Can EMDR Help Me Be a Happier, More Effective Parent?

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Puzzle with question markIt’s often hard to talk about struggles we have with our own children. We want to appear as if we’ve got this parenting thing all wrapped up. My biggest struggle with addressing problems with my kids is that I believe that it is more effective to focus on the positive than to dwell on the negative aspects of my children. I believe anyone can find the positive in almost any behavior or attitude in their children and yet, like any parent, I find myself getting upset and letting my irritation interfere with connecting and interacting in the best ways I know how.

If you have followed TRU Parenting for long, you may have heard me talk about my second son, Eli’s cuddly nature and some of the struggles I have had accepting and responding to his “overly affectionate manner” in a way that builds our relationship. I recognized my aversion to his physical affections, but found myself becoming irritated and withdrawing from him when he was trying to draw me closer and express love toward me. This really bothered me. I couldn’t figure out why his aggressive cuddling bothered me so much and I wanted to respond to it in a way that let him know that I loved him too. Even though that is what I wanted, it seemed like I continually found myself in the same cycle. I was pushing him away even though I consciously wanted to draw him closer. I didn’t want to keep going round and round this same negative cycle. I needed to do something but I didn’t know what to do.

The solution fell into my lap

When I was trained in EMDR Therapy, I personally practiced the therapy techniques and participated in EMDR Therapy sessions as the client. I was amazed at the moments of insight, emotional release and internal problem resolution that happened with each and every session!

When it was my turn to be a participant I decided to take a closer look at my lack of acceptance of my son Eli’s aggressive affections. My session was approximately an hour long and was full of emotional ups and downs, body sensations, thoughts and memories. I was amazed at how much the experience resembled my normal process of overcoming or resolving inner conflicts or hang ups over time, only in a shorter time frame. In my session I went from a place of ignorance and resistance to one of awareness and acceptance and it all happened within that hour long session.

Ultimately, the disturbance and irritation that had been associated with my son’s affections turned to greater recognition of love, appreciation and gratitude. I felt better about it almost immediately, but I knew the real test would be when I went home and he climbed up on my lap and burrowed into my ribs. The result was astonishing! His affections came as a welcome prize. Even when his affections were done in an uncomfortable manner the first thing I recognized was his desire to show me how much he loved me and my desire to reciprocate that feeling. There are still times when he knells on my legs, squeezes a little too hard or tweaks my face and it becomes necessary to redirect his show of affection in a way that we can both enjoy. But I no longer feel irritable and scold abruptly. EMDR helped me to change the internal automatic response that I had to things that had previously been a significant negative trigger for me. I could now gently shift things in a loving way. It has caused our relationship to grow like it hadn’t previously.

3 Ways EMDR helped me to be a TRUer parent and person

  1. EMDR helped me Teach more intentionally and effectively: We all have things that set us off, that irritate us and send us down behavioral paths that we regret later. Sometimes the smallest things can trigger negative automatic thoughts and reactions that are hard to turn off or side step in order to teach intentionally what we really want of kids to learn rather than just flipping out. EMDR Therapy helped me turn off the illogical negative emotions and take control of my reactions. It helped me solve problems more effectively with my kids.

  2. It helped me build stronger, more mindful Relationships: As I described in my experience with EMDR, my interaction with my son became more mindful. I was able to see his intentions of love more clearly and respond accordingly rather than just responding to the immediate discomfort that sometimes happened. EMDR can increase affect tolerance to decrease anger, yelling, arguments and fighting at home. It helped me put new practices in motion that helped me build the relationship. It helped me better empathize and connect.

  3. EMDR helped me Upgrade Myself: We all have goals, dreams and aspirations. We all have bad habits that we would like to change. Our personal development and improvement have a significant impact on our children’s life and development, whether we like it or not. EMDR helped me see myself and the world around me more clearly so that I could be more effective in reaching my own personal goals.

Ultimately, EMDR helps to put you back in the drivers seat of your life so that you can respond to all of the stresses and demands of life and parenting in the best way possible. In stead of being acted upon by outside sources and just reacting in ways that we’re not proud of, we can act more deliberately and effectively in situations that may have seemed almost impossible before. It would be a great precursor or follow up to learning quality relaxation and meditation techniques and make them more effective when you apply them.

EMDR is not the end all solutions, but it can be an amazing beginning for improving your life and family. There is an ever growing mountain of research that indicates it’s effectiveness in helping people overcome the effects of trauma, worry, anxiety, depression, as well as decreasing reactivity and improving all around performance mentally and physically. It can lay a foundation that will allow you to finally apply some of the life and parenting skills that you are learning. If you are like me you are probably always reading and learning new TRU parenting skills, but have found it difficult at times to apply the things you learn. I find that EMDR can help you make the jump from just consuming to actually applying things to make your life and family genuinely better.

Find out more about EMDR

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR therapy is an evidence based therapy that has been shown to help with reduction or elimination of PTSD symptoms and other trauma related problems, phobias, depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, performance enhancement and many other issues. It is most well known for it’s effectiveness in treating trauma related issues but the definition of trauma is much more inclusive than most people think of. When people think of “Trauma,” they usually think of Trauma with a Capital T that include things like Battle trauma, major physical or sexual abuse and other significant harmful events. EMDR can have incredible results with these sorts of “big T Traumas” but it can also help to address smaller, less severe negative events, thoughts and beliefs that have a negative impact on our ability to make rational, positive choices and actions in our every day lives. EMDR utilizes memory, thought and emotional processing techniques coupled with bilateral sensory input. Both the format and process of the therapy and the sensory components contribute to its incredible effectiveness. You can learn more about how EMDR works and the research about all of it’s incredible uses at emdria.org.

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