A Self-Help Version of EMDR Could Make Healing from Trauma Easier

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I entered the training for EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) with extreme skepticism, thinking it was the gimmickiest therapy technique ever proposed on a gullible public. Waving fingers in front of a client’s eyes as they strained to follow the back-and-forth movements and suggesting this was going to create almost immediate change seemed more in the realm of magical thinking.

I was more than impressed when I saw with my own eyes that this was all true. Using EMDR with my clients—and seeing their profound healing from trauma—convinced me of its power.

The discovery of the therapeutic effects of bilateral stimulation—using back-and-forth movements to stimulate both hemispheres of the brain—was documented in 1989 by Francine Shapiro in her EMDR paper in the Journal of Traumatic Stress. Since then, it has developed into a multi-million-dollar enterprise, and there are many thousands of EMDR therapists worldwide. So, what’s to be unhappy about?

I had two questions. I wondered how Shapiro decided—once she discovered she was stimulating alternate sides of the brain-body—to use eye movement instead of, say, sound alternating from ear to ear. And I wondered why she insisted that clients doing the therapy have to get down to a self-assessment of zero emotion when thinking about the trauma before the therapist would halt the exhausting eye-movement? To see this done on a client provoked empathy in me, since the client seemed a bit tortured by the therapist’s insistence that they needed to get to zero. I immediately felt I could do better.

One of the reasons that EMDR is so rigid is that Shapiro was determined to make the technique accurately repeatable so that subsequent research could prove it was legitimate. The name itself has been a barrier to the therapy becoming more widely known by the general public, as it is so unwieldly. “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing” is a mouthful even for therapists. It is the kind of name graduate research students give their PhD thesis.

Yet, the discovery of the healing effects of bilateral stimulation of the brain cannot be overstated. It is a miraculous experience for many people. In fact, Shapiro first noticed the healing effects it had on her own trauma before she even formulated the theory. Although slow to catch on, it is recommended as treatment for traumatic stress by the American Psychiatric Association (in 2004), the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) and Department of Defense (in 2009), and the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies (in 2009).

EMDR stimulates the brain into a rapid eye movement (REM) state. The brain is much more able to processes traumatic emotions when it is in an REM state. When dreaming or having a nightmare, the brain is attempting to heal itself, but its efforts are awkward and chaotic. While awake, a person can direct the brain and the healing effects are dramatically better.

Those that have done research on REM sleep have determined it is essential for mental health. The March 2017 issue of Time quoted sleep researcher Dr. Maiken Nedergaard: “Sleep’s primary evolutionary function is to clean out the brain quite literally of accumulating debris. It is like a dishwasher that keeps flushing through to wash the dirt away. Without that nightly wash cycle, dangerous toxins can damage healthy cells and interfere with their ability to coherently compose our thoughts and regulate our emotions.”

It is during REM brain activity that the toxic chemicals in traumatic emotions are dissolved in the brain. It is only during REM that all the various parts of the brain are in communication with each other. With EMDR, people can get a similar effect while still being awake. They can consciously direct their brain to visualize their trauma.

EMDR is an emotionally cathartic experience for most people, but the benefit of any EMDR session depends on the level of defensiveness of the client. The more the client is determined to not access the traumatic memories, or determined not to emote over these memories, the smaller the benefit they will receive from an EMDR session.

The most common coping mechanism in children is avoidance. This is healthy in children, but many continue using avoidance into adulthood. The biggest risk to anyone doing an EMDR session is largely dependent on the extent to which their emotions have been repressed. EMDR is an open invitation to these deeper emotions. If a person has repressed them, using avoidance their whole life, they can be overwhelmed by the experience.

I had been a therapist for 30 years before I was introduced to EMDR. It was only natural to incorporate the elements of other therapies I was skilled at using. I had already been practiced at creating a “safe space” for clients when doing hypnosis or relaxation exercises. EMDR clients are asked to do this themselves, but some of my clients had never had a safe space in their lives they could recall to visualize.

I knew from my experience with gestalt empty-chair work that addressing oneself is often a powerful experience. So, to use this while a client was in an REM brain state was sure to be more powerful and more therapeutic. I combined elements of six therapies to create a program that was as healing as possible. It uses hypnosis, EMDR, mindfulness, gestalt child within work, music therapy, and awe therapy (Psychology Today has identified this as profoundly connecting with nature).

