FIRST- WHAT EXACTLY IS EMDR THERAPY?
Before we get to the list, let’s take a quick look at exactly what EMDR Eye Movement Therapy is.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It’s a type of therapy that uses eye movements and sometimes audio tones, or even little hand-held buzzers to repeatedly stimulate the left and ride sides (hemispheres) of your brain.
EMDR Therapy started back in the late 1980s, and quickly became a go-to treatment approach for healing military veterans who were struggling with combat-related trauma and PTSD.
EMDR was so successful in treating these soldiers, that therapists started experimenting with using it to treat things like depression, addictions, fears and phobias, grief and loss, and emotional problems. It turns out that EMDR worked great on these problems as well.
Since then, EMDR exploded in popularity. You can now find EMDR therapists practicing in nearly every country in the world.
These days there even are some EMDR programs and videos available on the internet, but ultimately most of them consist of little more than a dot moving back and forth on your computer screen or some beeping audio tones that you have no direct control over. No instructions at all. Totally useless.
"An online EMDR software program without specific step-by-step instructions on how to navigate the EMDR session process is kind of like a car with no steering wheel. Sure it will drive for at least a bit, but you’ll have absolutely no control over where you’re going with it."
If you do decide to try out EMDR at home, you need to choose a complete program that teaches you the EMDR process step-by-step. Good examples would be the Virtual EMDR Program or for treating addiction issues, the Virtual EMDR for Addiction Program. The video below shows some of the software from these two programs.
Now on to the list.
35 LIFE CHANGES THAT CAN HAPPEN WITH EMDR THERAPY
1) You’ll feel different about the things you once feared
Once you use EMDR sessions to get over something you are in dreadful fear of, life will seem different somehow. You will begin to see that many of the things you fear aren’t really all that scary.
Yes, planes do crash, but almost never (like one-in-a-million). And yes spiders bite, but they are tiny and you can squash them with your boot if you need to.
EMDR puts things in a whole new perspective and you become more aware of what’s a real threat to you, what’s just nonsense in your head, and what’s easy for you to step up and conquer.
2) The problem that got you into EMDR Therapy will shrink
You’ll still recognize it as present, but it will seem smaller, quieter, and more insignificant. The perfect analogy here is that someone took the volume knob and turned down your problem issue. You can still hear if you choose to pay attention, but it’s no longer bothersome or annoying, and therefore its not real a problem anymore.
3) You will remember the place you grew up in much more vivid detail
Ask almost anyone who has done EMDR sessions about this and they’ll agree right away. EMDR gently impacts the neurons in your brain and this then brings old memories to the fore-front of your thinking.
Because of this, people tend to come back to memories of the place(s) they grew up. Imagine if your childhood home was a maze inside your mind and thanks to the EMDR, you can walk through it, room-by-room, and remember all the little details.
4) If the focus on your EMDR Therapy was quitting an addictive behavior, it will stop your desire to use
A guest writer named Scott posted about this exact subject on the EMDR for Addiction blog, and here’s what he had to say.
“I think we can all relate to that feeling where you’ve had a huge, massive, monster-sized dinner and then you’re offered dessert. Sure pie and ice cream sort of, kind of, still sound good, but you’re totally stuffed, and if you have it you’re really going to feel bad.
In this situation it’s pretty easy to say no, and when you do EMDR Therapy focusing on your addiction, it feels basically the same way. Sure, there’s still a bit of a pull towards drinking and drugs, but it just feels like you’ve had “enough” and it’s easy to turn away and say no.”
These days, EMDR Therapy has become a go-to, first-line treatment for addictions. California clinical psychologist Dr. Stephen Dansiger, in an interview with addiction focused website The Fix said that, "EMDR Therapy can play a central role in addiction treatment."
5) You may have some intense and vivid dreams
Go ahead and Google this one because it’s really common. EMDR Therapy jars loose something memories in your mind that cause you to have intense and vivid dreams as a side effect.
6) You will remember in detail people from your past
Just as EMDR Therapy makes you remember places and things from the past, it also brings forth memories of people long forgotten.
You may recall, and sometimes in vivid detail, playing with childhood friends, your elementary school teachers, or spending quality time with your grandparents. Anything is possible when the EMDR Therapy helps your brain to do some heavy lifting.
7) Your body will “vibrate” post-session
EMDR repeatedly stimulates the hemispheres (left and right sides) of your brain so it’s only natural that afterwards you’ll maybe feel a bit funny.
Some people report this as feeling like sort of a vibration in their chest and abdomen, while others say that it feel more like having a couple glasses of wine. Some people even say that it reminds them of that feeling when they get up in the middle of the night to pee; they’re awake but a little bit disoriented.
It will go away in a few moments.
8) You’ll see some things differently
Speaking personally, I have been angry at my brother for nearly as long as I can remember.
