Flickering Fire is Nature’s EMDR

Have you heard of EMDR? You probably have, because it’s the latest ‘revolutionary’ therapy in the field of mental health.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing) is not a talk therapy. Instead, the basic premise is that you move your eyes from side to side, whilst thinking of a troubling event or the feelings related to it. You can do this in person with a trained therapist, you can do it online with a therapist’s support, or even by yourself.

There is a proven link between our eyes, and their connection to how the brain stores memories. We already know this from Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, the dream stage.

Growing evidence is showing us that EMDR helps the brain process traumatic memories. This evidence means it is quickly becoming the go-to therapy for trauma.

But do you know what is truly revolutionary?

Realising that EMDR is nothing new at all. Psychiatry cannot take credit for it. We don’t need professionals for this, or another acronym. 

I’m not saying that it doesn’t work. It clearly does.

But why? Where did it come from? Why are we only just discovering it?

Recently, I sat in the dark, a candle lit in front of me. I’ve been having a tough time again lately – the trauma healing journey is not a linear one by any means – and a very negative thought came to my mind. 

But as I kept my focus on the candle, flame flickering from side to side, the negative thought disappeared. I tried to hold onto it, but it was gone.

I realised that my eyes were following the flickering flame of the candle, just as they would an LED light in a therapist’s office, or a pixelated ball bouncing across a computer screen.

Fire. Nature’s version of EMDR.

Or more to the point, EMDR is psychiatry’s version of nature’s flickering flame. 

Humans have always experienced trauma. But we used to live in tribes, villages, communities. We used to come together every day around the fire to share stories, cook, socialise and dream. 

Trauma is culturally mediated. In the west, we are told by our family & friends to deal with it alone, go to see “professionals”, pay lots of money for 50-minute sessions, week after week. 

What if nature has all the answers already? And all we really need is to stand by a fire, alongside our peers, supported in community? No pixels required. 

Our disconnection from ourselves, each other and nature is a key part of trauma. And it’s completely left out of modern mental health care. Coupled together, it’s why so many of us are struggling today, and failing to find the help we need.

The need for non-clinical trauma-informed crisis spaces and healing communities is clear.

It’s time to build it.

Let’s start with the fire. 🔥🌝✨