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How EMDR Can Help You Feel More Calm and Confident

EMDR Blog

If you suffer from anxiety, negative self-talk, or feel stuck in the beliefs you hold about yourself, others, or the world around you, read on to understand how EMDR can help you decrease your symptoms of anxiety and change the way you think about yourself.

What is EMDR?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an evidence-based therapy modality initially developed to heal traumatic memories and PTSD, and allow individuals to shed negative beliefs about themselves while integrating the mind, body, and emotions. 

Now widely used for a variety of presenting concerns, including low self-esteem and self-worth, attachment and relationship issues, anxiety and panic disorders, depression, grief and loss, as well as different types of trauma, EMDR is a structured therapy approach that goes beyond talk therapy and targets specific experiences in an individual’s life that have contributed to forming limiting beliefs about themselves. 

Sometimes these beliefs have to do with feeling less than (ex. I am not good enough, I am not important, I am not worthy), while other times they have to do with safety deficits (ex. I am in danger, I cannot trust anyone), or feeling responsible for something (ex. I should have, I did something wrong), or issues about control (ex. I am not in control, I am powerless, I am weak). 

Change the way you think

The ways in which we think about ourselves are not permanent or fixed – just as we have learned to believe something, we can un-learn that belief and adopt a more healthy, adaptive thought that allows us to feel compassion, confidence, and security. While positive affirmations (ex. positive self-talk) can be helpful, they can sometimes fall short and feel disingenuous and forced, causing us to feel even worse because we don’t actually believe those statements even when we are trying really hard.

EMDR goes beyond traditional talk therapy

While talk therapies normally rely on people using the part of their brains responsible for logic and reasoning to understand and process information, EMDR is an integrative approach that incorporates elements of somatic, sensory, mindfulness, and cognitive therapies to reorganize memories and information at a physiological level, and allow them to integrated and processed fully. It is hard to truly believe something when your body or emotions are telling you something completely different. With EMDR, you physically, emotionally, and mentally adopt positive beliefs and let go of the ones that are holding you back, causing pain, anxiety, or self-criticism.

How does EMDR Work?

During EMDR sessions, a trained EMDR therapist typically guides the individual through a series of bilateral stimulation exercises, which may involve moving the eyes from side to side, tapping alternating sides of the body, or using alternating audio tones in headphones. These bilateral stimulations are thought to mimic the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep phase, during which the brain naturally processes and integrates emotional experiences.

Integrating the left and right sides of the brain:

Bilateral Stimulation: The back-and-forth movement of the eyes or other forms of bilateral stimulation is believed to activate both the left and right hemispheres of the brain simultaneously. This bilateral stimulation helps to facilitate communication between the logical, linguistic functions of the left hemisphere and the emotional, sensory functions of the right hemisphere.

Memory Processing: Traumatic memories are often stored in fragmented and isolated forms within the brain, particularly in the right hemisphere, which is more involved in processing emotions and sensations. Through EMDR, bilateral stimulation is believed to facilitate the processing of these memories, allowing for their integration with other aspects of memory stored in the left hemisphere, such as language and logical reasoning. This integration can lead to a more coherent and adaptive understanding of the traumatic event.

Adaptive Resolution: As traumatic memories are processed and integrated, EMDR aims to promote adaptive resolution, where negative beliefs and emotions associated with the memory are replaced with more positive and realistic beliefs. This process involves the left hemisphere’s cognitive functions, such as rational thinking and problem-solving, working together with the right hemisphere’s emotional processing to reframe and reorganize the memory.

How can EMDR help you?

Overall, EMDR therapy offers a structured and evidence-based approach to healing from trauma as well as a wide variety of issues including anxiety, anger, chronic pain, low self-esteem, depression, and other emotional difficulties, ultimately helping individuals feel better by promoting emotional healing, resilience, and personal growth. It is important to work with a qualified therapist trained in EMDR to ensure that the therapy is tailored to your specific needs and goals.

To find out more about EMDR and how it may be an appropriate approach for you, we welcome you to book a free 20-minute consultation with one of our trained therapists today.  

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