These traumas often can have debilitating effects, leaving you feeling terror, panic and anxiety when exposed to certain situations, and can have an enormous impact and even a paralyzing effect on your life.

Because everyone is different, what is traumatizing to one person may not be traumatizing to another; trauma is a highly individualized experience. Everyone processes their experiences differently. Whether or not you become traumatized by an event depends on the nature of the experience and how you personally are wired. Often, negative experiences will clear automatically. When these negative experiences don’t clear on their own, they can build up in the nervous system and contribute to your symptoms getting worse. If you have been having some unwanted symptoms for a long time, this may mean you are experiencing some form of trauma that most probably will not clear on its own. If this happens, it may be a great time to use EMDR to clear those issues.

People often ask me how long it takes to get results with EMDR. The answer depends on several factors, including the symptoms you are exhibiting, the issues involved, and whether the trauma was a unique, single incident or something that occurred over time. All these can affect the length of treatment needed. While a single incident trauma can create severe, debilitating symptoms, it may clear in as few as five sessions. Ongoing trauma from childhood will generally take longer. Those childhood issues that surface in our adult life may need to be chipped away bit by bit, which can require a longer term of treatment. What’s really nice about EMDR is that it gets to the root of the issue, so you often get faster, longer-lasting results with EMDR than with many other types of therapy.

Even if you haven’t been in therapy before, this technique can help you find relief relatively quickly.

If you have any questions or would like to talk about EMDR, I encourage you to contact me. We can set up a free 20-minute consultation if you would like to know more and find out whether it can help you with something that is interfering with your life. I love this tool and use it often in my work with clients. If you are suffering and having trouble getting over whatever is holding you back from living the true you, EMDR can most likely help reduce these symptoms, clear negative beliefs, and provide you with the internal resources to live a happier, healthier life. And if you know someone who is suffering who could benefit from this approach, please pass this article along.

Everyone deserves to have a chance to live their life with the freedom to be who they were meant to be.For more information about EMDR and trauma, please check out my HEALING TRAUMA/EMDR webpage here.

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