EMDR stands for eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing. It is a technique that helps one to release overwhelmingly bad feelings that are attached to memories. It consists of allowing a bad feeling into one’s awareness while tracking a finger moving right and left before the eyes. Doing this causes the feeling to quickly dissipate, leaving only the facts of the memory without any feelings attached to it.
Bilateral tapping is another way to release bad feelings, and is done by alternately tapping the right and left sides of the body–tapping one’s knees, upper arms or shoulders.
The R in EMDR stands for reprocessing, which is the replacement of a negative thought with a positive one—an affirmation such as, “I am safe” or “I am a good person.” By all means follow the protocol, but bear in mind that the problem is not that we are perceiving our ego incorrectly; it is rather that the ego we identify with isn’t our true self.
The ego is not a subject; it is an object. And it is an object which is always craving, and so it can never be satisfied. The happiness we feel when we release painful memories is from the fact that we have let go of a bit of ego, the source of all unhappiness.
The video below demonstrates how simple it is to do EMDR and bilateral tapping. In it a therapist helps a young man to let go of his feeling of being unloved, which was attached to the memory of breaking up with his girlfriend when he was eighteen. He uses the thought of the breakup to bring up the feeling of grief. Notice how relaxed his body is: physical tension is associated with psychologically holding on, and physical relaxation is associated with letting go.
EMDR/Bilateral tapping protocol
I have included the protocol here in case people were curious to know what it is. Assigning numbers to feelings tells the therapist when the feeling has been completely released.
Choose a traumatic memory (see below for the definition of a memory).
State how you feel, e.g., “I am a horrible person” or “I am going to die.”
State the opposite, e.g., “I am a good person” or “I am all right.”
On a scale of 1 – 7 rate how true the positive statement is. If “I am a good person” does not feel true, it’s a low number.
On a scale of 1 – 10 rate your level of distress. “I feel terrible” might be an eight or a nine.
Bring up the event or memory and begin moving your fingers back and forth and tracking them with your eyes.
In the alternative, you can alternately tap your knees. Another tapping method is to cross your arms and lightly tap the front of your shoulders with your fingers. Tapping can be fast or slow.
What a memory is:
• A negative memory is rarely an accurate recollection of what actually happened. Every time we remember something we edit it in some way, and what we put back into storage is never exactly what we retrieved. Memory is constructed, rather than fixed; it is an edited and re-edited recording, rather than the original one.
• A negative memory is a negative memory whether we actually remember it or not. You know those stories you hear so many times that in the end you do not know if your memory is of the event or if it is constructed from the telling? That still counts. It’s what is in your head that matters.
• A negative memory can be something that did not even happen to us. Sometimes we imagine an event that we hear about or see on television so vividly that it is stored in our memory as if it were our own experience. And it can have just as much influence on us.
• A negative memory is sometimes a composite. If something happened over and over, especially when we were children, we might find it hard to know what is an actual historic negative memory and what is a composite of a number of them. But it really does not matter. What counts is what we have stored in our memory, not what actually happened.