What is rapid eye movement therapy? How can it benefit you?
It is not a commonly known fact that eye movements are related to emotional wellbeing. One might think this a bizarre comment, and you might be asking yourself, “what on earth do my eyes have to do with my emotion?”. Well, this short blog will hopefully shed some light on the power eye movements have in our emotional life.
Every night when we go to sleep, we enter a stage in our sleep known as REM, which stands for, you guessed it, Rapid Eye Movement. REM occurs in the stage of sleep when we dream. It’s as if our eyes are watching the scenes in our dream as they dart back and forth from one corner of our eye socket to the other. Why is this happening? What is the purpose of these nightly eye movements?
There has been a lot of research done on sleep, especially the REM period of sleep. Scientific research shows that REM reduces emotionality and image vividness from the events of the day. So, what exactly do I mean? Let me give you an example. On your way to work today, you barely avoided a bad car accident by avoiding a truck that almost hit you because the truck driver didn’t see you. In a millisecond, your heart races, your body tenses up, you feel fear and become scared, immediately thinking, I could have been killed.
Now, when you get home and tell your family, you still might feel anxious and be a little upset by the story, but after a good night’s sleep, REM does its work. It reduces or even eliminates the event’s emotion, and the image is not as intense the following day.
After REM does its job, you can talk about the accident without feeling the emotion. It is no more troubling than talking about what you had for dinner. REM has worked its magic.
It allows you to remember that the event happened, but you do not have to re-experience it as you talk about it. This story is an example of how eye movements help humans manage emotional experiences.
How does a good night’s sleep filled with REM sleep and dreams become a rapid eye movement therapy?
Well, let’s go back to the near-miss auto accident. Let’s say you were in that car, and the truck did hit you. In fact, you were severely injured, and your wife, who was in the passenger seat, was killed. In other words, what if the near-miss was not a near miss but rather a life-altering traumatic event that changed your life forever.
Sadly, these types of events happen every day.
This situation is where rapid eye movement therapies can help. As you can imagine, after such a life-altering trauma like the car accident described above, a good night’s sleep of REM and dreams doesn’t change anything, Nothing changes the day, or the next week, or the next decade after the event.
Unfortunately, REM does not eliminate traumatic events. It seems to handle scary or distressing events, but trauma appears to overwhelm the REM system. Research bears this out as fact.
Fortunately, there is a way to reduce and sometimes even eliminate the high emotion related to a life changing trauma. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has been treating people who have experienced such events for thirty years.
What is EMDR? Well, to put it simply, it is a therapy that starts where REM left off. EMDR completes the process of reducing emotionality and image vividness of the traumatic events that are too intense for REM to handle on its own. You might think of EMDR as REM on steroids.
My website is loaded with information about rapid eye movement therapy known as EMDR. It has a 30-year history of research and practice. It has a profoundly healing power that gives people their life back after a experiencing loss, grief, and trauma. I have been using EMDR for over 20 years and have found it to be the most healing therapy at my disposal. It is done without much talking, much like REM’s healing ability while you sleep.
So if you get upset when you think about something in your past, EMDR can rid you of your emotion about it.
Finally, if you are a therapist reading this because you want to know more about EMDR. Let me encourage you to get trained in EMDR as soon as you can because once the dust settles from COVID, our world will be hit with a trauma tsunami the likes the world has never seen.
We will experience an ocean of loss, grief, and trauma from every corner of this country, and trust me. Talking about it doesn’t cut it but EMDR does.