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Can EMDR Change Your Brain?

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Traumatic experiences can etch themselves on the brain. When those internal bruises refuse to fade, this can lead to decades of suffering and emotional distress.

A therapy called EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, can help defuse the emotional and physiological effects of traumatic experiences.

“EMDR is a therapeutic approach that views problems as the result of memories that are maladaptively stored in the brain,” says psychotherapist and EMDR practitioner Roger Solomon, PhD. “These distressing events can be too much to process and get stored in the brain the same way they were input there: through emotions, thoughts, images, sensations, and beliefs that are isolated in their own neural network.”

The treatment often involves clients’ tracking a therapist’s back-and-forth finger movements; other methods, such as hand tapping and spoken prompts, may also be used.

By accessing networks in the brain where the traumatic memory is stored, the technique helps the client reprocess the information, creating new neural connections and forming a less emotionally charged impression of the experience.

Recent research has shown that EMDR therapy can treat emotional trauma more quickly and effectively than cognitive behavioral therapy, dissipating negative emotions and disturbing images.

“EMDR is seemingly simple but actually quite complex,” says Solomon, who consults with government agencies and has treated first-responders to the Oklahoma City bombing and the Sandy Hook school mass shooting.

During treatment, “a chain of associations starts to occur,” he explains. “The emotions and information that were part of the event reoccur, which can be quite intense. Simultaneously, adaptive information also starts to link in.”

The brain can then potentially rewire itself around a new perception of the trauma, allowing the body to recognize that it is no longer threatened.

“I am continually amazed at people’s resilience and ability to process,” Solomon says. “It’s amazing how the mind comes up with these adaptive resolutions.”

Thousands of professional therapists and coaches trained in EMDR now practice in the United States. You can find a certified practitioner at www.emdr.com.

This article originally appeared in “How to Change Your Brain” in the June 2020 issue of Experience Life.


Quinton Skinner
is a writer and novelist in Minneapolis. He’s also the cofounder of Logosphere Storysmiths.

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Health & Fitness

How to Pack a Gym Bag

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Forgetting your socks or weightlifting gloves can derail your workout, especially if you’re new to exercise or entrenched in a rigid program. To stay the course, having the right supplies is key to your success. To help you prepare, we asked Life Time personal trainers Anna Taylor, NASM, USAW, Alpha, and Bryce Morris, MS, NASM, ISSA, Alpha, for their favorite gym-bag essentials.

Staples

  • Stretchy, flexible, sweat-wicking shirt and pants or shorts
  • Socks (two pairs)
  • Undergarments, sports bra, support, or protection
  • Cross-trainers or sport-specific shoes
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Flip-flops for showering
  • Hair binders, deodorant, toiletries
  • Sports watch or heart-rate monitor
  • MP3 player/phone and earbuds or headphones for music

Nice to Haves

  • Swimsuit for the whirlpool or sauna
  • Wet/dry bag for swimsuit or sweaty clothes postworkout
  • Razors: Some clubs offer them in the locker room, but bring a reusable one to cut down on waste
  • Odor-absorbing charcoal sticks to keep your bag smelling fresh
  • Shaker bottle with premeasured protein powder so you can add water and refuel

Coach Anna also suggests:

  • A protein-packed bar to eat before your workout
  • Bear KompleX Hand Grips for pull-ups
  • A weightlifting belt for lifts at 80 percent or more of max

Coach Bryce also suggests:

  • An extra T-shirt
  • A RPM speed rope for double-unders and conditioning
  • A BCAA and L-glutamine supplement to support recovery after your session

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