Using EMDR To Redefine How We Perceive Our Past

Posted by in Articles, Caroline Steward

by Caroline Steward

When considering individual therapy a person may run across several therapeutic methods or approaches.  Many of them are referred to by letters such as CBT, EFT, DBT, or EMDR.  EMDR is one of the methods we use to address how a person perceives and reacts to past experiences.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR is a model of individual therapy that uses eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation to reprocess traumatic events.  What is meant by bilateral stimulation is that both sides of the brain are stimulated.   The eye movements stimulate both side of the brain, but an alternating tap on each knee or hand, or an alternating sound in each ear, may also be used.  While a person is focusing on the bilateral stimulation, they are also asked to focus on an event or events that are troubling.  Through this dual focus a person is then able to reprocess the events, and the events become less problematic for them.

The basic belief in EMDR is that we have negative cognitions or beliefs about ourselves that interfere with our ability to reach our full potential.  These beliefs may be a result of a single or multiple traumas.

Traumas can be either “Big T” (major trauma) or “little t” (minor trauma).  Examples of “Big T” traumas are rape, war veterans, or violent attacks, and examples “little t” traumas are being bullied, being laughed at, or teased.  Whether a trauma is identified as either “big T” or “little t”, it is still significant to the person experiencing it.

As a result of a trauma a person often will develop a negative belief about him/herself, such as “I can’t protect myself”, “I am unlovable”, or I’m not good enough”.  These beliefs can then impact a person’s perception of him/herself and interfere with choices regarding partners, family or career.

The goal of EMDR is to change the negative beliefs into positive beliefs and, thus, allow a person to live life more fully.