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Wednesday, 15 August 2012 15:00

EMDR Part I

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"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.
Read 8423 times Last modified on Saturday, 03 November 2012 17:23
Erin Doolittle

I am a marriage and family therapist who so happens to have also suffered from chronic anxiety and panic disorder for at least 15 years. I am thrilled to report that I have dramatically improved the quality of my life thanks to excellent therapy, proper medication, and a wellness retreat named Kripalu and an amazing guest presenter named Rhonda Britten - the expert in fear. Google her! She is awesome!

4 comments

  • Comment Link Jessy Friday, 31 March 2017 20:52 posted by Jessy

    I'm wondering, when you write "sensory memories of a time in your life when things were wonderful", what if there was no such time? (Or could it be a very, very short period of time?)

  • Comment Link Erin Doolittle Thursday, 16 August 2012 15:15 posted by Erin Doolittle

    Oh ladies! I am so sorry to hear that! Please don't give up! Keep looking - it sounds like you didn't have a good match with your therapists but there are so many others out there who I bet you would love! And definitely look further into EMDR. I did another post on it today and it should be up soon. Hugs!

  • Comment Link Jennifer Kim Wednesday, 15 August 2012 18:51 posted by Jennifer Kim

    Interesting information... I dont enjoy going to the therapist shes always digging into my past which doesnt harm me its the present that is kicking my rear. Seems im avoiding present issues like I am terrified of them. This is all new to me and this great information thank you.

  • Comment Link Susan smith Wednesday, 15 August 2012 18:02 posted by Susan smith

    I'm going to look further into that, and maybe ask my doc and my nurologist if they know anything about it. I've seen a therapist a few years ago, the only thing she did was make me anxious about the next visit, she seemed to want to cause a panic attack, and every sessions she asked me if she could video me for training purposes?I have Dystonia to and my body shakes all the time she said it may help me see that I don't shake as badly as I think, every time I refused but she kept on pushing. I used to leave there thinking I must be a wreck.

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