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Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing therapy, or EMDR, is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences and trauma such as narcissistic abuse and childhood trauma. It is recognized as one of the best treatments for processing trauma, PTSD, and complex PTSD, which many people who have past trauma will have. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal and years of talking therapy. There is a lot of research now that says that talking therapy can keep a person stuck in a trauma cycle because constantly talking about it keeps triggering the person, bringing up all the somatic feelings in the body. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can, in fact, heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. Memories of traumatic events can get stuck in the body. It is called somatic memory. This can lead to physical and emotional reactions, causing the effects of PTSD and CPTSD.

This is where the brain has not yet time-stamped the event into the past. Every trigger will bring up an emotion or physical response. In the present, the brain thinks it is in danger, and the nervous system reacts with the fight, flight freeze response to protect you.

Even though you are not in danger, you are safe. The memory has been stuck in the body, and it causes the same reaction as if you were right back in the traumatic event. This is when your body produces cortisol, which causes numerous illnesses and diseases. Once the memory has been unstuck and an adult adaptive response can be made, the brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering.

Once the block is removed, healing can resume by treating trauma and other symptoms by reconnecting the traumatized person in a safe and measured way to the images, self-thoughts, emotions, and body sensations associated with the trauma and allowing the natural healing powers of the brain to move toward adaptive resolution. It is based on the idea that symptoms occur when trauma and other negative or challenging experiences overwhelm the brain’s natural ability to heal and that the healing process can be facilitated and completed through bilateral stimulation while the client is re-experiencing the trauma in the context of the safe environment with a therapist.

It identifies and addresses traumatic experiences that have overwhelmed the brain’s natural coping capacity and, as a result, has created traumatic symptoms, such as flashbacks or anxiety, or harmful coping strategies, such as isolating behavior and self-medication with alcohol or drugs.

Through EMDR for anxiety, individuals safely reprocess traumatic information until it is no longer psychologically disruptive to their lives. Over time, exposure to traumatic memories will no longer induce negative feelings and distressing symptoms.

During EMDR, the treated person focuses on a disruptive memory and identifies their beliefs about themselves. If it is connected to a negative memory, the technique teaches the person to change their view of themselves by learning to associate it with a positive belief instead.

For example, it is common for victims of abuse to feel they “deserved” the abuse. EMDR helps the person to see that as self-destructive thinking. So “I deserved it” becomes “I am a worthwhile and good person in control of my life.”

The process continues until the trauma has been processed and the memory is no longer disturbing to the individual. The selected positive belief is then “installed” via bilateral movement to replace the negative belief.

Sessions typically last for an hour. It is theorized that EMDR works because the “bilateral stimulation” bypasses the brain area that processes memories and has become stuck due to the trauma. When a difficult/traumatizing memory is stuck, it prevents the brain from properly processing and storing it.

During EMDR, individuals process the memory safely, leading to a peaceful resolution. The experience results in increased insight regarding both previously disturbing events and the negative thoughts about themselves that have grown out of the original traumatic event.

EMDR is very relaxing, and the effects of a session feel like magic. The results are simply unbelievable and seem like such a gift to anyone who has ever suffered relentlessly from traumatic events in their lives. It is my wish that more of us will come to experience this effective treatment and begin to live our lives and flourish.

EMDR Helps with symptoms of: