Hey spirit surfers! I’ve been wanting to share my experience with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization/Reprocessing) for awhile now because it was honestly…the only thing that truly helped me get past one of the biggest traumas of my life.
I had a “mystery” illness that lasted about 3 months and no doctor or specialist knew what it was. The idea of no one knowing what was wrong with me caused a huge amount of stress in my life.
I spent many months afraid that this is “the end” and even though I was physically feeling better, I was still dealing with the daily fear of randomly getting sick again and not knowing what it was.
Every symptom, even something as simple as a cramp in my foot, would send me to tears, and get me worried that it was the beginning of another illness that would turn my world upside down, yet again.
I tried a few different “trauma healing methods” like hypnotherapy and somatic experiencing to bring myself back to balance, but nothing held a candle to EMDR!
I went to a therapist in my area who specialized in EMDR therapy and only ended up doing a few sessions before my worst memory associated with my illness was neutralized.
Nowadays, when I think of myself in my room, crying, not sure what is wrong with me, afraid for my life…I do not feel any worries about it, nothing. The way I would describe my connection with that memory is totally “neutral”.
I’ve continued to do EMDR at home whenever I feel like I can’t “think” myself out of a certain fear, memory or situation. Sometimes things happen where we feel almost “paralyzed” with fear and need something a little stronger than just “thinking” or talk therapy to get passed it.
If you find yourself in one of these situations, doing EMDR on yourself could be super helpful!
Here’s how to do EMDR on yourself:
I’m going to break down the full method here, but before you go ahead and give yourself a session, I wanted to make a little disclaimer…If you are processing a particularly difficult memory, it’s always a good idea to either have someone there with you to talk through it as you go, or do a couple of sessions with an actual therapist, just so you feel supported throughout the process. Use your own judgement with this.
Ok, here’s the method:
1. Build your “safe place”
This is optional, but some people might choose to do this if the memory is particularly triggering. Think about a person, place or animal that makes you feel safe.
It could be in the arms of someone you love…a quiet, secure cave, or surrounded by some sort of magical, impenetrable energy field.
Imagine yourself in this place for a few minutes and know that you can jump back into this memory at any point during the process.
2. Take your traumatic memory and boil it down to a single “scene”
So now, choose one traumatic memory to focus on. With my health-related trauma, I thought about what image caused me the most distress and just went with that one.
The image was me, in my room, with no one home, not sleeping for an entire night and basically being scared for my life. If there’s nothing urgent, you might choose a memory from your past, from high school or childhood that still bothers you.
Whatever it is, just pick ONE incident and then boil it down to a short “clip” or image. In my memory, I was laying in my bed, stressed about not sleeping and looking out my window as the sun came up.
I pictured everything in my room at the time, what was on my night table, what colour my sheets were, the mess in the room, what I was wearing, everything.
So in your memory, make that crystal clear and sort of “hang out” in the scene. It’s not going to be particularly pleasant, but know that it will get better as you begin to reprocess.
3. Move your eyes back and forth…like one of those owl clocks
So literally the only thing left to do, is to move your eyes back and forth WHILE picturing yourself in this scene. It’s simple I know, but it’s what makes EMDR so magical.
The easiest way to do this, is to lay on your back, somewhere comfortable and shift your eyes left to right using certain points in the room as a guide.
You can either hold a piece of paper a few inches from your face and look back and forth between the corners, OR put on a pair of glasses and use the edge of the frames as a reference point OR use random points on either side of the room, doesn’t really matter, as long as you stay consistent with it.
Ok, so you have your points, now shift your eyes back and forth in a steady, consistent motion (with your eyes open) WHILE imagining yourself in the scene you have chosen. Picture one of those cuckoo clocks. That’s the pace and consistency you are aiming for. A smooth, even pattern. This ⬇️ is your EMDR totem…
You will be tempted to stop, but don’t. Just keep going for as long as you can. You might also choose to setup a timer to stay on track. I will usually shift my eyes for 3-5 minutes before taking a break just to rest or take a breath.
Your only two jobs throughout this whole process is to STAY in the scene and KEEP MOVING your eyes back and forth. That’s it. So whenever your brain wanders or starts thinking about something else, just come back to that scene and picture it as clearly and realistically as possible.
What you will notice after doing this for a while (20 minutes or so) is that little things will start to happen in the memory. The person who you were angry at might say something profound to you. The door might open…the sun might come through the window…you might have a new thought about the situation.
In my memory, I had a moment where I got out of bed, looked in the mirror and was sort of observing myself from a third person perspective thinking “this was a scary moment in time but now it’s over”. You might also shed some tears, twitch or shake as these things happen.
I will sometimes do EMDR for 30-40 minutes (with little breaks every 3-5 minutes or so), but do it for however long you feel necessary. You can always go back another day and work on the memory again.
I found I only needed two 40 minute sessions to neutralize one very upsetting memory, but everyone will be different.
Things to keep in mind:
It takes a week or so to feel fully neutral
It’s worth noting that it takes a week or so for the full “reprocessing” to finish. So you won’t feel “100%” neutral and fine towards the memory at the end of your session, but you might feel a completion a week from now.
So, if a week goes by and you still feel a little “twinge” of stress when you think of the memory, that might be a sign you should go back in for another session.
Stop the session when your body feels calm
Don’t stop until you feel like the memory has been neutralized. You’ll know when to stop when you feel a deep sense of calm in your body and the scene (and your feelings towards the scene) have become more positive.
Do it in the late afternoon or evening, cause you’re gonna be tired after
Also, I find that when I finish a session, all I wanna do is sleep. If you’re going to do EMDR on yourself, make sure to do it in the late afternoon or evening
If it’s not a memory that’s bothering you but something that might happen in the future, go with that
Sometimes I’m anticipating something horrible happening like a partner leaving, losing my job etc…if that’s the case for you, come up with your own imaginary worst case scenario to take through your session.
If you are worried about being let go from your job, narrow that down to a short series of images, it could be your boss calling you into their office etc…Works the same way an actual memory does!
You might have vivid dreams
I almost always have really profound, vivid dreams after an EMDR session. Just take it as your brain continuing to reprocess the memory. It’s a good thing!
The cardinal rules of doing EMDR on yourself are: STAY in your scene and keep your eyes MOVING
Since you are doing EMDR on yourself, you don’t have anyone there to make sure your eyes are moving at an EVEN, consistent pace.
You literally need to BE the cuckoo clock (now I’m picturing Morpheus from The Matrix saying “be…the cuckoo clock” ha…ha).
Sometimes when I feel like I’m being lazy with the eye movement, I will imagine that I’m “drawing” a line back and forth in the air so I keep the movement clean, precise and even.
This motion is KEY, and when you feel tired and you wanna stop, just keep pushing a little further. 3-5 minutes is what you should be aiming for.
So that’s ONE thing you need to worry about and the ONLY other thing you need to do is stay in the memory. Stay in the room. Stay sitting in that chair, on that bed, wherever you are, even if your brain starts thinking of other “related memories”, just keep coming back to that MAIN scene.
Keep replaying it in your mind, and if you wander away, just bring yourself right back.
If you have any questions, leave a comment here or on the Spirit Surfers’ Instagram page and I’ll help you out 🙂.
And…if you are wanting to learn how to incorporate meditation seamlessly into your life, check out my book: “Heart-Focused Meditation“. When I meditate on my heart space the most miraculous things happen… I start seeing angel numbers everywhere, my channeling gets clearer and my manifestations come flooding in!