EMDR & Brainspotting

The sculpture pictured above is called “Love” (by Alexander Milov), and was featured at the Burning Man festival in 2015. I was awestruck from the moment I saw it, as it so clearly illustrated (to me) how our adult selves live with such anxiety, sadness, anger and disconnection, while our child selves continue to reach out to connect, give and receive love. This is the work of therapy. To find a way back to that part which is free to give and receive love; to live without anxiety and fear; to walk out into the world with arms open wide.

The brain/body connection aids us as we store emotional experiences in our mind and body until we have a chance to figure out how to deal with them. Both EMDR and Brainspotting are uniquely successful at accessing these emotional memories so we can work through them and be more present in the present. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about.

Many children experience various forms of abuse, from physical beatings, sexual abuse, to neglect. Each child finds their own unique way to survive by adapting to their surroundings. They figure out, without consulting with the adults, what works best to protect them. One of the most common adaptive strategies I have seen is bottling up emotions, staying off the radar and not rocking the boat – this generally looks like a child, and then adult, who is shut down or difficult to reach emotionally.

In adulthood, they have a couple of messages encoded in their brain and body: keep a tight lid on strong emotions, and NObody can be trusted (after all, the adults in their life were either their abuser or failed to protect them). If there was a theme song for their adaptive strategy it might be Simon & Garfunkel’s “I Am a Rock” – because “a rock feels no pain … and an island never cries”.

But we are built for connection. Even as we’re feeling the intense need to protect ourselves, we are also craving emotional and physical closeness with others. What a conundrum. Logically, we know there are safe people and situations out there, but our mind/body is telling us ‘nobody is safe’. That’s what we work through in therapy.

I used this example of abused kids who shut down because it is one of the most common scars I treat from childhood, and because when clients heal from these wounds the shift in their lives is so incredible.

Through the process of either EMDR or Brainspotting, we address that belief – that ‘nobody is safe’ – so you can learn to recognize when your emotional memories are putting you on high alert, how to address the ‘false alarms’ and put a stop to their incessant noise. You will also learn how to recognize people and situations which are safe, so you can finally be vulnerable when it is appropriate to do so.

Kimela Kluthe, LMFT   |   St. Louis, MO