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What is EMDR?

The name is a mouthful and might even sound pretty intimidating, but EMDR, which stands for - Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing – has the power to transform your life. Developed in 1995 by Francine Shapiro, PhD, this evidence-based form of therapy has had a hugely positive impact on the lives of over hundreds of thousands. EMDR therapy aims to target life events that have left their mark on you emotionally, helping you to reprocess and move on from your trauma. The insights it gives into the mind are so profound that EMDR is often described as “magic”. With years of experience studying various types of therapy, it is hard not to agree that its effectiveness really does feel transformational.

Described as a quick fix solution for long-term problems, this type of therapy can change areas of your psyche within just 3-5 sessions. However, it is still not a quick fix, there is no such thing with matters of the heart and mind, but it is one that sticks, that is the difference. It is rapid, it is transformational and you can get see lasting results after a couple of sessions. As Dumbledore once prophesied, “words are in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic”, EMDR, although not talk-therapy alone, it is the use of the word, the transformation of limiting beliefs to adaptive resolutions, the removal of obstacles combining body, mind and meaning. Clients often tell me, it’s hard to explain, you have to try it to understand its profound impact.

Whether you have experienced Big T or little t traumas, these life events can have a significant effect on you emotionally, even long after the fact. Perhaps you know that you have the power to be superhuman, but you just need a little help unlocking that portion. We completely understand how it feels to have distressing memories, feelings, beliefs or body sensations blocking your true potential. Fear not; EMDR is the only type of therapy we know of that delves so deeply into the mind and body, that has the true potential to banish those limiting negative thought patterns, faster than you can wish for a Fairy Godmother to come and save you. Jim Kwik often talks about how our limiting beliefs  are literally all that is holding us back from being the best version of ourselves, not to sound cliche, but it’s really that simple, the fix for it can be more complex though, especially if routed in childhood. Any behaviour including inaction has a limiting belief underneath it, if you belief you are not this and that enough, then you are subject to those limiting beliefs!


What is AF-EMDR (Attachment-Focused EMDR) or AI-EMDR
(Attachment-Informed EMDR) or AR-EMDR (Attachment-Related EMDR)?

Whichever variation is being marketed, they all concentrate on attachment, to self, to others, to family, to things, events and places. Why, because attachment is the reason we have these limiting belief, if we didn’t care we wouldn’t fear. I am of the collective wisdom mindset, in that we can learn much from the creators of EMDR and of those who have adapted it for the civilian who suffers from these belief systems.

Attachment-Focused EMDR (AF-EMDR) works a lot like EMDR, but it focuses on memories that happened much earlier in life. From childhood, our relationships can have a huge impact on how we feel about ourselves and other people. They can shape how we think, feel, remember and behave. When you’ve had a traumatic childhood, or even one that seemed relatively ok, but maybe you didn’t get your needs met, it can be hard to understand just how much power you have at your fingertips. The most mundane things can feel like huge obstacles to overcome. This can happen even in light of current global events that our shaping history, from compassion fatigue, burnout, isolation, lack of socialisation, not seeing family overseas and a general sense of doom and gloom.

But we’re here to show you that you are bigger than your problems. You are powerful enough to overcome your beliefs, traumas or blocks. You have the strength to overcome the obstacles that, right now, feel overwhelming. Attachment-Focused EMDR aims to rid the mind and body of any negative or limiting beliefs through a therapeutic relationship that centres around trust and empathy.  Limiting beliefs can be related to trauma, such as I am dying, I cannot survive, I’m worthless to blocking beliefs such as I’m not educated enough or I’m overwhelmed. Though you may have felt otherwise as a child, you are worthy of compassion. This type of therapy aims to leave you feeling seen, safe, soothed, and secure. Ultimately, it will leave you feeling confident and powerful enough to build healthy coping mechanisms and seek healthy relationships going forward. My favourite thing about this kind of therapy is that it can have a domino effect on the rest of your life: as you are validated in therapy, you seek out healthy relationships which further demonstrate what you deserve in life. AF-EMDR is a wonderful doorway into a cycle of self-reinforcing validation and positivity. If you’d like to know more about how EMDR works from a clients perspective and what it can do for you, I’d recommend Tal Croitoru’s: The EMDR Revolution: Change Your Life One Memory At a Time (The Clients Guide).


How does EMDR work?

Have you ever gone to bed with a problem on your mind, and then woken up the next morning with a clear head, having gained a new perspective on the issue? That’s similar to how EMDR works. You will be guided to focus on a specific aspect of a trauma or event that left you with this belief, you shift your focus from left to right as you talk about the memory or parts of something connected to the limiting belief. What happens if I can’t remember you might add? That’s ok too, because your therapist is trained in case conceptualisation, meaning they will help you to locate it, that’s their part. You might be asked to hold alternating buzzers in your hands, play audio tones through headphones, or tap your hands on your collarbone or knees from left to right. This diversion technique is called bilateral simulation, and it’s thought to simulate REM sleep – when our eyes rapidly dart back and forth during deep sleep cycles, it activates the left and right hemisphere of the brain, the left side is locked out when a negative belief is installed into the memory network. As enchanting as its healing effects may seem, EMDR is nothing like hypnosis – for the entire session, you will be awake, aware and still feeling in control of yourself.

The impact of this type of therapy on the psyche is profound. Sometimes it’s hard to feel like we can “move on” from a traumatic event; rather than a chapter in our story, it can feel like trauma and beliefs define us. But EMDR gives you the tools to break free of your trauma and your limiting beliefs. It can turn a horror story into a fairytale – one in which the hero or heroine (you) makes an incredible comeback. It is magical, not because it erases traumatic memories, but because it transforms them. It is a desensitising of the body and the emotions connected to the event and the belief, pushing the brain towards an adaptive resolution. Often, even if we know in theory that our negative beliefs aren’t true, it can be hard to break out of behaviours influenced by these thoughts. EMDR essentially rewires the brain, replacing negative or irrational beliefs with adaptive, positive ones or neutral ones in cases where it’s impossible to see it in a positive light, but it might be “I survived that and now it feels more distant to me”. There’s a reason why people call it “magic” – this type of therapy feels like freeing yourself from a curse. Once-debilitating traumatic memories can become a source of strength – it’s just about reframing them in your mind, and that’s exactly what we’re here to help with.


What does EMDR feel like?

EMDR therapy is not a one-size-fits-all - each person’s experience will be different. For some, recalling traumatic events like this can make EMDR therapy incredibly intense. Initially, reliving your worst moments can feel like opening the door to a closet full of demons; like you’re going against every self-preservation instinct. Exploring your own personal mental maze can be a scary experience, and not one that many are used to. It can bring up raw emotions that will leave you feeling vulnerable afterwards. It can also be light, fun and very focused in a way that leaves you energised, often it can make you tired, thirsty even. But with each intensely difficult session comes intense healing, and tidylodge will be here to help you through it. We will never allow you to leave a session feeling unsafe. Instead, we aim to make sure that each session leaves you feeling like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. We are here to empower you, instilling the strength to not only face your demons, but to feel good about it afterwards. With each session, you will begin to notice that recalling these memories does not make you feel emotionally distressed in the same way, provoking an increasingly minor reaction in your body. Ultimately, you will experience less of the negative side effects of trauma - whether they be flashbacks, nightmares or panic attacks. EMDR will leave you with the tools to address the deeper traumas that have long impacted your way of life. In fact, EMDR will leave you with the most powerful tool of all: the power to take back control of your life.