EMDR is a way of stimulating the brain through eye movements which appear to make distressing memories feel less intense.
Interestingly, it’s thought to be related to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep - the period of sleep in which we’re dreaming. EMDR and REM sleep both involve our eyes moving rapidly from side to side.
Research shows that REM sleep is strongly associated with emotion regulation - the more REM sleep we get, the fewer symptoms of depression we experience.
EMDR is thought to promote effective memory processing. It appears to ‘free up’ trauma, allowing it to ‘move over’ to regular memory. It helps people put traumatic experiences into a broader context or perspective, appearing more distant, and happening in the past.
In The Body Keeps the Score, Van der Kolk describes a patient who had severe PTSD for thirteen years after a terrible car accident. After just two sessions of EMDR, she transformed from a “helpless panicked victim into a confident, assertive woman.”