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Tap into Healing: An EMDR Approach to Reigniting Inspiration

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) has been shown to effectively treat everything from PTSD, depression, anxiety, panic disorder, etc, but did you know it can also help you re-access your creativity and inspiration?

Photo by Shiyoo Wo with Kaynaktan Dance

But first, a quick EMDR introduction..

While on a walk in 1987, psychologist Francine Shapiro noticed that her previously troubling thoughts had surprisingly vanished as she began spontaneously alternating her eyes back and forth. This began a lifelong study and scientific exploration of dual attention through rhythmic stimulation (including tapping + eye-movements), a key principle in EMDR.

However, the healing power of bi-lateral stimulation is nothing new..

Indigenous communities have long harnessed the power of dancing, drumming, and chanting since the beginning of humanity. The “Four Healing Salves” of Indigenous medicine are generally acknowledged as storytelling, singing (which creates a natural bilateral stimulation between the left and right hemispheres in the brain), dancing/drumming, and silence (Arrien, 2013.)

Through the lens of neuroscience, we can put words to and verify what the Ancients have long known...

In our Westernized, postmodern society, it makes sense to want to know how things work, and why. We can honor the origins of healing practices and know we are participating in something effective.

EMDR helps change how you feel when you bring a past event, memory or emotional state to mind. It targets aspects that are stuck or are looping, moving the associated neural networks from the limbic system to pre-frontal cortex where one can make sense of what happened in a new and positive way.

The underlying explanations for its therapeutic benefits include:

            Dual Attention, which helps to disrupt the usual pattern of rumination and distress associated with traumatic memories, allowing for more adaptive processing and integration.

                Activation of Adaptive Information Processing, which describes how trauma causes a disruption in the way an otherwise healthy brain processes information, resulting in unprocessed information being dysfunctionally held in memory networks. Direct processing of the unprocessed information facilitates connection to the adaptive memory networks and a transformation of all aspects of the memory, thus leading to . (Marich 2015.)

              Somatic Regulation: Bilateral stimulation can have a calming and regulating effect on the nervous system and the body as a whole, including left and right hemispheres of the brain. The rhythmic stimulation of both sides of the body may help regulate arousal levels, reduce physiological reactivity, and promote a sense of safety and relaxation, which are essential for effective trauma processing (Shapiro 2001.)

So how do we use this information to move through creative blocks and find inspiration when in the thick of it?

Here are a few of my suggestions...

  1. Walking: Walking naturally involves bilateral movement of the arms and legs. As you walk, pay attention to the rhythmic swinging of your arms and the alternating movement of your legs. Walking outdoors, particularly in natural settings, can also provide additional sensory stimulation.

  2. Dance: Dancing involves alternating movements of the arms, legs, and body, providing natural bilateral stimulation. You can dance freely to music or follow specific dance routines that involve alternating movements on both sides of the body.

  3. Bilateral Tapping: You can gently tap your thighs, knees, or shoulders alternately with your hands. The rhythmic tapping on each side of the body can provide bilateral stimulation. You can also tap your feet on the ground alternatively while seated.

  4. Breathing Exercises: Certain breathing exercises involve rhythmic patterns that can provide bilateral stimulation. For example, the 4-7-8 breathing technique involves inhaling for a count of 4, holding the breath for a count of 7, and exhaling for a count of 8. This rhythmic breathing pattern engages both sides of the body in the breathing process.

  5. Sensory Bilateral Stimulation: You can use sensory stimuli such as bilateral auditory stimulation (e.g., listening to music with headphones where the sound alternates between the left and right channels) or bilateral visual stimulation (e.g., watching the movement of a swinging pendulum or following a moving object with your eyes- ocean gazing, anyone?)

  6. Playing Musical Instruments: Playing musical instruments such as drums, piano, or guitar involves coordinated movements of the hands and fingers on both sides of the body. The rhythmic and repetitive nature of playing music can provide bilateral sensory stimulation.

  7. EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): EFT, also known as tapping therapy, involves tapping on specific acupressure points on the body while focusing on a specific issue or emotion. The bilateral tapping sequence used in EFT can help release emotional blockages and promote a sense of calm and balance.

And last but not least, find an EMDR therapist!

While we can engage in bi-lateral movement on our own, EMDR therapy involves more than just bilateral stimulation; it's a structured therapeutic approach designed to help individuals process traumatic memories and alleviate associated symptoms.

While bilateral stimulation is a key component of EMDR, there are several reasons why EMDR therapy is conducted by trained therapists, including:

  • Safety + effectiveness: EMDR therapy follows a structured protocol that involves multiple phases, including history-taking, preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation of positive beliefs, and closure. Trained therapists are familiar with the EMDR protocol and know how to adapt it to the individual needs and circumstances of each client.

  • Structured protocol: Trained therapists help individuals identify and process these target memories in a systematic and strategic manner, facilitating the resolution of underlying trauma and promoting healing.

  • Targeted Processing: EMDR therapy involves targeting specific memories or experiences that are linked to current symptoms or distress. Trained therapists help individuals identify and process these target memories in a systematic and strategic manner, facilitating the resolution of underlying trauma and promoting healing.

  • Addressing Underlying Beliefs and Emotions: EMDR therapy goes beyond bilateral stimulation to help individuals identify and challenge negative beliefs, emotions, and self-perceptions that may be linked to past traumatic experiences. Trained therapists guide clients in reframing these beliefs and developing more adaptive coping strategies.

May this information help guide

you back to your own Source.

“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions: "When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop being comforted by the sweet territory of silence?”

Gabrielle Roth

Arrien, A. (2013). The Four-Fold way: Walking the paths of the warrior, teacher, healer, and visionary. New York: Harper Collins

Shapiro, F. (2001). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Basic principles, protocols and procedures

(2nd Ed.). New York: Guilford Press.


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