EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and is a therapeutic approach that updates incompletely processed and dysfunctionally stored experiences to resolve events in the past that are effecting you unconsciously.
We learn how to think, act, and feel based on the experiences of our past. New associations are made every time we experience something. For example: at some point in your life you learned what an orange is. Somewhere along the way you may have gotten an orange ball mixed up with the fruit of an orange and then made new conclusions about the difference. Further exploration with orange fruits may have lead you to conclude that although similar in color and size a tangerine is slightly different than an orange. We learn from our experiences and they become the building blocks for further learning and exploration. This is happening all the time, especially in childhood and young adulthood.
The difficulty presents itself when we become overwhelmed by an adverse experience and are unable to make healthy associations about about what happened. We move through the experience making connections, on an unconscious level, that lead to incorrect (though understandable) conclusions about ourselves and the world. Then these become the building blocks of unhealthy thinking patterns, feelings, and behaviors that color how we see things and reinforce the negative conclusions we’ve made already. This is very normal, especially for children because they typically do not have a holistic understanding as to why events transpired in their life in the manner in which they did. They naturally conclude that they have something to do with my Mom
and Dad are fighting relentlessly, or why they were treated so unjustly, why that accident happened, why that tornado tore their house down, why someone ignored them in elementary school, or why a sibling appeared to get more parental attention than they did. And the fact is, we have all made faulty conclusions about ourselves and the world because we have all run up against difficulty, adversity, and even trauma. We just aren’t aware of how that is playing out in our lives.
So, what can we do about it? First of all, we need to admit we’re stuck. Doing this opens the gateway to healing! Why? Because we can’t fix something we’re in denial about in the first place. When we recognize something is “off” in how we move in the world, we invite the opportunity to find out where it’s coming from. Once we identify the origins we can go back to those originating events that started the pattern and resolve them. Resolving them includes (among other things) making new conclusions about ourselves and the world. Perhaps you’ve thought, “I know I am valuable/safe/worthy but why don’t I feel this way about myself? And why do I behave in ways that contradict what I know to be true?” And the answer to that is, “Its because there are things in your past that are unresolved and are driving those thoughts, feelings, and behaviors on an unconscious level.”
Consider the time you’ve heard a friend or relative say to you after you’ve shared about a difficult day you’ve had, “Sleep on it. I’m sure you’ll feel better in the morning.” And turns out they were right! There is a natural healing process present in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep that helps us resolve the events of the day. We often wake up with new insight and feel better about the situation. EMDR taps into this natural process and accelerates it by using a clinically proven protocol and bilateral eye movements (or stimulation), similar to what occurs during REM sleep.
With the use of this therapy modality we can create new associations about the things that happened to us. As we uncover the truth we are invited to make new and healthy conclusions about ourselves on an emotional level. When this happens we naturally see results in the present day because we interpret our present day experiences in light of our newfound truth. Simply put ... we become free from the lies of the past to live a more full and unencumbered life.