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What is EMDR?


EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a powerful to helping people get mentally healthy. The following is a story of how EMDR can help you. 

Jim went into therapy looking for some help because he never felt like he fit in and was always worried about his performance and wondered what others thought about him. Jim’s therapist suggested that his struggle to fit in and his worrying about what people thought are likely a part of negative core beliefs he  has developed over the years.

Jim’s therapist suggested an form of therapy he had never heard of before.  It was called EMDR and it would help Jim get rid of his negative core beliefs. Jim reluctantly agreed to try it because it seemed strange and too good to be true. “Could I actually stop worrying about what others think and really feel like I belong? It seems impossible, I mean, I’ve been feeling this way my entire life!” thought Jim.

Jim’s therapist gave him a homework assignment, it was to come up with a list of disturbing memories that make him feel negative emotions when he still thinks about them today.

Jim dug deep into his memories and recalled a bullying incident that he had experienced back in the 3rd grade that still made him cringe. Jim couldn’t think of any other memories and decided this was about all his therapist was going to get.

His next therapy session Jim told his therapist, “This probably is not a good enough memory to work on. It’s silly that this still bothers me”, to which his therapist responded, “I am not worried if this memory should affect you or not Jim. I am only concerned that the memory does affect you”.

Jim’s therapist worked with Jim for 15 minutes to identify all the important pieces of information that were needed to help Jim overcome the negative impact the memory had on him. Jim’s therapist wanted him to answer 3 key questions about his memory. “What image/photo represents the worst part of the experience?” To this Jim answered, “I can see the mocking look on the bully’s face”. The therapist continued, “What negative belief did you develop about yourself from this memory?” Jim struggled to answer this question and then finally eked out “I am unacceptable”.  Finally, the therapist asked, “What negative sensations do you feel in your body while thinking about the memory?” “I can feel myself clenching my jaw and my chest feels heavy” Jim replied.

Jim’s therapist had him think about the answers to those 3 questions and then the therapist had Jim follow the therapists fingers with Jim’s eyes. After several rounds of what the therapist called “eye movements”, and Jim telling the therapist about his thoughts and feelings between each set, Jim suddenly felt different. The memory had stopped bothering him. Suddenly he could think about that memory and the cringe was gone. Dare he say it…”It doesn’t bother me anymore” he told his therapist. “Great,” said his therapist “let’s move onto the next phase!”

At this point the therapist had Jim replace his negative belief with a positive one while thinking about the bully’s face. Jim chose the positive statement “I am accepted” and thought about the bully’s face. After following the therapist’s fingers again, tears welled up in Jim’s eyes. Much to Jim’s surprise, he remembered that the bullying only took place at school, and suddenly several areas where he felt accepted as that 3rd grade boy rushed to his mind. Jim had only hoped that this therapy would help him to not feel bad about himself, he had never imagined that it would make him feel self-assured, and even joyful.

In one session Jim had gone from feeling “unacceptable” to “accepted”. This was not just an intellectual shift, this was an emotional shift. Jim now knew that he was accepted both in his head and his heart. This shift allowed Jim interacted with others and his own thoughts and feelings in a more healthy way.

This story above is based on my own experience in EMDR and the benefits it has brought to my life. EMDR does not change who you are, it just allows you to be the best version of yourself!

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