But something happened after an especially tough EMDR session. For the first time I could see how hard his life was and how difficult his struggles. Right after my session I ended up calling him up and apologizing for some of the nasty things I had said and done to him over the years.
We’ve never been closer and the pain I felt about the relationship is gone.
This article by Pick the Brain does an amazing job showing how to find some inner peace around hurtful issues that you may be holding inside.
9) You’ll travel to places you only dreamed of
One of the reasons I personally got into EMDR Therapy was because I had a crippling fear of flying. If I even thought about being up in a plane, my heart would pound and my palms would get wet.
I did six sessions over the course of a couple of weeks and then I took my first flight in more than a decade and…….nothing. It was a piece of cake and I wasn’t scared at all. The EMDR therapy had removed those fearful feelings and thoughts from my mind. I was nothing short of stunned with how effectively it worked for me.
In the three years since, I have traveled to more than 30 countries, and thanks to the EMDR Therapy, I have actually learned to enjoy air travel.
By the way, for awesome travel hacks, and if you're over your fear of flying, check out the website of ultimate world traveler Nomadic Matt. Matt walks you through everything travel from how to be happy sleeping on couches, maxing out your airline miles, or even tips on how to travel alone and stay safe if you’re female.
"In the last 3 years I have traveled to more than 30 countries, and thanks to the EMDR Therapy, I have actually learned to enjoy air travel."
10) You will remember random, but specific things
EMDR seems to bring up totally random memories that have nothing to do with the reason you are seeking therapy. These are all things that have been stored in your brain, but that you haven’t really had any need to recall.
It might be your Mom’s meatloaf when you were a kid. Or maybe your first bike. Or even being away from home and away at Summer Camp.
Somehow the EMDR helps your brain to remember it all clearly.
11) You’ll believe in the power of brain-hacking
The internet is abuzz with talk of brain-hacking your thought process and psychology and bio-hacking your physical health and longevity.
Scientists are understanding more-and-more about how the brain works thanks to a new wave of brain scanning technologies.
EMDR Therapy is part of this trend; in 30 years everyone will be doing it at home.
12) You’ll come to recognize the brains’ natural ability to heal itself
To be clear, EMDR is not just looking at some object moving back and forth or listening to some tones in your ears. It takes a little bit of practice, especially if you’re doing your sessions at home with a program like Virtual EMDR or EMDR for Addiction.
That being said, it’s amazing how much of the “heavy lifting” is being done by your brain during the sessions, as if the human brain was designed to change and heal itself.
13) You’ll get emotional. At least a few times
Part of having EMDR Therapy is coming to terms with a lot of not-so-nice stuff that has been festering in your brain and consciousness.
EMDR Therapy sessions brings all that stuff bubbling to the surface so your brain can process it in a healthy way.
After your sessions unfortunately, you may find yourself shedding a few tears. Or maybe feeling super hollow. Or for some people, fuming white-hot angry.
Don’t worry, it will go away. You’re just healing.
Here's an amazing article from the mindfulness website Zen Habits on what to do when all those emotions show up.
"It takes guts to take on your personal issues, and when you step up to the plate and do it, you’ll be a different person on the other side."
14) Even though you get better, you’ll still have some real life problems to deal with
EMDR Therapy won’t fix everything unfortunately. Even if you use it to get sober, or move to on from your grief, or to treat your depression, there will be a real life waiting for you afterwards.
And that life will have bills, car repairs, family arguments, sleepless nights, money problems, and who knows what else.
The good part is that these are just normal problems that all people have to work through.
Personal wellness and fertility writer Nat Kringoudis hits the nail on the head in her article about changing perspective and managing stress when she says, "It’s simple. When you hear the voice of perspective knocking, close your eyes, give thanks and ask to choose again and move forward with that new pair of eyes with that new avenue."
15) You will feel thankful and grateful as you get better
When you have a big problem, it seems to creep its way into your life each and every day. Using EMDR to take care of that problem will bring a real sense of relief.
Once you work through the therapy sessions, you’ll beat yourself up less, you’ll feel emotionally stronger, and you will feel a sense of relief because life is lighter and has at least one fewer burden.
And being grateful about your life has other hidden benefits- writer David DiSalvo explains how.
16) Your emotions will cut loose like a flood, and it will be unexpected
EMDR Therapy helps you to confront a lot of unpleasant stuff circulating in your mind. You will find yourself getting emotional over things that you thought really didn’t bother you.
You might cry or get pretty angry over some things that happened in your past, and this can feel a bit upsetting.
It’s alright. Give it time. You’ll get better and it will pass.
17) You’ll start beating the EMDR drum and start telling other people how great it is and how much it did for you
Go ahead and look around on the internet.
On websites, in articles, in social media groups, and on chat forums, you will see people talking about their positive experience with EMDR Therapy. Its life changing stuff, and after you do it you’ll want to tell the people you know.
