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Wednesday, 15 August 2012 15:00

EMDR Part I

"If it's hysterical, it's historical." - Words to remember when freaking out. My former therapist used this phrase to explain to me how far back the anxiety and panic response goes. It wasn't until I began EMDR therapy that I began to understand exactly how true those words are.

EMDR is an amazing form of treatment that is slowly gaining attention in the larger world thanks to the power of Google. EMDR is: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming. In a nut shell it helps you build new neuro-pathways in your brain which allows old, negative pathways to grow over. Picture your brain as a forest. If you walk the same way day after day, you will create a path. EMDR allows you to see, in your minds eye, all the stops along that pathway. What will blow your mind is how seemingly random the events that created that path appear. By bringing these old, buried memories to the surface of your conscious mind you are able to process them and take the power of negativity away from them.

You are then able to build new, healthy, happy pathways by flooding your brain with powerful, sensory memories of a time in your life when things were wonderful. Eventually, like any other trail, when your old pathways go unused, nature will reclaim itself and those old pathways will heal over. This is also why positive affirmations work. Because by repeating something over and over it eventually wears a pathway, affirmations are great, but it can take a long time to get results whereas with EMDR you have a direct line to your subconscious. EMDR is used to treat trauma but can also be used for just about anything you can think of.

In my case, EMDR blew my mind. I experienced it in my mid-twenties with my first therapist. I was nearly phobic of travel but really wanted to see my godmother and cousins who lived in Mexico. My brother and I planned a trip together and I was desperate to ensure my panic disorder wouldn't stop me from having a good time. I did the EMDR once and seriously had the best trip I have ever had. We climbed pyramids and ruin sites, we went into Mexico City and shopped, ate at awesome restaurants, and all without a hint of anxiety or panic. I became a believer of EMDR.

More recently, in the past year and a half I switched from my traditional therapist to another EMDR therapist. This EMDR experience was much deeper and more intense than my first one because I had a whole new decades worth of trauma, hurt, panic, and pain to dig through. It was hard. EMDR is serious. You will feel exhausted and wonky after a session. You will be more sensitive because you have literally dragged your subconscious into the light of intense examination and that feels awful a lot of the time.

Nobody ever tells you this so I'm going to - Growth and Change - the biggies that everyone wants? Feel awful. AWFUL. When they are happening. It is in the moments of struggle and hopelessness that we experience true growth. Lasting change. Intimacy. All of those things come from being vulnerable. We, however, are hardwired to avoid pain.

We're taught that pain is bad, we should make it go away as fast as possible. I challenge you to stay in the moment next time you find yourself trying to shut down when things get uncomfortable. See if you can allow yourself to feel whatever it is you're experiencing and name it:  Fear, Guilt, Shame, Anxiety, Panic, Hurt, Worthless, Angry, Awkward, Silly, Stupid, Sad, Frustrated, whatever. 

Feel it. Feel it and see - your feelings will not eat you up, you are not what you feel, you are separate from your emotions. Just because you feel worthless or guilty doesn't mean you are either of those things. It means that you are experiencing them and you have a responsibility to yourself (and your loved ones) to find the root of those feelings and make peace with it.

I couldn't have said it better myself.
Published in Therapists Blog

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