I had an epiphany that this program could be recorded on separate audio channels which would alternate between the right and left ears. I used music instead of eye movement. I gradually experimented with giving clients more and more control over the experience, eventually loaning the instrument to them to have them do their own sessions at home and coming back to me to process their experience.

I chose classical music to fit the various stages of the program: Debussy to relax, Bach and Vaughan Williams to do the visualization of trauma, Vivaldi to be inspired and motivated. Music was accompanied by occasional guided imagery directing the client to do therapeutic work as well as connect with nature and with themselves and their future.

I had always assumed that all clients needed a caring, empathetic therapist to be there for them when they are emoting. I thought it was this caring aspect that was at least part of what cured. Yet client after client reported that they did better work when they did it themselves at home using this recording.

Perhaps it was because they felt no self-consciousness. When a therapist is present, a client might cry or otherwise emote for between 5 and 15 minutes, but many clients reported crying through the whole hour program when they did it at home.

The implications of this for the mental health field are enormous. The healing effects of bilateral stimulation of the brain are only beginning to be known.

Frustrated over only reaching my own clients, agonizing when I read of suicides by veterans and others, I framed this program as Se-REM (Self effective – Rapid Eye Movement) and tried to circulate it into wider use.

The very first client who did Se-REM was atypical but interesting. He was a big-city police photographer who had taken photos of crime scenes for 25 years. He reported that it had never bothered him, no matter how grisly. He focused on the technical aspects of his job.

Once he retired, he was shocked that his daily experience was almost continual flashes in his mind’s eyes of all these terrible images. He could not stop his brain from doing this processing and he was stressed and anxious. He felt his retirement was being ruined. He took Se-REM home and did the program one time. When he returned two weeks later, he reported that all of his flashbacks were gone.

His experience of delayed traumatic reaction is not unusual. I told him about Holocaust survivors who, while interred in the camps, had wonderful dreams filled with food and friends. Only once they were safe did they begin to have horrific, unrelenting nightmares. Police officers, military, and first responders often adopt a kind of superman mentality in order to face the dangers of their jobs. It is often only after the danger is long gone that they (sometimes unwillingly) feel their repressed emotions.

I knew that with traditional therapy, this retired police photographer’s flashbacks would have gradually subsided as he talked about the emotions he had never expressed. Even without therapy, his symptoms would have gradually dissipated because each time he experienced them there would be a small discharge of the traumatic emotion. But he essentially cured himself, in one session, at home.

One of the next clients to use Se-REM was an Army Ranger who had three years of night terrors that were so violent it was dangerous for his girlfriend to sleep with him. You might imagine how, after years of this, he dreaded bedtime and going to sleep. He was depressed and there was a possibility that he might have chosen to end his own life.

He did two Se-REM sessions and almost all of the troubled sleep was over. He wrote a testimonial urging other soldiers to get this help.

Over the last nine years, Se-REM has been used by therapists in nearly all 50 states and 6 foreign countries. The most common warning has come from users who feel it might be too powerful for some who have no experience with EMDR.

If you have any experience with bureaucracy, you can imagine what kind of response Se-REM has had with the VA and even with the Wounded Warrior Project… crickets. Se-REM could be used to help all returning soldiers re-acclimate to civilian life. Often their military experience has been traumatic even if they have not been in combat.

Se-REM is also a natural fit for use in psychiatric hospitals. With a pre-loaded MP3 player, patients can do their own EMDR session every day, and they will have the supportive staff there to help them process their experiences.

Many clients in outpatient therapy are being charged $80 to $200 per session. This puts in-person EMDR therapy out of reach for the majority of sufferers of PTSD. This is unfortunate, as the world is awash with untreated anxiety and trauma.

The following is my mission statement for Se-REM:

“Se-REM devotes itself to lessening the impact of Trauma in the world. It strives to provide the most effective self-help trauma treatment at as close to free as possible. Se-REM is dedicated to increased compassion and empathy and improved mental health.”