In fact, filmmaker Michael Burns was so inspired by the way that EMDR changed his life that he made a movie about it.
18) The thing that you fear, or are phobic about, will just be a thing now
Maybe there was a time where even the thought of an airplane would get your heart pumping. Or maybe imagining a particular person or animal you are afraid of would fill you with an instant sense of terror.
EMDR Therapy sessions process these thoughts and put them into their proper place. It’s just a snake, or a plane, or a spider, or a boss you don’t particularly like. No more overwhelm.
"You will begin to see that many of the things you fear aren’t actually really all that scary. Yes, planes do crash, but almost never (like one-in-a-million). And yes spiders bite, but they are tiny and you can squash them with your boot."
19) You will stop having bothersome thoughts and flashbacks about a traumatic event
One of the classic hallmarks of trauma and PTSD is that memories of the traumatic event just won’t seem to go away. And time doesn’t really change anything.
People with trauma might find themselves reliving their child abuse, going back over-and-over to the scene of a crime where they were the victim, remembering hurtful, painful, or insulting words from an abuser, or in the case of military veterans being bothered repeatedly by memories of being in combat, no matter how many years have passed.
It’s really one of the best parts about EMDR Therapy. Those old memories that just won’t seem to leave you alone will fade and mostly disappear. Sure you can still remember them if you think about it, but the good thing is that they won’t bother you. Instead, they’ll just be regular old memories.
Where do all those old memories come from? And why wont they go away? This awesome article from Brain Blogger has some answers.
20) When you encounter a memory of something traumatic from your past, it will just be a thought like any other thought and it won’t really bother you at all
Just because you use EMDR Therapy to work through traumatic issues doesn’t mean you’ll forget the problems entirely. The memories will still be there, and in many cases they will still be bad memories. Nothing can change that.
The amazing thing about doing EMDR Therapy is that the memories will be just that….memories. They won’t bother you and they won’t sneak up on you the way they used to.
On her incredible website called Beating Trauma, sex trafficking and abuse survivor Elisabeth has an article called The Definition of Me which puts it this way, "If I recover from my past, if I let go of all the ties to my abusers, all the contracts I thought they made with me, what is left? Who am I?”
21) You will feel healthier
Maybe not at first, but definitely after you work through some EMDR Therapy sessions.
Having all that negative, painful, and overwhelming crap floating around in your head is a daily burden. As the EMDR Therapy takes it away, you’ll feel lighter, healthier, and more optimistic.
Health website Pick The Brain has a great article on how to optimize that new found healthy life.
22) Your mind will feel energized, even if at first your mind feels a bit pulverized
A lot of people talk about having a post-EMDR session that feels a bit like a vibration in your head. It goes away in a few minutes, and just after you may feel a bit amped up from all the in session brain stimulation.
23) You will be less obsessed
Part of having serious and overwhelming life problems (like addiction, fear and anxiety, or trauma and PTSD symptoms) is that you unfortunately think about them all the time. This makes perfect sense given how destructive these kinds of issues can be.
The EMDR Therapy sessions will either make the problems go away completely, or they make it so the problem is hardly there anymore.
Either way, you’ll think about your problems a whole lot less- which is a relief!
"Having all that negative, painful, and overwhelming crap floating around in your head is a daily burden. As the EMDR Therapy takes it away, you’ll feel lighter and healthier."
24) You might have a bad dream or two
This is kind of ugly, but it’s also reality. EMDR Therapy jars your memories, and that often transfers over to your dreams.
As part of the process, you may have an occasional scary dream, and often those dreams can be about the bad things that happened in the past. But don’t worry, it’s totally temporary. It’s just your mind’s way of moving you forward and helping you get better.
25) Your relationships with the people around you will change
This one is sort of a side-effect of your new-found sense of wellness.
As the EMDR cleans up the problem you are focusing on, you will have more energy and emotional reserve to deal with the people around you. You will have more confidence is dealing with others and stating your opinion, even with tough to handle with people like your boss.
Energy that used to be directed towards the problem issue is now readily available for pursuing and improving relationships and interactions with everyone else.
Want to step up your social life and choose better people? Check out these awesome tips from bio-hacking pro Dave Asprey on The Bulletproof Blog.
26) Things in life that used to baffle you, you’ll deal with like a boss
For some people, having EMDR Therapy, and experiencing the big life changes that often come with it can bring a serious shift in perspective. It takes guts to take on your personal issues, and when you step up to the plate and do it, you’ll be a different person on the other side.
As a consequence, things or people that used to intimidate you start to feel smaller, less significant, and super easy to overcome.
27) You’ll come to terms with the places you are broken inside
Life hurts. There’s really no way around it. And if your life was perfect in the first place, you wouldn’t be interested in trying EMDR Therapy.
