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  • Writer's pictureEve Kagan

Demystifying EMDR

Updated: Apr 4, 2021

"So much past inside my present." ~ Feist

Do you ever feel like there are parts of you stuck in the past? Maybe you experienced an event or environment that changed the way you feel about yourself, others, and the world. Maybe something or someone threatened your safety and now, even though you know you are safe, a part of you still doesn't believe it's true. Maybe you struggle to believe that you are valuable, lovable, capable, or worthy, no matter how many people tell you so. Maybe you cannot forgive yourself for something that happened, even though rationally you know it was not your fault.

We are constantly making sense of the world in order to survive: the brain is incredibly adaptive! Sometimes the sense we made in the past is no longer true now, no longer aligned with our present life circumstances. Often the sense we made was during our early years when maybe the environment or the caregivers were not able to meet us as we needed and in order to survive we learned things about ourselves and how we "should" be that were harmful.

There is nothing wrong with your brain or what you learned in order to survive—trauma responses (like fight, flight, or freeze) are the brain's way of emphasizing learning that is essential for future safety and survival. Perhaps in this moment you feel ready to learn something new, something more suited to your life as it is now and as you would like it to be. EMDR therapy can help.

EMDR is an accelerated learning process that helps the brain integrate new adaptive information. When we stimulate the brain bilaterally (BLS) through eye movements, tapping, auditory tones, or walking, we awaken the whole brain. This process helps update old learning so that memories and beliefs rooted in the past feel like the past, not like they are happening over and over again in the present.

When we engage in EMDR processing it's like we are going on a rescue mission together for the parts of you that feel stuck in the past. Perhaps imagine it like a building that has collapsed—a building full of old learning that is no longer sound, no longer true. We get to rescue those parts of you that feel trapped and bring them out into the present. As we rescue those parts of you, we begin to reduce the distress from the past that keeps hijacking your present. Before we begin our mission, we spend time building the resources you need to feel confident. While this mission is unique to you, you are not going alone—you are going with me (or another trained EMDR therapist). This process is not about revisiting old trauma memories, it is about helping the brain learn something new.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of EMDR therapy and the power of the brain to heal through learning.

For more resources about EMDR therapy visit the EMDRIA website and perhaps watch this introductory video.

For more information about therapy with Eve, visit here.

I offer gratitude to my EMDR consultant Kambria Evans for sharing her wisdom with me.

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