I run the Se-REM program without profit, and hope someday to bequeath it to a large health organization so that it can reach the largest number of the people who need it.

As with my initial reaction to EMDR, it seems too good to be true. But the healing really can be as simple as a self-guided daydream. Se-REM is like EMDR 2.0. This and other programs that employ bilateral stimulation are in their infancy, just being discovered as the easiest, most effective, and least expensive way to heal from trauma and experience relief from emotional distress.

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

49 COMMENTS

  1. I am always happy to hear about a non-drug mental therapy that works.

    However, the theory behind this therapy is brain-based which my training tells me is misguided.

    Additionally, the mention of REM and getting the eyes to follow a moving object makes it more or less clear that a hypnotic state may be induced by this therapy, and my training tells me that this can be dangerous for the patient.

    If the theory of this therapy were re-worked along more modern Spirit-based principles, I think it would become better understood, and fall into its proper place alongside other non-drug therapies. We already know that “talk” (or cognitive) therapy has some effectiveness, and it is only by the longest stretch that we can relate those gains to brain function. It should be obvious to those who don’t have their heads buried that something else is at work here, and that something else is Spirit, the actual causal source in this universe.

    • l.e. cox, I agree with you. I also want to add about the idea of REM, getting the eyes to follow an object and then falling into a hypnotic state. If this is supposed to be non-drug; why does this non-drug therapy act like a drug? Have you ever seen the eyes of someone taking a psychiatric drug? It is obvious, some sort of hypnotic state is at work or the eyes would not be so telling. If someone tells you that the eyes do not show you are taking these psych drugs, they are lying. So, why would this be any different? Who knows, this could cause some sort of brain damage, too. So, I see RED FLAGS all over the place and thus, it seems to me that if someone has a history of psychiatric drugs, especially, with a poor outcome; they should avoid this EMDR like the plague! Thank you.

      • rebel, I don’t know enough about eyes and drugs to add or subtract anything from your comment.

        But I know that if you want someone to become more awake and more alive, you should try to keep them as awake and aware as possible, then as they run into the mental barriers that tend to shut them down, they will be that much more able to “punch through” those barriers.

        From what I know, I can’t tell others to not try this. But I do really urge practitioners to figure out what they are really doing with people by inducing REM. I know it has to go way beyond mere brain function.

        • L.E. Cox I am no expert, but, when I was on those psych drugs, I met with an EAP counselor where I worked about a situation with a supervisor. This EAP counselor had had experience at the State Hospital and he noticed right away by looking at my eyes that I was taking those psych drugs. He said that when the patients, took those drugs their eyes changed and could show it; like alcohol. I have seen on the internet photos of where they compare the eyes under the influence of benzos, narcotics, alcohol, and ritalin. One psychiatrist I spoke to disputed it somewhat. But, to me, it makes sense. When I think of the years on the psych drugs, I remember having many of the physical tell-tale signs they used to write up in the “women’s magazines” of the sixties and seventies to alert Mothers that their child was “doing drugs.” I don’t know. All of this seems plausible; which means if it were true, the psychiatrists, etc. would hide it from us. Thank you.

          • It is a certainty that the action of Benzos is very, very similar to the action of alcohol on the brain. Both affect primarily the GABA system, and benzos have long been used as a controlled way to withdraw alcoholics from alcohol dependence without bringing on possible deadly withdrawal effects. I am quite certain it would work the other way if it were tried. So taking benzos is very similar to drinking. The only big difference is dosage control, and of course, lots of people increase their benzo dosage beyond what is prescribed. They are sold as street drugs, too. The one time I served on a jury, the defense tried to get his client off of a DUII by pointing out that he was taking Valium and that the effects were almost indistinguishable from alcohol. They are very close to being mimics of each other.

    • I always thought the eye movement deal was hokey. I think telling one’s story to someone who knows how to listen and is interested is the primary source of “mental healing,” if that’s the proper term. A lot of folks really twist themselves into pretzels trying to come up with a “biological” explanation.

      • Steve McCrea, I think you’ve “hit” on something. It is in “telling one’s story.” The best therapy; the best chance to discover who one is, what one’s talents are, what one likes and doesn’t like, etc. is not in therapy, but in telling one’s story to anyone kind and trusted enough to listen and therefore validate the individual. All else is nothing less than “hokey” science and we already know (from people’s stories on this Site and elsewhere) how dangerous and damaging it is and can be. Thank you.

