How does EMDR therapy affect the brain?Our brains have a natural way to recover from traumatic memories and events. This process involves communication between the amygdala (the alarm signal for stressful events), the hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger), and the prefrontal cortex (which analyzes and controls behavior and emotion).
While many times traumatic experiences can be managed and resolved spontaneously, they may not be processed without help. Stress responses are part of our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts. When distress from a disturbing event remains, the upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions may create an overwhelming feeling of being back in that moment, or of being “frozen in time.” EMDR therapy helps the brain process these memories, and allows normal healing to resume. The experience is still remembered, but the fight, flight, or freeze response from the original event is resolved.
Who Can Benefit?
Who can benefit from EMDR/Flash/Trauma Informed Yoga therapy? The therapies help children and adults of all ages.
Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias
Chronic Illness and medical issues
Depression and bipolar disorders
Grief and loss
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other trauma and stress-related issues
Substance abuse and addiction
Violence and abuse
The Flash Technique was developed in 2016 with the intention of finding a way to process extremely disturbing memories or experiences in preparation for doing the standard EMDR therapy. While someone may come into therapy for just that purpose…to resolve those old memories…they don’t allow themselves, or the therapist, to address them. That’s pretty normal. In fact, it’s healthy to stay away from things that are, or appear, harmful to us, whether in the present or the past. The problem is that sometimes the painful memories don’t go away and, in fact, keep coming back…OR they are acted out in other behaviors. It shows up in our anger, our isolation, our relationships (or lack of them), our addictions and compulsive behaviors, depression and anxiety…in so many ways that leave us unhappy and feeling powerless. The Flash Technique has shown to be a powerful tool to quickly and effectively diminish the intensity of painful memories or experiences without having to relive them…that is, without having to feel that intense emotion, body sensations or thoughts. You can see large quick results in diminished reactivity and reduction of trauma triggers. With this intensity diminished, and the fear of the memory manageable, we can move on to processing the memory, either using EMDR or allowing the Flash Technique to complete the processing by itself. Working with the principles of both EMDR and the Flash Technique, I have seen clients process some of their most difficult memories and experiences (both past and present) quickly and completely.
Trauma Informed Yoga
Trauma work is about balancing an Unregulated Nervous System If we do not consequently have the opportunity to process and release the resultant sense of shock experienced throughout the body-mind system, we may remain stuck in a state of severe physiological and psycho-emotional disequilibrium. Often this manifests as hyper- or hypo-arousal.
To be hyper-aroused is to remain in a hyper-vigilant state of “high alert” regardless of actual circumstance, acutely anxious and obsessively scanning the environment for potential threats. Conversely hypo-arousal is a state of being “shut down,” feeling lethargic, apathetic, depressed, disassociated, or otherwise numbly disconnected from life.
Either way, “traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies. The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort,” says van der Kolk. This chronic sense of dis-ease commonly produces or exacerbates additional problems, such as substance abuse, disruptive relationships, and excessive or even dangerous over-reactions to otherwise minor events. Over the long term, chronic stress and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may cause other serious health problems, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
In addition to finding ways to discharge incomplete impulses related to nervous system activation, an important part of trauma recovery is to support survivors in recognizing and responding healthfully to their current physiological/psychological state. When taught and learned from a trauma-informed perspective, yoga can be a vitally helpful resource on each of these fronts. Yoga can have both stimulating and soothing effects. This is true on both the physical and psycho-emotional levels. Using TIY in our sessions you can learn to balance your the nervous system through classes that incorporate both stimulating and sitting postures, and by learning to notice how to begin to feel safe, soothed, and secure.