"We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions."

-Brene Brown

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

EMDR is recommended by the Department of Veterans Affairs as an effective treatment for lessening the impact of trauma.  When scary things happen to us, the thoughts, body experiences, sights, sounds, and feelings may be stored in our brains, unprocessed.  This is because in times of trauma, our “defense mechanisms” take over and we may go either into “fight or flight” or “freeze” (similar to when a mouse is caught by a cat and “plays” dead).  During this time, our higher brain shuts down, and we are unable to process the experience as we would normally.  These negative experiences get “locked” into our nervous system, where they often cause distress and confusion.  It creates a “frozen” memory that is not fully integrated into our life experience.  We may go over and over the event, either with overwhelming emotions or without any feeling at all.  We may "work hard" at numbing the feelings, either by being busy, or by using alcohol, food, or drugs.

Release the Fear and Live Again

The idea behind the EMDR technique is that it works to unlock or process the incomplete experience and release the emotions and memories stored in the nervous system. It helps to connect the parts of the brain that were shut down at the time of the trauma.  We do this by connecting to the memory, identifying the emotions and body sensations, labeling the negative belief that goes along with it…all while holding small “tappers” that help your brain to reprocess the event and re-integrate it in a different way.

In my experience EMDR is a useful technique that helps release long-held traumatic memories that still impact our life.


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