      • “A lot of folks really twist themselves into pretzels trying to come up with a “biological” explanation.”

        e.g. “Sleep’s primary evolutionary function is to clean out the brain quite literally of accumulating debris. It is like a dishwasher that keeps flushing through to wash the dirt away. Without that nightly wash cycle, dangerous toxins can damage healthy cells and interfere with their ability to coherently compose our thoughts and regulate our emotions.”

        Might be worth noting that not all sleep is dream-state, not all dream-state is REM and not all REM is bilateral.

        And to indulge in a little neurobabble of my own, the visual cortex is in the occipital lobe, almost the opposite end of the brain to the auditory cortex which is in the superior temporal gyrus. So to theorise that BLSsing either will have similar effects on the connections between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex is a pretty big stretch. But hey, it also offers bio-materialist evidence as to why listening to early Pink Floyd through headphones makes me feel good. I knew I wasn’t just imagining it.

        As the author points out, “[EMDR] has developed into a multi-million-dollar enterprise, and there are many thousands of EMDR therapists worldwide. So, what’s to be unhappy about?”. Especially if you’re getting a slice of the cake.

        I just don’t understand why we’re not hearing neurological explanations as to how reality TV like Queer Eye improves mental health. After all, it generates millions of dollars as well. Surely they can afford a shiny biopsychiatric paint-job too.

      • I think there’s probably more to trauma exposure and desensitisation than telling your story to someone you have rapport with Steve. It seems to work at least as well when self-administered as it does with a therapist. It was also a staple of folk-wisdom for getting over trauma and phobia long before professionals started jargonising it with words like ‘trauma’ and ‘phobia’.

        • Not sure what you’re saying here. What is there “more” than the fact that the therapist is listening non-judgmentally and interestedly? I know there are a few techniques tossed in there, such as the concept that if a trauma doesn’t lift, there is an earlier one of a similar nature that needs to be examined. But I’m saying the eye movement or tapping or whatever seems extraneous. Are you saying that “tapping” and that sort of thing was a staple of folk wisdom for a long time? I’d be very interested to hear what you have to share on that point.

          • “Not sure what you’re saying here. What is there “more” than the fact that the therapist is listening non-judgmentally and interestedly?”

            The fact that it has about the same reported efficacy with or without a therapist.

            I think you’ve missed the distinction I’m making between exposure and desensitisation therapies – which have been around since before Freud was in short pants – and EMDR, which Francine Shapiro patented in the 1980s. EMDR incorporates the former and properly designed and reported studies into it suggest it has about the same success rate (i.e. 50-60%. Nothing like the better than 90% rates claimed by EMDR proponents.) So the ‘EM’ and ‘BLS’ aspects of EMDR seem to be pure window dressing without even an enhanced placebo effect to recommend them.

            If you’re scared of spiders and you try to deal with it by starting off in the same room with a small spider and progressively exposing yourself to closer contact with bigger and hairier arachnids you’re practicing exposure and desensistisation therapy, with no therapist and no BLS. If you pay for sessions with a therapist to do the same thing you can have a similar expectation of success – even if they add an attentive, sympathetic ear to the mix.

            So whatever makes exposure and desensitisation therapy work for some people doesn’t seem to be dependent on having someone listening to them.

            And yeah, I’ve had personal experience of success with exposure and desensitisation following traumatising events in a car wreck (paralysing flashbacks when I smelled petrol) and with a pack of sharks (fear of entering deep water), all without the assistance of a therapist. But hey, that’s just anecdote. It’s no more evidence than is David Busch’s experiences of EMDR with his clients.

          • I can see that. Self-desensitization seems like it’s very possible. But if someone is going to try and help someone else, listening is the starting point. I agree 100% that there is no special advantage to using “EMDR” or other “specialized” procedures. There are some tricks or techniques that can be used to help someone feel safe to share, but the basic is not trying to tell the other person what to do or think, but instead listening to their story. I’ve certainly seen writing, art, music, pets, etc. serve an equally valuable role to a “therapist,” or to a listening and caring friend. Whatever works is what works, and therapists have no corner on the market of “helpfulness.”

