EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a therapy that desensitizes the nervous system to life disturbing events by engaging our innate ability to heal and adapt. Each of us has within us the ability to grow, change, and adapt to new situations and experiences in our lives and changes in our environments, but there are times when we experience an incident or situation that overwhelms that ability. It can be a single incident such as the shock of a car accident, or something more chronic such as childhood abuse. In those cases, we don’t learn from what happened at the time and move on with more knowledge and experience, but solidify in a reaction pattern so when something similar happens again, we again react unsuccessfully in the same way. These are called maladaptive reaction patterns which are emotional wounds held in the physiology of our bodies and nervous systems. We all carry emotional wounds, it’s part of being human. The physiology of our bodies is able to heal these emotional wounds just as it has the capability to heal our physical wounds, and will always repair wounds whenever possible in order to keep us functioning at optimum health. In the case of maladaptive patterns, the physiology and nervous system will try to manage and maintain these wounds at the expense of our health and vitality. EMDR has the ability to allow your natural healing processes to successfully adapt and metabolize these maladaptive patterns and emotional wounds, thereby giving a successful outcome. A successful outcome means learning from the experience in a way that allows you to move on with more awareness and wisdom and if presented with a similar situation, successfully adapt. It also frees up the life force that was containing the pattern which results in more energy and vitality.
It is not clear how EMDR works physiologically. But, from research data collected over 25 years, it appears to bring the ability to adapt into contact with the maladaptive pattern and to then successfully desensitize and metabolize those patterns. In the process, we can now experience the old trauma and the present-life triggering event with our higher-level brain functioning, which result in a broader perspective and understanding. Then, with adaptation comes more personal awareness and with awareness comes choice, so we are no longer reacting blindly to a maladaptive pattern, but instead are acting out of personal choice with a broader perspective and overview.
EMDR is a very client directed process. I, as the clinician, trust that your inner intelligence will adapt and repair the pattern, wound, or traumatic event. Just as repairing a cut on your finger is a complex physiological process that no one could possibly direct, it is the same with inner emotional wounding. I can’t possibly know the complex physiological processes system that heal and repair the wound, but I can provide the structure and support to give it that opportunity.
For EMDR to work successfully, certain conditions are needed. These include: 1) the ability to maintain dual awareness, where you have one foot in the present and one foot in the past; 2) a good and safe therapeutic relationship between clinician and client; and 3) the client’s ability to feel difficult emotions and physical sensations without getting overwhelmed by them. If these conditions are not in place we will work together so these skills are present before starting with EMDR.