"By changing nothing, nothing changes" Tony
EMDR can release you from the grip of past traumas. It can free you from self-sabotaging conflicts or patterns of avoidance, so that you can live more happily and productively. It is recommended by NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) as a safe, effective treatment for trauma. Developed in the 1980's by Dr Francine Shapiro in the US, it has since been adopted by health care organisations across the world. For more information, see www.emdrassociation.org.uk.
With a shock, or a "Big T-trauma", or in the case of many "small t-traumas", it's as if part of the mind gets frozen in the moment of danger, and the trauma is not dealt with, or processed. When this happens, the mind can easily be triggered to re-experience the fear and distress of that moment. We then often develop avoidance behaviours in an effort not to have this pain re-triggered, but the avoidance contributes to the trauma remaining unprocessed.
We unconsciously draw conclusions about ourselves or the world in the face of trauma, and can get stuck with dysfunctional beliefs about the self, such as "I'm not safe" or "I'm not good enough". When we continue to hold these beliefs, even when they're no longer objectively true, we miss opportunities, or live in unnecessary emotional pain. EMDR allows the mind to untangle the knots of dysfunctional thinking, so that we can resolve old traumas and feel stronger, happier and more fully present. It's important to note that EMDR allows the mind to find its own way through, so resolution is coming from within you. It is not like hypnosis, where the hypnotist delivers suggestions to your unconscious mind. It is your own tailor-made solution to your individual problem. It is as if one 'stuck' part of the mind is given access to all the strengths and abilities held in other parts of the mind.
Part of the process of EMDR is a rapid communication between the left and the right hemispheres of the brain. For this reason, people who easily visualise or imagine seem to do very well with EMDR. 'Left-brain' analytical people, or autistic people do not seem to take to it quite so easily. EMDR allows you to process information held in various channels; cognitive, emotional and sensory, so it is a very complete therapy.
You may have been fine until suffering a specific crisis, such as a traffic accident, a divorce, a difficult birth, or a medical diagnosis. You may have been trying to soldier on, but finding yourself thinking and acting in a way that doesn't feel like you. The inability to 'pull yourself together' can obviously be distressing.
You may have a specific habit or behaviour that you can live with, but wish you could change. The inability to overcome it is more annoying or demoralising than distressing, but still, you can clearly identify the problem.
You may have nothing specific at all that you can identify. Just an on-going low-level anxiety or a joyless plodding through a life that feels empty and pointless.
All of these are typical reasons for seeking help, and all of these can be worked through. We first take a good look at what we're dealing with, and then together agree goals to work on so that we know when we're making progress, and so that you can feel in control of the therapy. Therapy is typically in three sections, a beginning, middle and end, with the bulk of the change happening in the middle section.
Naturally, this is a big step, and a step into unknown territory for most people. What are you letting yourself in for? Can you trust a stranger with your secrets? How can you know it will work? As with most things in life, there are good counsellors and bad ones. Even if you get a good recommendation, it can be a case of a good fit or a bad fit. Counselling is not necessarily an easy or comfortable process to go through. It can lead you into the depths of your mind that contain yours fears and the aspects of yourself you'd rather not face.
However, making this journey can ultimately lead to freedom from crippling fears, old traumas, life-limiting guilt and low self-worth. It can lead to greater resilience, calm and a greater ability to get things done. Make the call - this is often the hardest bit. You will be treated with kindness and respect.
Therapy can be expensive, in terms of time, money and effort. But if your life is being limited by groundless fears, or your relationships are being affected by behaviour you can't control, what is that costing you? If you are suffering addictions, such as smoking or over-eating, what does that cost you in terms of money, health problems or low mood? If shyness is stopping you from meeting people or going to interviews, what are you missing out on? Who would you be and what would you do if you had less fear, anger or low self-worth?
This type of therapy is not appropriate if you are experiencing delusions or hallucinations. If it is difficult to separate what is real from what is imaginary, you should visit your GP and ask for a psychiatric assessment. The same applies if you are experiencing extreme fluctuations of mood, or if your depression is so severe that you cannot function in daily life. This type of therapy is not appropriate if you are on the autistic spectrum. In this case, please ask your GP to refer you to specialist services.
Counselling is confidential, but there are exceptions to this. There is a legal requirement on counsellors to inform your GP or the police if you are deemed to be at risk of suicide, if you threaten to harm another person, if you disclose the abuse of a child, or if you disclose a threat of terrorism.
EMDR works much more rapidly than traditional talk therapy, but can still be a lengthy process. Especially for attachment problems and many early traumas, you can expect to spend a year or more in weekly therapy to achieve profound and lasting benefits.