EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) aka AIP (Accelerated Information Processing) is a powerful psychotherapeutic modality to healing traumatic memories. A psychological trauma is defined as; an event which is too much for the mind and body to process and integrate; an event that permanently dysregulates our nervous system; a situation which doesn’t provide the security, resources and empowerment needed for our level of development; an event which threatens our sense of security or our life, or the life of others; an overwhelming event, which prevents our mind and nervous system from returning to a state of homeostasis.
At its core, unprocessed trauma keeps us stuck in the past and prevents us to live fully in the present. As the trauma specialist Bessel Van Der Kolk writes, “Being traumatized means continuing to organize our life as if the trauma was still going on; unchanged and immutable, as if our encounters or events are contaminated by the past”.
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EMDR has been greatly researched over the years and proven to be one of the most efficient modalities to help people move out of their traumatic memories and experiences. The areas of our brain that store fragmented memories are not affected by clock time. This leaves unprocessed traumatic memories active for years after the event. In truth, traumatic memories never stop from being active until they are processed and healed. This goes against our socially accepted belief that time heals everything. Unfortunately, in cases of traumatic experiences, this is not the case.
EMDR is different from talk therapy because it helps bridge our rational mind with our emotional mind and the parts of our brain in charge of our bodily functions: breathing, digestion, sleep cycle, etc. What makes EMDR/AIP different than most other forms of therapy is the bilateral stimulation used when processing the memories. The bilateral stimulation allows the right and left hemispheres of the brain to communicate information with each other, which otherwise would remain separate. It is through the integration of the different layers of the brain-mind connection that healing happens. EMDR allows us to free ourselves from our painful past, so that we can be more fully engaged in our present.
“Unprocessed memories cause people to react to their world through the emotions, beliefs and physical sensations that were there at the time of their earlier traumatic experiences. Sometimes, people suffering from trauma are the only ones hurt by feeling danger when it is not there, or experiencing phobias, depression or panic attacks. Other times, traumatized people harm others… and don’t even understand that what they are doing is wrong.” — Francine Shapiro, creator of EMDR