The Power Of Thoughts, Part 2: EMDR,
In my last post, I discussed the power of thinking in shaping how we see ourselves. I talked about how thoughts can become core beliefs about who I am as a person. In this post, I would like to further discuss one way of identifying and challenging these core beliefs – EMDR.
In our brain we have networks of cells (neurons) that store information. So let’s say that I have a network that is storing all of the information that I have about riding a bike. This information is pulled from my experiences with bike riding and there is a variety of information there. I have thoughts about my ability to ride. I have pictures of times when I was actually riding. There are emotions associated with these experiences – like the excitement of riding alone on two wheels for the first time. And I have body sensations associated with my experiences. I can remember how my hands feel on the handlebars, how my feet feel on the pedals, or the sensation of wind through my hair while riding quickly. Whenever I think about bicycles or want to engage in this activity, my brain accesses the information in this network.
Now let’s consider that one day while riding, I have an accident. Maybe I was going too fast and not paying attention to my surroundings and I wrecked. I cannot ride a bike for a couple of weeks due to the injury. Once my injuries heal, I try to get back on the bicycle, but…I have a thought that I am a bad bike rider because I wrecked. I start to see pictures of the accident again. I feel fear and anxiety. And my body starts to remember the injuries and how they felt. Because of the intensity of the incident, I cannot access the network of information about bikes – I can only access the memory of the accident. As long as I hold onto the negative belief (“I am a bad bike rider”), I may still struggle with the difficult emotions (fear, anxiety). Avoiding the memory may bring some relief, but then I may never ride again. The avoidance also leaves me with a core belief about myself that is not true.
EMDR is a tool that seems to simulate a process that is already occurring during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It can help change the negative belief to something more positive while desensitizing the difficult emotions so that one can believe truth about oneself and see the disturbing material in a less distressing way.
If any of this strikes a chord with you, there are several therapists in our practice who are trained in EMDR and who would be glad to schedule an appointment to speak with you about options for moving toward a more positive future.
written by: T. Ryan Snyder, LPCC