  2. Probably best we remain modest and careful not to overstate the efficacy or oversell any “brand” of therapy as it can create undue expectations. To date we have not figured out what benefit people or what they find helpful when seeing a therapist as it is a highly unique process for everyone.

  3. To see this done on a client provoked empathy in me, since the client seemed a bit tortured by the therapist’s insistence that they needed to get to zero.”

    I think you’ll find making things difficult for the client has been key to EMDR’s “success”.

    As proponents of weight loss, D&A rehab and criminal anti-recidivism programs discovered long ago, by making the treatment particularly onerous you filter out those with less resilience and determination (i.e. the ones most likely to fail). Then you eliminate the drop-outs from your final results and, viola, a high success rate.

    That’s the main thing that distinguishes studies showing high efficacy for EMDR from the ones that show about the same success rates as with regular exposure and desensitisation therapies. The latter include the drop-outs in the reported figures. The former don’t.

    Clinical anecdotes presented as evidence employ a similar filter. You’re seeing ‘profound healing’ from trauma because they’re the clients that come back. The ones who see little benefit or find it too difficult to continue simply stop showing up with their money.

    There’s the added effect that the more someone can be persuaded to invest into a product – personally or financially – the more likely they are to be enthusiastic about it. Most people don’t like to admit to themselves or others that they’ve wasted time, money or effort on something important to them.

  4. It seems to me that we may be “hard-wired” for some fears and that to “de-sensitize” from these fears may either endanger our life in the short-term or perhaps endanger our life in the long-term. In the short-term reference, I am thinking of things like spiders, snakes (which might be venomous or deadly) or other natural things or even some man-made things. In the long-term reference, it might be a little more personal or unique. I am thinking of the fear of public speaking or even the fear of the water. These fears might prevent you from doing a job that is not within your natural talents and thus it could be frustrating and stress-related issues might happen to you. Of course, there are those motivated by the desire to overcome such and therefore to not overcome these fears and be successful would lead to stress-related issues for them. In most cases, when presented with a fear, we need to determine if it is in our best interest to overcome that fear or not and proceed accordingly. Of course, there might be times, when we have no choice but to “fight or flee” As we are presented with an encounter that requires instant decision making, fear or not. None of these incidents require useless, harmful therapies of any sort. In fact, these types of therapies could harm the necessary decision making ability that could harm your life on either a short-term or long-term basis. We really need to stop resorting to therapy to solve our life’s problems. Somehow, we have forgotten our basic human instinct towards survival. Thank you.

    • It is common to think of the fear response as “necessary for survival.” But even in animals, I have seen the fear response paralyze them when they should run. My view is that fear is debilitating. In humans, this is even more obvious. You see a spider, a snake, an angry dog, whatever… you can get a fear reaction or you can know exactly what you need to do to stay healthy and happy in that particular situation and just do it. No fear involved.

      I think someone is selling us fear as necessary when it really isn’t. “Evolution” can explain it, but very poorly, particularly when you take Spirit into account.

      That said, trauma therapy is about trauma. It might often have to do with fear, but not necessarily. It could be from a head injury from sports or something. You’d expect fear to be a part of most incidents that result in emotional trauma. But there could be much more than just that involved as well.

      • l e cox– Maybe, I misunderstand “fear.” Maybe, there is a more adequate word to describe what might be a “healthy hesitancy” or a “healthy avoidance” of a dangerous situation. I don’t know. I believe that there is a treasure/trash thing going on in each one of us. Each one of us has our unique treasures to pursue and unique trash to avoid. Of course, we as mere humans can get this easily mixed up. I, also think there are general treasures to pursue for all humans; love, kindness, gentleness, etc. and general trash for all humans to avoid hatred, meanness, cruelty, etc. Basically, the treasure is goodness and the trash is evil. How this fits in as far as being scared of spiders and snakes might be that if you are bit by a spider or snake, you are either temporarily or forever derailed in this pursuit/avoidance thing. So, the upshot is, probably the intelligent and wise of us need to teach the rest of us how to deal with such creatures. My father, taught, that especially, in the desert never ever turn over any rock to avoid spiders, snakes, and scorpions. What it all boils down is just old-fashioned common sense. Thank you.

