Rebuilding the past with Emdr

“The world breaks everyone; And then, some of them get stronger from those broken places.” This sentence is one of my favorite quotes from Ernest Hemingway. This phrase reminds me of a Japanese art of repair known as Kintsukuroi (gold repair). I want to tell you a little about this art. The Japanese used to combine broken porcelain bowls with gold dust for centuries. For collectors, the greater the number of broken lines and roughness in a porcelain bowl, the greater its value. According to the philosophy underlying this tradition, when a person or thing is damaged, he suffers, learns from it and has a memory of it; this makes it more beautiful and valuable than before.

People often don’t want to remember their negative experiences, whereas when we accept and learn from bad experiences, we become stronger than before. Think about your life from the moment you were born until now. People experience thousands of positive and negative events, large and small. Our brain records all the positive and negative events we experience. This process takes place thanks to the innate adaptive information processing system in our brain. All positive and negative memories that we remember, do not remember, and remember even though we do not want to remember are recorded in memory networks.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that improves people’s symptoms and emotional pain and stress as a result of their disturbing life experiences. EMDR therapy provides the healing of psychological trauma in the mind as well as the healing of physical injury in the body. For example; when he cuts his hand, the body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated blows irritate the wound, the wound will become inflamed and you will suffer. If you clean the wound and protect it from new blows, apply ointment and dressing, healing will continue. A similar process takes place in the mind when we are exposed to psychological trauma. The effect of EMDR therapy; It is the ability to look back on experiences that once made you feel weak, insecure, and painful. Your wound doesn’t just heal, it transforms into a positive one. Think of EMDR as gold dust that joins pieces of porcelain. Just as gold dust connects the broken pieces of bowls, EMDR helps you put your dysfunctional memories together and look at them functionally.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we learn something as a result of our experiences. Thanks to the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) system, all the information about our experiences is stored in the relevant neural networks of our brain for future use with appropriate emotions. Our brain’s information processing system moves towards healing. When we experience a negative, disturbing event, the disturbing event becomes neutral for us after a while, thanks to some physiological processes that take place in our brain. Let’s say when you have an argument with your boss, you think about it, talk about it with a relative, and this disturbing event is processed in your brain through dreams while you sleep. As a result, you become undisturbed by the memory and learn a lesson from it. So you better handle similar situations in the future.

Since some negative experiences (our traumas) disrupt the biochemical balance in the brain, the information processing system cannot function effectively. The disturbing feelings and sensations of this type of memory remain locked in the nervous system without processing irrational beliefs. Memories that are stored in our memory in a dysfunctional state (even after many years) maintain their vitality and are triggered by various internal and external stimuli in our current life. Some events that occur in the present tense can re-stimulate negative thoughts, emotions and physical sensations that have emerged as a result of past experiences and are still a source of sadness for us. Overstimulation of trauma-related situations impairs our functionality in daily life. These dysfunctional memories, stored unprocessed, are the source of many psychological problems. For example, someone with a personal history of abuse will have difficulty establishing a romantic relationship with anyone if the trauma of abuse is triggered when someone approaches them romantically.

Unlike talk therapy, the change of clients in EMDR therapy is not due to the counselor’s interpretation, but to the client’s own accelerated cognitive and emotional processes. EMDR therapy focuses on the perceptual elements (visual, emotional, cognitive and physical) of disturbing memories of the past and ensures that they are processed appropriately through free association, and psychological healing and learning take place. Clients reconstruct their personal stories by combining their experiences before, during and after trauma. This psychological construction process is the rebuilding of schemas that have been destroyed by trauma, such as the construction of new houses after a severe earthquake. EMDR contributes to every step of this restructuring process at a high level. It has been observed that the bidirectional attention stimuli (eye movements, vibration, sound) that we use during EMDR contribute to the speed and effectiveness of the therapy by working many regions of the brain. Thus, a faster change is seen in the client compared to other speech therapies.

Human nature avoids pain and turns to what he likes. All people have a tendency to avoid uncomfortable experiences. In EMDR therapy, clients make a brief connection with the targeted disturbing memory/material. Although this time differs for each client, it is about half a minute. We can use the “Flash” technique, which we can call a new technique in EMDR therapy, in cases where a traumatic memory is too disturbing for the client to remember. In the “Flash” technique, it is a very effective method in which we work with the traumatic memory while the client thinks about a positive memory instead of the traumatic memory. Thus, the vast majority of clients to whom we apply EMDR therapy do not engage in avoidance of disturbing material.

EMDR is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the treatment of choice for post-traumatic stress disorder. Studies conducted in this area report that EMDR provides a shorter recovery time compared to other trauma treatments. In addition to post-traumatic stress disorder, it has been proven by research that as the intensity, frequency and continuity of negative memories from the past increase, dysfunctions, psychological disorders and health problems in daily life increase. For this reason, EMDR therapy is effective in the treatment of many psychological disorders such as phobias, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, depression, bipolar mood disorder, personality disorders, pathological and traumatic grief, migraine and fibromyalgia, addiction. It is also a therapy that is effective in solving problems in many areas, from relational issues such as attachment problems and post-breakup adaptation to personal issues such as performance anxiety and self-confidence.

If you too are struggling to cope with the problems in your life and want to transform into a better version of yourself, you can rebuild your past with the support of EMDR and a trusted advisor. Remember, treasures are hidden in ruins. Not everyone dares to go to ruined places. That’s why the treasures remain hidden. Do you dare to find your own buried treasure?

Resources:

Shapiro, F. (2016). EMDR Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Basic Principles, Protocols and Procedures . 1st Edition. (M. Şahzade, and I. Sansoy, trans.) Istanbul; Reading Us Publications.

Hase, M., Balmaceda, UM, Ostacoli, L., Liebermann, P., and Hofmann, A. (2017). EMDR AIP Model and Pathogenic Memories. Frontiers in Psychology, 8.

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