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EMDR: is this a therapy for you?

Eye movement desensitization reprocessing, or EMDR, is a type of therapy which targets the limbic brain--that area which houses our emotions and memories--in order to reprocess events which had an emotional impact on us.

Growing up we learn to be a certain way in order to stay safe and connected with those around us. We get very good at certain things which become our strengths, while other parts of us remain under-developed. This can become a block later on, which can result in symptoms of anxiety, depression, self-sabotage, addictions, feeling stuck, being hard on ourselves or getting into a pattern of unhealthy relationships. For example, someone may become a people-pleaser because that meant being safe and connected as a child; as an adult this can lead to being taken advantage of or ending up in abusive relationships.

EMDR targets the underlying memories and emotions which led to patterns of behavior and relating to others. Often there are limiting beliefs associated with these memories and emotions--such as "I'm not lovable", or "I'm not good enough", or "the world is not safe, I can't trust". Although we logically know these are not true, we feel them in our inner core. As an example, I know of a man who had a teacher who was critical of his work, such as the Mothers Day card he made on which he coloured all 4 sides of the folded paper instead of 2. As a child with no defense mechanisms, the criticism became his inner voice, "I can't do it right", leading to perfectionist behaviours and overworking.

Utilizing eye movements similar to the REM sleep state to reprocess the memories allows the brain to heal itself. During sleep and dreaming, the amygdala and hippocampus (emotions and memories) are active, while the prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) shuts down. This is why dreams can seem quite bizarre! Dreaming is the brain's natural way of processing events that had an emotional impact on us. By using eye movements while conscious and focusing on specific memories and emotions, the brain is able to reprocess the memories so that they can be incorporated in a positive way. The man who was criticized by his teacher, can now feel differently about himself and change the belief to a more positive one, "I tried my best", "I'm as good as everyone else", "being different is OK".

EMDR can also be used for specific traumatic events, such as a car accident, house fire, or loss of a loved one, with a slightly different protocol.

For those who have difficulties with eye movement, hand pulsators are available to use instead.

My training is in SAFE EMDR (somatic and attachment focused EMDR). My priority is on ensuring you feel safe and in control of the process at all times.

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