Changing your past?
Is that even possible?
My short answer is yes, it is. The long answer needs some explanation:
- Can we undo the past, so past events suddenly cease to exist? Of course not.
- Can we remove memories of the past and wipe them from our brain? Of course not.
- Can we remove the painful feelings that go with the painful memories? Yes we can.
- Can we stop the nightmares that accompany these painful memories? Yes we can.
- Can we stop those anxious and depressed feelings that come up every time we think of the painful memory? Yes we can.
How do we do this? With EMDR therapy.
What is EMDR Therapy?
‘EMDR’ stands for “Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing”. First, let me say a few words about trauma, and then I’ll outline how EMDR can help.
As I have explained in another article, trauma is basically a ‘wound’. The range and types of trauma are very broad and can include such things as when someone experiences physical or sexual abuse, bullying, a car accident, or growing up in a family without love and security.
In any case, when your mind and brain couldn’t cope with the demands, parts of your brain shut down, while others went into overdrive.
The result? That painful experience you had was stored in the wrong place inside your brain, with the result that your mind and body are affected – sometimes many years after the actual event.
These experiences can reside very deep inside. In fact, sometimes if the trauma occurred when we were very young, we might not have any specific memories, but only a deep sense of pain that something is not right. A famous therapist once said that “the body keeps the score”, meaning, long after an event is forgotten, our body still remembers what happened and reminds us with things such as headaches, sickness and poor sleep.
This is why sometimes the talking therapies won’t work – they just don’t go deep enough.
Please don’t misunderstand – I have been trained in many types of therapies and most are excellent. Sometimes however, a different approach is needed to go deeper into those parts of our mind and brain to reprocess those painful events. This brings me to how EMDR can help.
EMDR essentially works by giving our brain a ‘second chance’ at processing the painful experiences.
Some people get EMDR and hypnosis mixed up, but they are very different. Hypnosis uses trance (among other things) to bypass the conscious and tap into unconscious resources to help.
How EMDR helps with Changing Your Past
EMDR on the other hand, believes that much of our pain today is because of unprocessed pain of the past and to help, we need to ‘go back in time’ so to speak, and give the mind and brain another chance to ‘digest’ what happened.
It does so by using what is called ‘bilateral stimulation’ such as eye movements or alternating taps to process the pain. Why does the therapist do this? Because the left to right movement of our eyes is the same movements that our eyes make when we dream – or what is called, Rapid Eye Movement sleep or ‘REM sleep’. Researchers discovered a number of years ago that we can recreate what happens naturally in our sleep, and use it to help our brains process today what it couldn’t do when the event happened.
Does it work? Absolutely. There is so much evidence for EMDR now, that I won’t bore you with the details.
Does it work for everyone? My experience says no. However, almost all of the clients I have used EMDR with tell me there has been at least some benefit – but extremely quickly. I have had amazing results. Some of my past clients have experienced dramatic healing with past painful events such as:
- Having to watch a child die;
- Terrible sexual assaults as a child or adult;
- Seeing the death of other humans (such as in war);
- Domestic violence;
- Deep anger problems;
- Workplace bullying;
- Car accidents.
There are many more examples I could give. Suffice to say I have used EMDR to treat a very wide variety of disorders and issues with good effect.
Find a Qualified EMDR Practitioner
Finally, I’d like to add that EMDR requires specific training and supervision in order to offer the best therapy. I have had several clients mention that, “EMDR didn’t work for me”. When I clarified if the therapist was a member of the Australian Association or at least properly trained, the answer was often ‘no’. I can recall one therapist explaining to me personally that they do EMDR therapy and all they did was a quick 2 hour introduction, while another read the book but with no training!
Please check the training and experience of the person who says they are an EMDR therapist. You have the right to good quality therapy from a trained clinician.
I myself have been using EMDR for many years and am an accredited practitioner with the EMDR Association of Australia. If you feel your past is intruding into the present, and want to know if EMDR therapy can help, please make a time to see me at M1 or Vision Psychology.
Author: Dr David Ward, BSocWk, BA., Grad Dip (Couple Thpy), M.Couns., MPhil., PhD.
Dr David Ward is a psychotherapist with over 20 years’ experience, providing therapy to adults, adolescents, children, couples, and families. His areas of professional interest include the use of EMDR therapy to help with recovery from domestic violence, child abuse, PTSD, depression and anxiety; family therapy; and working with victims of spiritual and ritual abuse.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Loganholme on (07) 3067 9129 or Vision Psychology Mt Gravatt on (07) 3088 5422.