Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy
Eye Movement Reprocessing and Desensitisation (EMDR)
EMDR is an evidenced based therapy for trauma related difficulties such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). EMDR can be useful for reducing the disturbance associated with memories that trigger feelings of fear, anger, shame, guilt, sadness and loss. Sometimes we may feel such feelings and disturbance as emotions, but also as bodily held visceral sensations. Sometimes such distress is coupled with fragments of memories that may not seem to make logical sense. Sometimes such memories are very raw and trigger you to feel just as you did back then. People often say that they may feel just like a child even though they know logically they are an adult.
This is because memories stored while we are very overwhelmed and distressed, and in a 'fight/flight' state or a 'freeze and submit' state may be stored 'dysfunctionally'. This means they can be stored alongside other beliefs and ideas that you may know logically not to be true, or you may believe on some level to be true and may have held for some years.
EMDR enables people to reduce the disturbance of the distress so that you may then be able to think about the memory without being overwhelmed by distress. Some people report that after EMDR they can't even force themselves feel the distress in the way they used to feel it before. They say that it feels as though its just changed qualitatively and they can look at it more rationally and not be so emotionally triggered by the memory.
EMDR involves accessing memories associated with the distress you feel, but in a way that is as emotionally safe and paced slowly. Preparation for EMDR involves developing a number of coping strategies to help you manage any upsetting feelings or sensations that may arise as part of the EMDR therapy.
'Fight and Flight' When we are very overwhelmed by distress we can experience ourselves becoming very activated in our threat system e.g. 'fight and flight'. This is the body trying to protect you and is saying 'don't just sit there, do something'. This is more helpful when we are faced with an overt threat like a predator but less helpful when the threat is our own thoughts, feelings, memories as we can't easily fight or run away from them.
I will teach you various ways that you can regulate your 'fight and flight' system so you can dial down how much anxiety, fear, shame, disgust or anger you are feeling in that moment.
'Freeze and Submit' Sometimes we are so overwhelmed by what we are experiencing that we skip the 'fight and flight' stage and go into a 'freeze and submit' stage. This is our body's way of saying 'don't move, its not safe'. This can be a helpful approach when faced with a predator, but not always. However, we don't consciously choose to respond in this way, our body just takes over on autopilot to protect us without much conscious thinking.
I will teach you ways to activate yourself out of the 'freeze and submit' response.
A useful skills based book called Decider Skills which teaches you 32 skills for affect regulation and distress tolerance.
Window of Tolerance In order to engage well in EMDR we want to keep you from feeling so overwhelmed in a 'fight and flight' state that you cannot think straight or process the memory. We want to keep you in a band of optimal functioning which we call the window of tolerance. Not too overwhelmed with 'fight and flight', (hyper-arousal) and not too shut down in 'freeze and submit' (hypo-arousal).
I will teach you a variety of ways to manage both of these states outside of the window of tolerance but here are some quick tips* and products** that I would recommend to get you started:
To manage feelings of hyper-arousal (overwhelming fight and flight) we need to calm your threat system:
Drinking something with a nice strong flavour like a sweet or drink
Listening to powerful music or watching videos that are quite activating for you
Engage with physical touch, feel the weight of your body in the chair, touch different textures and sensations around you, e.g. a sensory object (cold car keys, squishy or spikey key ring etc)
*Please trial recommended products and ideas with caution and seek medical advice regarding any negative consequences related to using particular products **Recommended Amazon affiliate links of products that I would recommend. A small commission is earned on these products which do not effect the price that you pay.
THE LEICESTERSHIRE PSYCHOLOGY SERVICE
Hygge House 659 Melton Road Thurmaston Leicester LE4 8DE