“Changing the memories that form the way we see ourselves also changes the way we view others. Therefore, our relationships, job performance, what we are willing to do or are able to resist, all move in a positive direction.” ― Francine Shapiro
Do you remember a time in your past when you experienced something that left a sour taste in your mouth? Perhaps it was a heartbreak, a disappointment, a rejection in your work life or family. No matter how hard you tried, you could never truly forget that memory. It’s interesting how people believe that often their good memories fade away, the ones they wish to hold onto, while the ones they want to forget linger for longer. Why is that? We will explore that question later, but before that, I would like you to ask yourself three simple questions to determine if something from your past is still haunting you:
- Are you scared of doing something because you once tried it in the past, and it turned out to be a disaster?
- Do you often get disturbing flashbacks or dreams of a certain event that happened years back?
- Is there a major thing in your past that you wish you could travel back in time and change?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then it is clear that you are still a prisoner of a past memory. Humans have a tendency to underestimate the power that memories hold over our brains. You can see this in people who have gone through trauma and are unable to function normally unless they talk to someone or seek therapy. Although not true in all cases, it happens to the majority of individuals who have experienced abuse or soldiers returning from war with PTSD symptoms. They report that flashes from the time when they were in the red zone still haunt them. These memories or flashbacks push them back into the same mental space, leaving them crippled with pain and anguish. As a result, they begin to avoid gatherings and often feel unfit in their day-to-day existence.
However, there is hope for such individuals. In most cases, seeking help can solve their problems. Memories or incidents from the past have a way of staying with us in the present. They may be as insignificant as trying food from a restaurant and getting sick or avoiding dating because of a past heartbreak. Whether big or small, if there are memories that are making you suffer in the present, they need to be sorted out. You do not have to live with the negative experiences repeatedly.
The good news is that there is a treatment called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which has shown remarkable results in helping individuals overcome trauma and heal from painful memories. In this article, we will delve into what EMDR is, how it works, and how it has positively impacted the lives of countless people.
EMDR, also known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a therapeutic approach developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1987. Dr. Shapiro discovered the technique while sitting in a park and experiencing emotionally disturbing memories. She noticed that her eyes began to move back and forth in a rapid manner as she recalled the past event. Intrigued by this observation, she conducted further experiments and found that deliberately making eye movements while focusing on negative and disturbing events had a positive impact on emotional processing.
The technique is based on how our brains naturally work during sleep. When we enter the deep state of REM sleep, our eyes move rapidly as the brain organizes and retrieves data. Dr. Shapiro discovered that we can intentionally enter this state of rapid eye movement while awake and consciously focus on negative events from the past. This process brings the information to the forefront of our conscious mind, allowing us to process and deal with it effectively.
Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of EMDR in treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In some cases, EMDR has achieved a success rate of up to 77%. Individuals who have experienced trauma or are struggling with PTSD have sought EMDR treatment and experienced astonishing results.
Let’s take a look at Russell’s story to understand how EMDR treatment can transform lives. Russell, a veteran returning from Iraq, had a successful job and a loving relationship. However, when the idea of starting a family came up, he experienced intense anxiety and flashbacks of his time in the war zone. Russell realized that he was still mentally trapped in the past and decided to seek help. Through EMDR therapy, he was able to process his traumatic memories and free himself from their grip. Russell’s decision to seek therapy became a turning point in his life, allowing him to overcome his haunting war memories and move forward.
EMDR treatment involves a series of sessions aimed at processing and reprocessing negative memories. Let’s explore the steps involved:
SESSION 1: Processing the Memory of Your Past In this session, you are guided to think about a time in your past when your self-image was changed. You focus on that memory, imagining yourself being there in that moment. You recall the details such as your age, surroundings, and the emotions involved. By deliberately moving your eyes back and forth in a rapid motion while focusing on the memory, you activate your brain’s reticular activating system, which retrieves the relevant data for processing. This step allows you to bring the memory to the forefront of your conscious mind, ready for further processing.
SESSION 2: Reframing the Memory: The Power of Perception In this session, you revisit the same memory while continuing with the rapid eye movement. However, this time, you reframe the memory by looking at it from the other person’s perspective. You challenge, question, analyze, and interpret the memory from the other person’s point of view. By empathizing with the other person and understanding their background and experiences, you gain a new perspective on the event. This reframing helps reduce the emotional charge associated with the memory and provides a new narrative that empowers you.
SESSION 3: Anchoring a New Emotional State: The Power of Persuasion During this session, you once again go back to the memory while maintaining the rapid eye movement. However, this time, you focus on changing your mental and emotional state. You visualize yourself in a more joyful and empowering state, engaging in activities that bring you happiness and excitement. By creating an anchor between the old emotional state associated with the memory and a new empowering state, you break the emotional connection and condition your brain to remain in a positive state. This anchoring technique allows you to change the meaning and emotional charge of the memory, facilitating healing and personal growth.
Through these sessions, EMDR treatment helps individuals locate, process, reframe, and anchor their negative memories. By altering the perception and emotional charge associated with these memories, individuals can free themselves from the grip of past trauma and create a more positive and fulfilling present and future.
In summary, EMDR treatment offers a powerful tool for healing past trauma and transforming one’s life. By using rapid eye movement and engaging in specific processing, reframing, and anchoring techniques, individuals can effectively process negative memories, change their perception of past events, and create a more empowering self-image. EMDR has shown remarkable success rates, particularly in treating PTSD, and has helped countless individuals overcome the impact of trauma on their lives.
If you find yourself haunted by painful memories from the past, consider seeking EMDR treatment or consulting a qualified therapist who can guide you through the process. Remember, you