Are there things you think about from your past that make you cringe when you remember? Are there memories that are hard to even picture from your past? Do you find yourself coming up with ways to try not to think about a difficult memory? EMDR can help you get past those things. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is very helpful to help you move past a memory that keeps intruding into your thinking.
Here’s an example from a former client of mine. (Printed with permission)
After several sessions of preparation and treatment planning, I conducted one, 60 minute EMDR session with a client whose PTSD came from past domestic violence. We targeted one intrusive memory she kept seeing in her mind. She had been experiencing nightmares most every night about this one specific memory for nine years. After one EMDR reprocessing session she reported she stopped having the intrusive frightening memory and in the follow up session when I asked her to recall the memory, she smiled and said, “I never realized how powerful I was until now”. “I wasn’t able to keep myself safe then but I am safe now”. Two years later, when I worked with this client again about an unrelated issue, she reported that she had only thought about the memory a few times and each memory made her smile and remember our session.
“Getting past your past” is a phrase often used in EMDR treatment because that’s exactly what EMDR can do for you. It doesn’t make the memory disappear. It doesn’t make you feel as if it never happened, but instead it makes you have a new, more adapted memory of the event. Instead of feeling the pain or the sting of a painful memory, EMDR we can bring the memory from the past, into more adapted, more experienced present day thinking and help you consider it from the current perspective. This allows us to focus on a past event without going back into the past and reliving the event or re-experiencing the event with the intensity of emotion that we once couldn’t escape. EMDR offers freedom from your past.
I vividly remember a class in grad school where some brave soul raised their hand and asked this question: “What is mental health anyway?”. At first I thought “well that’s a silly question”! Today I smile at the woman I was who, when I realized I couldn’t answer the question, I let the question gain value. My professor answered it this way… He believed mental health was simply being able to move from one life crisis to the next without being knocked down and staying down.
I held that same belief for a long time, but my definition has continued to evolve. I believe my professor was right about mental health being skills like this:
The ability to identify and manage difficult feelings.
The ability to recognize patterns that aren’t serving us and to implement change.
The ability to get it all wrong and try again.
The ability to lose something or someone we love so much and somehow keep going.
The ability to let go of the need for perfection and to enjoy the experience of being “as is”.
I absolutely believe all of those things make up good mental health.
I also believe there’s a little more to this conversation.
Mental Health is all about wellness. It is most definitely about healing what hurts inside, and it is about growing stronger mentally and emotionally.
Mental Health is also full of qualities like this:
The ability to find gratitude in the midst of each day.
The ability to forgive and detach.
The ability to identify internal areas which need work and to be accountable for that work.
The ability to find deep connection and meaning in your relationships.
Having a strong sense of self.
The ability to compromise.
Feeling accomplished in life.
Think of it this way: If you broke your leg, you would have a period of healing and mending the bone (this is akin to the traditional model of mental health, where we treat the illness aka depression, anxiety, grief, addiction, bi-polar, and more). Then there would be a period of strengthening the newly knitted bone (this is what I’m talking about with mental wellness). There is a time and a place for healing what is broken, and then there is ALSO an emphasis on growing more strength.
The work I do as a counselor often bridges this spectrum of mental health. I am so grate for for the work being done to remove the stigma for seeking help and mental illness. I am honored each time I sit with someone who reaches out for healing. My hope is everyone feels empowered to reach out when that help is needed. I also hope folks feel equally empowered to grow and increase their mental heath as that is some of the most life changing work anyone will ever do. Are you ready to increase your strength?