Will EMDR recover memories?
It is unusual for EMDR to recover memories but sometimes people describe getting a feeling or part of a memory that they cannot place. During EMDR, you watch memories go by similar to watching the scenery go by while on a train. As these pieces of memories come up, your goal is not to attempt to paint a full picture or remember the whole memory but merely to watch this piece of a memory pass. We don’t judge these memories or attempt to determine if they are fact. Instead, we maintain curiosity of what purpose they hold and continue to let them go by.
Will EMDR make my memories clearer?
People often describe memories as feeling further away or foggy as a result of doing EMDR. This lack of clarity makes sense because traumatic memories often have more emotional intensity than other types of memory. It was evolutionarily advantageous to remember these intense situations with great clarity because it was important to be able to survive them if they come up again. When we think about a past situation, now from a safe place, that feeling of danger can subside. Memories no longer hold the same emotional intensity as they did before. Therefore, they may feel less clear than they did in the past.
Is EMDR a type of hypnosis?
No. EMDR requires you to keep one foot in the present and one foot in the past. The goal is to process past situations from the present. Most hypnosis practices require you to go into an altered mental state whereas with EMDR the goal is to stay grounded in the present.
Will EMDR require me to relive my past experiences with the same intensity that I felt when they happened?
No. This is why you have one foot in the present and one foot in the past. The foot standing in the present should help keep you grounded and decrease the intensity that you may have felt when the event happened. Often times, people say that focusing on the lights on the lightbar make it difficult to feel the same intensity as when remembering intense events before. Having to think about the memories while maintaining a focus on the light is hard work!
What if I don’t have big T trauma? Am I still a good candidate for EMDR?
It depends. This is a good question for us to sort out in therapy. Even big T trauma does not necessary mean that you or are not a good candidate for EMDR. If there are events in your past (big or small) that evoke emotional intensity or feel tied to your beliefs about yourself, EMDR may be a good type of therapy to consider.
EMDR feels weird. Am I doing it wrong?
Probably not. In this article, I talked about my own experience with EMDR and how it felt weird to me. It can feel odd, but there is a lot of evidence that it works.