What is EMDR?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. The theory behind EMDR is that our brains have the ability and tendency to heal themselves just like our bodies do in the absence of infection or something else that blocks healing. (think: skin heals when splinter is removed)
During trauma our brain stores and processes memories incorrectly. Memories get “stuck” in the amygdala, the back, emotional seat of our brain.
It is hypothesized that during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep our brains attempt to sort out or make sense of our memories and experiences. Hence the phrase: “Let me sleep on it.” The little librarian in your brain goes to work during REM sleep to file away memories and experiences that make sense of your experiences and the world.
When something happens to us that is too intense or happens for too long, our brain struggles with “putting it away.” These stuck memories and experiences are the source of all kinds of anxiety and trauma. Things that happened in the past “feel” like they are happening right now and have the same kind of emotional charge as if it was happening now.
EMDR works to target these stuck memories through specific assessment questioning and then mimic the “back and forth” of REM sleep to give that little librarian a chance to put those negative experiences away and keep the past, where it belongs…. In the past.
This “back and forth” is where the eye movement part of EMDR comes in. It is one way we conduct what is called “bilateral stimulation” (right side, then left side) to mimic this REM sleep process and give your brain a second chance to file these trauma memories away.
Read more on the origins of EMDR.