Explanation of EMDR:
EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1989, works on the premise that when a trauma occurs it seems to get locked in the nervous system with the original picture, sounds, thoughts and feelings. This material can combine fact with fantasy and with images that stand for the actual event feelings about it. The eye movements we use in EMDR seem to unlock the nervous system and allow the brain to process the experience. That may be what is happening in REM or dream sleep – the eye movements help to process the unconscious material. Originally used with Vietnamese war veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, positive results have since been reported on a wide number of the population with a variety of psychological problems and trauma.
It is important for the client to remember that it is your own brain that is doing the healing - you are the one in control.
Just as positive feelings are available to you, so too are negative feelings of old memories stored in your nervous system. When you bring up a safe place, you experience the pleasant feelings; when you bring up the old memories, you will experience the disturbing feelings. Disturbing events can be stored in the brain in an isolated memory network. This prevents new learning from taking place. The old material just keeps getting triggered over and over again. In another part of your brain, in a separate network, is most of the information you need to resolve it. It’s just prevented from linking up to the old stuff. Once we start processing with EMDR, the two networks can link up. The outcome of an EMDR session causes the linkup of the two networks - that is, the assimilation of painful material into its proper perspective - which is, that it belongs in the past. New information can now come to mind and resolve the old problems. When this disturbing material is unlocked and allowed to process, the reservoir of negative emotions is drained along with it. You don’t immediately go from intense negative to profound positive affect or cognitions. Rather, the information is changed progressively as more material is integrated. Regardless of how disturbing the emotions might be as they come up, nothing negative is being put is - instead, it is being released.
Any unpleasant sensations that may arise during treatment are simply a sign of the old stuff leaving the nervous system and present no current danger to you. It is meant to be liberating.
Think about EMDR as a tool for taking old traumatic memories and updating the information by moving it into normal memory files where the experience is handled as an event that is:
2. no longer threatening
3. capable of change and revision with new information.
Although unpleasant pictures, sensations or emotions may come up as we do the eye movements, you can stop the process whenever you want by simply raising your hand. It is best to allow the eye movements to continue as long as possible but if things feel too rough, we can stop for a rest. The idea is that if you want to drive through a dark tunnel quickly, you keep your foot on the accelerator. If you take your foot off, your car slows down and coasts. So, to get through unpleasant emotions, keeping the eyes moving will get us through more quickly. As we do the sets of eye movements, try to remember that we are only processing old stuff. It may feel real, but it’s just old memories locked in the nervous system. Just because you feel fear, does not mean that there is a real tiger in the room. The idea is to let the brain become unlocked and let the information process through - and be neutralized.