        • For me another way to describe it is: reacting without awareness versus reacting with full awareness.

          You have the basic idea. This data has been presented to me using some different words and concepts which I think are very important. But I don’t want to split hairs that way.

          I am interested in finding points of agreement.

  5. It’s encouraging to witness pseudoscience and hardcore woo infiltrating the psychologies.

    EMDR is a kind of secular faith healing.

    One can also perform magical ritiuals at home without making a pilgrimage to Lourdes or the psychologist’s office.

    Faith Healing works for the people that want it to work and the occasional sceptic that also wants it to work but insists that it can’t.

    Others write here occasionally offering up their own take on faith healing, and really it’s one performance utilising different costumes and props.

    The placebo effect is a massive money-spinner. I can empathise with the temptation to dress up as a wizard or dress down as a suited professional and play up to an imagined audience. The healing professions attract some very colourful characters. Overall their heart is in the right place.

    Maybe it is time to do away with all of medicine and just have people darting their eyes around.

  6. I did not know “The brain is much more able to processes traumatic emotions when it is in an REM state.” I did know that, if I felt a cold or something like that coming on, getting a good nights sleep was always the best way to stave off a cold.

    And I’m guessing the reason people sleep so long when given the antipsychotics, is that it’s the body’s best mechanism for attempting to heal from the horrendous assault those drugs have on the brain.

    This is the second MiA blog that I’ve read claiming EMDR is a promising treatment, sounds interesting. And definitely, since most people who land in the hands of the “mental health” workers, are those dealing with some kind of trauma, good trauma treatments are most definitely needed.

    • In my readings on traumatic brain damage that usually arises from a sports injury or similar incident of force to the head, the books state how important it is for the patient to get as much sleep as necessary for that is where the healing is. It could be that the person needing to sleep so much while taking these psychiatric drugs is the brain desperately seeking to be healed from these drugs and a return to its own unique normality. However, sleeping while under the influence of these drugs, to me was not real sleep, in my opinion. To me, it seemed like an artificial sleep; but, I sure did a lot of it while taking those psych drugs. In fact, I started to sleep so much and could not be awaken (being nearly comatose) that I was hospitalized. My brain and body were finally rebelling against these evil drugs. I did almost die. They even thought I would be in a near vegetative state and would need 24 hour care for the rest of my life. They took me off all my drugs–cold turkey–except for lithium. However, I never did even need a physical therapist to come to my house; much less 24 hour care in some assisted living center. I think they were a little upset. But, after that, they kept trying this and that drug; but mostly each drug my brain/body rejected. Finally, two years later, after having some lithium toxicity, I rejected all of these drugs and could not any of these psych drugs again; much less any other drug. At that time, I literally walked away from these evil psychiatrists, etc. I pray no one else have to go through what I did to be awaken to how evil and dangerous these drugs, the therapizing, and actually all psychiatry is. Thank you.

  7. David, you say EMDR is a natural fit for psych “hospitals”.
    I find this mind boggling.
    A bit of “AD’s”, and a bit of haldol and throw in some open dialogue, EMDR, a few allowed crayons, some glue and magazines, and voila.

    Psych “hospital” indeed.

  8. sam plover: If what you said teaches one how the brain works; then, maybe I do know how the brain works. One summer, while I was in college, I worked in the animal learning lab at the university I was at…I “trained” rats and gerbils. We had to time their alleged ability to learn some simple task. Most of the time, they escaped and I was chasing them around the little room I was in. Once I got bit and was rushed to the student health services for a tetanus shot. So this is how the brain works; when under pressure to learn or do something that is inherently stupid it wants to escape or it will bite you and that hurts! You see, the brain, even in non-human animals is way smarter than any psychiatrist or anyone who claims EMDR and like “therapies” as beneficial. The brain knows what it needs and I know there is discussion about the mind versus the brain; but I think the mind is part of the brain; so the mind knows itself, too. We just don’t want to listen and find ourselves running through hoops to avoid listening and therefore we pay the price and it can be hefty! Oh, see my run-on sentence! Love it and Live it! Thank you.

