Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy is the newest book by Francine Shapiro, PhD, the founder of the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy technique. It is “about understanding the ‘Why’ in your life, and in those around you. More important, it’s also about understanding what you can do about it.”
The book is chock-full of stories of people who have been helped by EMDR, but both the author and I want to make something very clear: All of the cases presented in the book were of people who were assisted by trained EMDR clinicians. Although one may believe from the title that you can apply EMDR techniques at home, it is essential to realize that the processing of painful and/or disturbing memories can lead to a very distressing emotional state and should only be done with the assistance of a trained professional.
This is really my only concern with this otherwise helpful and interesting book – that people with severe past trauma may try some of the techniques and be caught in the middle of a difficult emotional experience without support. However, Shapiro does state frequently throughout her book that the reader with past trauma must be approach the exercises with care and perhaps not even try them without help.
You feel sad, you lose your concentration, nothing is interesting to you anymore, and – to top it all off – your thoughts become stuck in an endless loop of self-criticism.
There are many ways to address depression. Researchers interested in decreasing depression and increasing resilience have found that using a number of intentional activities creates positive emotions and helps reduce feelings of depression.
The first step, though, is to work toward letting go of the critical rumination going on in your head. Why? Because it is very difficult to even consider pursuing intentional activities with thoughts such as:
“It won’t help.”
“Why even bother?”
“I’ll just screw it up.”
These thoughts make your mood bleaker and keep you on the sofa rather than feeling up for trying a new activity or intervention.
So, what to do?
You know that chirping little critic you hear inside your head sometimes? Most of us have one. It’s that voice that says,
“You’ll never be good enough.”
“Why even try? You know you can’t do it.”
“You’re such a hypocrite (loser, slob, dimwit, etc.)”
This voice – this inner critic – is often the main obstacle we face when trying to bounce back in life.
But that inner critic loses its audience and it’s power when we do something that most of us aren’t very good at: showing ourselves compassion.