I get asked this question ALL THE TIME, sometimes even in these words.
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In fact, when I suggest EMDR to clients who have been working in regular therapy, I often get a confused expression in response, followed by questions about if, how, and why it works.
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As I’m fresh out of my EMDR refresher course (so much freshness!) with the amazing Dr. Laurel Parnell, so I’d like to take this opportunity to pass on a few FRESH nuggets of wisdom this process can offer you. Mmm fresh nuggets.
Before we do anything else, lets spell out the acronym:
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Now you know. Don’t worry we’ll get to explaining WTF that means now.
Here’s some background…
Dr. Francine Shapiro discovered EMDR, as the story goes, while walking in a Palo Alto park one day in the late 80’s. She was thinking about something disturbing and noticed that, when her eyes moved back and forth while thinking of it, the intensity seemed to fade. She quickly began testing her hypotheses and concluded that eye movements could help desensitize strong feelings.
She went on to develop a cognitive protocol paired with eye movements than soon became known as EMDR. The process has evolved and been studied for over 20 years now, and is commonly used for a host of mental health issues, including trauma, phobias, anxiety and other challenges. Over the years clinicians have learned that using auditory and tactile methods – a buzzer going back and forth from one hand or ear to the other – gives similar effects to moving eyes from right to left.
So HOW does it work? The theory is that using EMDR helps access neural networks where memories are stored and allows the client to reprocess emotions and body experiences held in these networks. It can be like unlocking the file cabinet where you keep your memories and the meaning you have made of them, so that you can take a look at the emotions, physical sensation, and beliefs that were stored there. EMDR helps you clear out the files and decide what to keep, what to let go of, and how sense to make of all of it.
I know, not everyone wants to dive head first into that file cabinet, nor is it always the best idea. In fact, the strongest criticism of EMDR is that, particularly with complex lives and cases, it can bring up too much, too fast. This is why you must absolutely listen to the next thing I have to say.
USE YOUR POWERS OF EMDR FOR GOOD.
Really, even those of us who are trained trauma therapists do not go around trying to give ourselves EMDR to process our most challenging life experiences. If you want to experience this process, even if you have a PhD from ICanDoIt university, for the love of all things holy please seek the support of a trained professional. Despite what American culture may teach you, we are social beings and we heal best in relationship, not with a do it yourself book.
Good news though! There is one EMDR practice you can do on your own as much as you like… it’s called RESOURCE TAPPING. Sounds exciting, right? (Here’s where you nod along). Okay so maybe it’s not exciting for you yet, but once you learn you will be hooked in the best of ways.
Start by imagining a peaceful place. This could be somewhere you have really been, or a place in your imagination, from a book or movie. Anywhere you can imagine yourself being that feels peaceful. Get a sense of the colors, textures, and FEELING of being in that place.
Now, if you wanted to make this feeling stronger, you could give yourself a hug (go on! … I’m waiting).
Once your hands are on your shoulders, alternate tapping right and left, at any pace or rhythm that feels good to you. Just give a few rounds, maybe 6-8 cycles of tapping. Don’t get lost in counting your taps (less important), instead pay attention to and absorb the good feelings that come to you associated with being in your peaceful place.
Congratulations, you just did your first resource tap!
Now, if you can’t think of a peaceful place, or if your peaceful place turns sour, I’d highly recommend you get some support, and ONLY do this again with a trained professional. But if you felt like, saying “Ahhhh..” or, “Yyyyeah, that was awesome!” you can find your peaceful place and tap yourself any time you want to strengthen those positive feelings.
Now you know a little about EMDR and resource tapping. You’ll likely forget what the acronym stand for (eye movement wha??) but that’s okay, as long as you get that it is a tool to help process and lessen the intensity of emotions, and it can also be used to bolster up positive memories, experiences and parts of yourself.
If you have more questions, you are welcome to contact me or to visit Dr Parnell’s website at emdrinfo.com.
Much eye-moving, right left tapping love to you!