EMDR will bring up some ugly stuff in your head, but it will also help you come to terms with the fact that you’re imperfect like every other person, and that’s all part of the process of getting better.
The next step on this journey is learning to love yourself and to be happy and thankful for what you've got. I love the way author Kelly Bishop puts it in this Thought Catalog article.
28) You’ll unfortunately have to face some things that it might be better if they stayed hidden and buried inside of you
When I was 9 years old, my parents got into a vicious fight. As I lie in my bed, I could hear glass breaking and screaming coming from downstairs. As a way to cope, my brain decided to hide these thoughts somewhere deep in my brain. The EMDR sessions unfortunately brought them out.
Was it painful to remember all these things? Yes, sometimes.
Was it worth it though? Absolutely, because I have a better understanding of my past and how it made me the person I am 30 years later.
So what do you do when all that negative stuff comes back up? Author
Shahida Arabi has some great tips.
29) You’ll grieve what life might have been like if the past had gone differently
EMDR Therapy sessions can cause you to start thinking about a lot of things.
Thinking about the past. Thinking about how you got to where you are in your life. Thinking about the doors that have closed and opportunities you’ll maybe never have again.
As EMDR opens up your mind and you start to reflect, you may find yourself longing for a love long lost or maybe a career or personal dream that fell by the wayside of reality.
It's not always easy to come to terms with what happened in the past. This article from Tiny Buddha has some great tips on how to do it.
30) You’ll lose weight
If you are a person who uses EMDR specifically to treat compulsive overeating, you’ll start to shed the pounds. Do a session instead every time you want to “binge” and feed your emotions with your most triggering foods, and you’ll find that over time the idea of gorging yourself starts to lose its luster. Simply put, it becomes easier to avoid the kitchen (or the drive thru line) all together.
31) You’ll fall in love with the outdoors
So this one is tailored pretty specifically to the people who use EMDR sessions to get over their agoraphobia (that is fear of open or public places).
It may sound pretty scary now, but once the fear is gone a whole new world opens up. And if you’re an agoraphobic you’ll find in time that you absolutely love the pleasure of being outside, going for a walk, being in nature, and breathing it all in.
Spending time in nature is one of life's greatest pleasures. Get out there and check it out.
"Imagine if your childhood home was a maze inside your mind and now you can walk through it, room by room, and remember all the little things that were there."
32) You’ll have better boundaries
Generally people who are struggling with mental health or addiction issues don’t tend to have the healthiest social boundaries. As the EMDR sessions make you feel better, you’ll be less interested in getting involved in everyone else’s business, and you’ll learn to keep your broom sweeping on your own side of the street instead.
33) You might lose some old friends (and make some new ones)
This example is more directed at people who use EMDR Therapy to end their addictive behavior.
Part of being an addict is that your friends tend to more accurately be just people that you drink, drug, or use with. When you do the EMDR Therapy session work, get healthy and move on from your addiction, you become less interested in hanging out with these sorts of people and more interested in hanging out with people that you can develop quality, healthy friendships with.
A whole new life opens up. And now that you have got some new friends, writer Mark Manson wrote an article to show you how to make sure those relationships are healthy.
34) You will come to terms with some bad stuff from your childhood
Childhood trauma is simply the worst. No matter how many years go by you find yourself mentally reliving the bad stuff over and over again.
Maybe its physical or sexual abuse. Or maybe it was being severely bullied, abandoned, or ignored by your own family.
EMDR sessions can take traumatic, unwanted, repetitive memories, and make them just plain old memories. And this gives you the power to forget the bad stuff from the past and be happier in the now.
Here's a great article about how EMDR Therapy helps people work through their childhood traumas.
35) You will be able to leave the past where it belongs, in the past
Trauma is defined as, “a very difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have mental or emotional problems usually for a long time.”
And you could add to this that part of trauma (and PTSD) is that the thoughts and memories come bubbling up again and again whether you want them to or not.
EMDR therapy takes traumatic, repetitive, unwanted, and intrusive memories, and turns them into plain old everyday kinds of memories. In time, you’ll rarely think about any of it.
Jami DeLoe has an amazing article about her experiences with EMDR Therapy and how going through it changed how she saw her memories.
She puts it this way, "My view of the memory changed. The memory itself didn’t change, the details and the facts of what happened stayed the same, but my perspective changed. I went from seeing the memory through my own eyes, experiencing it first-hand, to watching it happen in my mind. It was like watching a movie, not reliving an actual event. It was amazing."
That's quite a list isn't it?
Depending on what you choose to fix by going through EMDR Therapy, some of, or many of the changes above will happen to you. But the most important change of all is that EMDR Eye Movement Therapy will help you get ride of the big problem, behavior, or mental health issue that is a big wall blocking your way to a better life.
So what’s your experience with EMDR therapy? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.