How EMDR reduced Anxiety for One Artist

Anxiety can affect people in many ways. Creative people often struggle with anxiety about their creative process.  This post is how EMDR helped one woman artist change her negative self-talk about her artistic talent to positive self-talk.

EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensization Processing, is my favorite therapeutic technique. For many people it quickens the pace of progress in therapy. It is a practice of using bi-lateral stimulation, which could be through eye movements back and forth, a tone heard in one ear then the other ear or tapping one knee then the other knee.

My client, an artist, had an idea in her head of what she wanted to paint but was not able to sit down and paint the idea due to panic she felt when she thought of doing this.  She said the idea was a more impressionistic kind of painting that was not her normal style and was larger than she usually painted.  Her level of distress when she thought of painting the idea was a 8 out a scale of 1 to 10, (where 1 was no distress and 10 was the highest distress).

I also asked this client to rate beliefs she had about herself related to this painting idea. She rated feeling as true a 5 out of 7 for the belief: “I cannot succeed” and a 6 out of 7 on the belief “I have to be perfect”.  I reversed these beliefs to what is known as positive cognitions. She rated the belief “I can succeed” as being true as a 2 out of 7. She rated the belief “I can be imperfect” as true a 2 out of 7.

I asked the artist to imagine painting her idea then used  20 to 30 eye movements. (I pass my hand back and forth for her to watch, to create eye movements)   I then asked her what came to her mind. She said “There is a part of me telling me ‘it is senseless to panic. You know you have the skills’.”

We did round 2 of eye movements.  Then I asked what “comes up for you?” She said she heard a part of her say, ‘You never had to be perfect. This is a gift you came in with. It was for you. No one has to judge it and if someone judges it as bad, that is their problem. There is no such thing as perfect. Painting is meant to be enjoyable and bring you joy’.”

We did round 3 of eye movements. This time the thoughts she had were “When I was a child, I was called ‘lazy’ a lot of times. I used to procrastinate when I sat down to do something, thinking I wanted to do something fun instead.”

Round 4 of eye movements. Client said she was thinking, “You are not an artist unless you make money at it. My Dad saw something that I painted in college that was abstract and said to me, ‘Can’t you do boats or ducks?’ I thought ‘Am I wasting my Dad’s money?’ Since I was a little child I had felt like I was an artist.” (note: the paintings used in this blog post are not painted by the artist I did EMDR with for her confidentiality but are used for illustration purposes)

Round 5 of eye movements: Client said “The artist in me is saying ‘Bull shit!’ It is not about the money! Painting is meant to be a gift. To bring me joy and happiness, and possibly bring other people joy and happiness. It is a tool to help me manage being in the world.”

I asked the client to imagine she was sitting down to work on this painting idea. She said the thought that came to her was “You’ve always been able to do this. Don’t let the negative voices distract you. Just let the painting come through. Whatever you paint is ‘enough’”.

At the end of the session, my client felt no distress about painting her new idea. She said before the session the inner confict she felt about painting this idea was “like a bridge over a river being blown up” compared to the end of the EMDR session where she felt like “the water in the river was flowing nice and easy”.

Also by the end of the session my client’s rating of the positive cognition of “I can succeed” had gone from 2 out of 7 to a 7 out of 7 for feeling true. The positive cognition for the belief “I can be imperfect” went from a 2 out of 7 to a 7 out of 7. She was happy, dare I say a little giddy, to feel such a shift in her emotions and beliefs. She told me at the next session that she had been able to make good progress on this painting.







Progress using EMDR is not always this fast. It depends how many associations there are to what is being  worked on, how much trauma a person has experienced and other variables. Chronic childhood trauma can take numerous sessions while a recent one time traumatic experience may only need one session to clear.

For more information on how I treat trauma, click here

Reducing overeating using EFT

EFT is one of my favorite techniques that speeds up clearing or reducing negative emotional intensity. It uses tapping of the fingers on acupuncture points while having the person tune into specific issues using a protocol simple enough anyone can learn.  While it can be used as a self-help technique on one’s own, it is by far most effective to use with the help of an experienced EFT practitioner.

I have known about EFT since the mid 90’s but did not start to use it until about 7 years ago. I became friends with a social worker named Annette Richards. She was enthusiastic about how well EFT had helped her, her clients and her friends.  I have worked on some of my own issues at an EFT workshop and one on one with Annette. Each time I worked with her using EFT, it resulted in improved emotions and perceptions.

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Time Debt, Trauma, Trying Too Hard and Ambition

One of the most common after effects of any kind of trauma is becoming so busy one does not have time to process one’s emotions or feel the emotional pain.

Do you find yourself frequently striving to achieve the impossible?

These photos are of my dog Pebbles jumping to catch a squirrel about 20 feet above her (looking down at her smugly). I wonder why my dog will jump 20 times to reach an animal that is clearly out of her reach.  I also wonder why people  try so hard to make relationships work where they are being mistreated by their spouse, work long hours to experience a sense of  achievement that keeps escaping them, and try to do more than their time allows.

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Trauma and Overcoming Insomnia, Part 1, video and article

Do you have an over active mind that won’t shut off at night? Do you find yourself dragging at work because you could not get to sleep the night before?

Often people with unresolved trauma have difficulty consistently getting a good night’s sleep. I read on one book that having insomnia is a kind of trauma in and of itself. Even going to bed begins to have a negative association for these people who fear another long night being awake when it feels like everyone else is sleeping.

In this video I hope to present some ways to reduce insomnia that is not well known compared to  the typical good sleep hygiene tips: 

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Trauma treatment — Under the influence of trauma, Part 2

People who have experienced emotional and mental abuse often are so wounded they sometimes do not have the ability to empathize with other people. They are unable to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. Ironically these same people may do too much for others and allow themselves to be taken advantage of. They sometimes feel another person’s pain as if it were their own pain.

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Trauma treatment — Under the influence of trauma, Part 1

Are you living under the influence of trauma? It is easy to see when a person is under the influence of drinking too much alcohol, or high on drugs. People who have experienced trauma are also often under the influence of that trauma. Often they don’t know how much it affects them. Unresolved trauma profoundly affects how people see themselves, relate to other people, and view the world.

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Fascinating research on overeating, using mice

For years I wondered why people, including myself, were unable to say “no” to certain foods. A book titled The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program by Kathleen DesMaisons provides some answers to this question. DesMaisons has a degree in Addictive Nutrition, which uses nutrition to heal addiction.

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Trauma, insomnia and how to handle “the morning after” (you slept poorly)

Trauma, whether big or “small” often interferes with sleeping. Even when someone is in therapy, self help support groups and/ or taking medications or supplements to help the person sleep, insomnia may persist. I believe therapy that gets to the root of the problems using EMDR, EFT or other methods can restore one’s sleeping patterns.  In the mean time, this post is how to help a person make the most of a bad night’s sleep.

Note: I know insomnia is a very frustrating complex problem that can cause great suffering. I have experienced it many times myself. Keeping this in mind, I hope the following reflections can be helpful:

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