EMDR and Weeds
One of the things I love about gardening is weeding. Does that surprise you?
Of course I love seeing the green stems pushing through the dirt and the colorful spray of flowers that eventually come from those stems…but weeding…it’s my favorite part about gardening in the early Spring months.
Here’s a picture of my small flower bed before weeding:
The ground around our house is tough. It’s hard and full of clay. When we first moved in, I pounded at the clay dirt, fighting to get just a little patch of ground that I could put flowers in. I filled it with compost from our local recycling center in Fairmount Park and worked it into the clay earth.
Eventually I was able to plant some flowers, and looked at it with pride every Spring.
As a new gardener, I was never sure if something was a weed or a perennial plant sprouting up in the spring. They all looked alike to me. I’m sure I pulled many a perennial plant by accident.
Through the years, though, I’ve learned what the predominant weeds are in my part of Philadelphia. I’ve learned how to distinguish them by the shape of their leaves. Nowadays, they’re easier to distinguish than my perennials.
EMDR and Weeds: What does one have to do with the other?
Angela, you may be thinking to yourself, what in the heck does this have to do with EMDR? Well, dear reader, the weeds in my garden are like the negative thoughts, beliefs and traumatic memories that fill our lives. I know for myself, if I don’t tend to my brain and heart garden, it will eventually become overrun with unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, and undealt with disturbing memories.
Oftentimes if I’ve been paying attention and tending to my needs, I can talk to myself, not give too much weight to the unhelpful thoughts and beliefs, reframe them and self soothe myself in some way. On the other hand, if I haven’t given myself space to tend to my needs, my garden becomes hopelessly overrun with weeds and smothers the flowers trying to bloom.
What is the State of Your Garden?
Can you relate? Can we pause for a moment and check in? What is the state of your garden? Does your mind and heart feel clear and open?
Or do they feel dark, crowded and suffocating?
Is there space for the hopeful buds to bloom and grow?
How Weeding and the process of EMDR are similar
The clients I’ve had the privilege of working with have avoided looking at their gardens for so long that they forget about the perennial flowers that try year after year to bloom.
They have lived with the weeds of self blame, shame, and feeling broken for so long that they can’t imagine there is another way to think, feel or believe.
Some of the weeds that feel 100% true to them:
- I’m broken.
- It’s all my fault.
- I’m helpless.
- No one will ever love me.
- No one is trustworthy.
When I work with clients using EMDR, whether we’re meeting once a week for an hour, or scheduling an EMDR intensive for several hours at a time, we work collaboratively. We make a plan for what weeds we’re going to pull and in what order.
One thing I’ve learned is that when you pull weeds, you need to grasp the weed at the very base near the dirt and pull out slowly in order to get the roots.
EMDR and reprocessing trauma is like that too. We want to make sure to understand the root of the issue and reprocess from that place, not the surface issue.
If trust has been established and clients are ready and willing to look at the root causes from the past that are showing up in the present, it’s a beautiful process to witness them becoming free.
The old weeds that felt 100% true can shift to:
- I’m not broken. My experience was broken and I’m acceptable (or I’m learning to accept myself)
- I did the best I could at the time.
- I am strong. I have choices
- I am loved (or I’m learning to receive love)
- Some people can be trusted. I am safe right now and have the ability to protect myself.
When the weeds of old beliefs and experiences are cleared, we pay attention to the flowers that have been there all along.
We tend to these promising new beliefs by watering them, fertilizing them, mulching around them. I’ve seen how these promising flowers have just waited for the space and right conditions to bloom and take up the space they were meant to.
Here’s a picture of my flower bed after weeding:
Another thing I know about weeds? Pull them early. One little tug and the root pulls out effortlessly. Don’t wait until they’re waist high. It takes so much longer and way more effort and energy to pull a weed that’s been ignored.
The same is true of traumatic events and experiences. The longer you wait to clear them out, the more entrenched they get.
Start EMDR Therapy in Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Delaware
If you’re curious what it might look like to work together and weed the garden of your mind and heart with EMDR, contact us today for a free 20 minute consultation.
If you live in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or Delaware, we can provide EMDR or EMDR intensives online. Or if you’d like to do EMDR in person, come to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for an EMDR intensive.
As a therapist at Prosper Counseling, I am here to guide you on your journey to healing. Follow the steps below to get started.