      • About the mind being part of the brain–well, in my silly thinking, I figure it has to be somewhere; but, then it seems to me it is possible it might also be at the same time outside me. I know many consider the mind and brain as separate. I don’t know. Maybe the brain is the physiological organ which allows the mind to connect to the body. Of course, some people do use mind and brain interchangeably. I have seen it referred to this way: mind/brain. Maybe it depends in the definition; but sometimes definitions are either questionable or change over time. Thank you.

        • I have seen very spiritual people refer to “brain” when they mean mind. For proper understanding, I think it is important to remember that “the brain is the physiological organ which allows the mind to connect to the body.” We can be sloppy with words if we understand this clearly. It’s important to my understanding of people and of life. Of course, each must develop their own understanding of these things.

          • Thank you for your definition; but, honestly I am not sure if that definition works for me. If it works for you, I would not counter with another one. I prefer to respectful and not argue against one’s beliefs. However, I shall consider, study, and think of your definition and other plausible definitions, also and see if really works for me and fits into my belief system. I appreciate you knowledge and perspective on things, even if I may not always agree. Thank you

  9. Okay you caught me! But, please forgive me. I really don’t like to make excuses or not own up to my responsibility as a human; however, sometimes because I, like others, who post on this site have been “brain injured” by this psych drugs and I also add into the therapizing, etc. I make these mistakes and forget what I write or say. Thanks for pointing out to me. However, I will say one more thing; it goes to show how little we really know about the brain or can know. So maybe we should tread carefully about the brain; which is something these psychiatrists and big pharma seemed unwilling to do. Have a great night and day. Thank you.

    • It is true. The brain and every internal part of the body deserves to be protected and nurtured, not exposed to harsh chemicals or otherwise abused. If the brain – any body part – has a problem, we can possibly prop it up temporarily with nutrients or sleep or even drugs, but it is ultimately Spirit that will put things right, and we should never forget that.

  10. I’ve read thru everyone’s comments and have appreciated them. It’s too bad David isn’t part of the discussion. I have some comments and questions, if everyone hasn’t already lost interest.

    Steve, you seem to state repeatedly, in various discussions on this website, about the lack of a biological component in mental health issues. I guess I’m curious how you would described the neural atrophy that comes after decades of dissociation and lack of access to various parts of one’s mind/brain.

    I understand your point is to hammer against the ‘mental illness’ myth, but isn’t neural atrophy a real, physiological outcome in the physical brain from dissociation that comes as the result of any trauma when the trauma isn’t addressed? For my wife and I, that neural atrophy and reinvigorating those pathways between the various parts of her mind/brain, has been some of the most difficult parts of the healing journey. I accept and affirm this is different than the ‘mental illness myth’ and believing one has an unfixable chemical imbalance, but I believe it is a physical aspect of trauma/dissociation that complicates the healing.

    As for edmr…as in the other recent thread, my wife and I have always seen this as quackery, snake oil, magic elixir and such…and yet, I do want to state that whether one calls it the ‘placebo effect’ or ‘the power of faith’ from religious traditions, if it weren’t for my wife’s faith, we would have been hard pressed to effect some of the most major changes in her inner working model (attachment theory) that have foundationally changed her trauma perspective to one in which she has become securely attached to me as her primary attachment figure.

    I understand her faith is a type of crutch, but crutches have useful purposes when a person is deeply traumatized. They allow a person to do something they either can’t do or don’t believe they can do on their own. And who am I to say, when we pray and ask Jesus to change her inner world, that He really isn’t doing it? In the end, she believes it, the needed changes occur to help her connect to other parts of her mind/brain, and without those prayers, I’m not sure I could EVER convince her that she could do it on her own…

    I sent her a link of this article because right now the biggest issue we are having is the fear of reconnecting more deeply to the other parts of her mind, and even if it’s only a placebo/crutch, even with all my focus on attachment (which I would add is simply ‘faith’ in the attachment figure, that the person will be there for you when you need it…), I have struggled to move her past those fears…

    Sam

    • I have never said that there is no biological contribution to what is called “mental illness.” I am only opposed to ASSUMING that any one “mental illness” as defined by the DSM is CAUSED by “bad biology.” I’m not even saying that SOME cases of what is called “mental illness” are NOT caused by “bad biology.” My main point is that something defined entirely by a list of social/emotional/behavioral indicators is VERY UNLIKELY to have a biological cause in all or even most cases.

