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EMDR Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) stands for EMDR. This is the most peculiar, utterly boring and most effective method. It was discovered by Francine Shapiro at the EMDR Institute.

You focus on some traumatic event of your past. You may have thousands of addictions surrounding that event. You don’t have to deal with them individually.

You create a three paneled drawing.

  1. On the left you draw a picture that in some way represents the event.
  2. In the middle you list the negative emotions you felt at that time.
  3. On the right you list the phrases that might have been going through your mind at the time, e.g. It’s not my fault, I’m trapped and have no choice or I’m in trouble.

Set the drawing front of you. Someone then waves a wand back and forth in front of you. You have to simultaneously track the wand with your eyes, look alternately at the left and right panels of your picture and keep your mind on the event. The person waving the wand may say jarring or cruel phrases to you that are designed to stir your emotions and really get you into the event. Your assistant pulls you back to the task if your mind wanders. In particular, you focus on what that event means about you. You keep doing this for as long as it takes for the emotional charge to drop to zero. Eventually you are just bored to death with it.

Then you repeat the process with phrases and pictures representing how you want to feel about that event.

The amazing thing is, this unpromising process not only desensitizes you to that original traumatic event, but also to similar situations. Working with Ken Keyes, I used this technique to erase overwhelming pangs of loneliness. Later I worked with Lee McFadden and Mark Putnam of Keys To Life to get rid of my phobia of needles and resentment and fury from childhood physical and sexual abuse.

I am so glad I did that. I had to have three weeks of IV chemotherapy in 2000-06. Almost everything that could go wrong with an IV or needle did. If I had to face that ordeal with my previous needle phobia programming, they would have had to put me in a strait jacket. When it was over, I took some chocolate hedgehogs to the nurses who had guided me through the process. Trina Zubach, one of the nurses, said, it should be us giving you chocolates, that was such a nightmare. I can’t say I totally enjoyed the experience, but I did not experience it as traumatic.


You can set up two light tables, such as used for sorting slides and some simple electronics to alternately light up the left and right tables, either by pressing a button on a timer, to simulate the effect of a person hypnotically waving the wand back and forth.

I used such a device made of two laundry tubs and some translucent plastic when I was dealing with my needle phobia. I taped one of Ken’s diabetic needles to the left side, rather than making a drawing.

Why Does EMDR Work?

One theory is that it somehow helps the two hemispheres of your brain to work out a co-operative solution to the problem. Perhaps you unconsciously reprogram the addictions just so you can stop the boring process. Perhaps you unconsciously reprogram them because it is so embarrassing to take so much of your assistant’s time. Perhaps you just come to associate the trauma with relaxing boredom.

NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) says that your eyes will move up and down, left and right depending on whether you are processing visual, auditory or sensory data and whether you are remembering or imagining. Perhaps EMDR forces you to process the trauma in many different ways, breaking you out of your old ruts.

EMDR seems to work best for major trauma, such as being raped, or being involved in some natural disaster like a terrifying flood or fire.

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