      I hope you see the difference between a biological CAUSE that is consistent for all cases vs. a biological ASPECT that is present in some of the cases, which may or may not be causal. There are biological similarities between people who are feeling aggressive, as an example – elevated cortisol levels, for instance. But that doesn’t mean that elevated cortisol levels CAUSED the person to behave aggressively. It could be a cause, an effect, or simply a correlate of the body’s preparedness for fighting. It is biological, but “aggression” is not an “illness” caused by high cortisol levels.

      Does that make more sense?

      • Steve,
        thanks for replying. I was pretty sure I understood your perspective, and you have confirmed that I do, and like I said, I largely agree with your perspective.

        I guess I was kind of more interested in your description and understanding of neural atrophy. I’m just a layman, but it seems like that is a physiological/neural issue that complicates healing trauma, but perhaps my understanding of that term is way off. And as my wife and I have worked on restoring those pathways from long-dissociated areas of her mind/brain, the restoration has always been accompanied by debilitating headaches especially when we are changing her inner working model from a trauma paradigm to a securely-attached one, but I do understand correlation doesn’t equal causation, and so maybe they are unrelated.
        I was just interested on your take or experience on any of this.
        Thanks,
        Sam

        • I am sure that stuff like “neural atrophy” and other physiological phenomena both result from and contribute to what the DSM refers to as “mental illness.” I’m not familiar with the concept of neural atrophy, but it seems like it suggests that trauma causes certain kinds of neurons not to grow or to die off. This would not be at all surprising. There is also literal brain damage that comes from taking neuroleptics or other “psychoactive drugs” like stimulants or “antidepressants.” There are also real diseases like an underactive thyroid or Lyme disease or other conditions that directly affect people’s mental/emotional functioning. And of course, the fact that one has a chronic or terminal disease going on affects one’s psychological well being as well. So it’s very complicated. I don’t think a person severely traumatized in childhood can ever get to a point where their childhood traumatization is not relevant or impactful in their lives, probably on a physiological as well as a psychological/spiritual level. We know that traumatized people are more likely to contract or develop physiological ills, even controlling for ineffectual pseudo-medical interventions by psychiatrists and their subordinates. So there is a physiological effect of trauma, and there is a psychological effect of physical illness. It’s all interconnected, and we’re better off just focusing on individual situations and what works for a particular person rather than trying to generalize about “illnesses” that are not objectively discernible.

          • Well top neurologists could not help with causation, nor how to fix it since they would have zero clue what little neuron caused a bunch of other neurons to do weird stuff.

            For that we go to shrinks, to fix the cause. 🙂 And wait, also to find the disease.

        • Sam I’m most certain that I have a bunch of dead zones. It happens when the brain is not used in full.
          Perhaps having fun or finding the things that are fun is more healing than working on my brain to try and make it conform to what it finds detrimental.

          • Sam,
            my wife and I do lots of fun things that engage all the various parts of her mind. I’ve also built her a craftroom and supplied it with everything she wanted, again to engage all of her. We tandem bike together, tandem kayak together, and I’ve always been willing to watch(tv or movies) or do things repeatedly to engage various parts of her to the fullest extent possible during the reconnection process.
            Sam

  11. “it’s all interconnected, and we’re better off just focusing on individual situations and what works for a particular person rather than trying to generalize about ‘illnesses’ that are not objectively discernible.” It’s that “individual” part that drives psychiatrists, etc., dare I say, “crazy.” But, they are not the only ones. The fact that each one of us is uniquely an individual drives not only the fake psychiatrists “crazy”, but also traditional medical specialties, education, even government, etc. It is easier for all of these and other entities to describe people as types or diagnoses or whatever—anything to avoid dealing with the individual. But then, they probably claim it is cost efficient or some such nonsense; which it isn’t. This attitude is probably costing the economy and the whole culture/society way more than the national debt at present indicators. Thank you.

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